If you were running an event at the Embassy of Japan in London to promote tourism in Japan, which British celebrity would you want to invite? You’d want someone who actively encourages people to visit Japan, wouldn’t you? Someone who loves Japanese culture and knows more about anime and gadgets than most of the Embassy staff. There’s only one man who fits that bill, and I had the absolute pleasure of meeting him tonight…
I’ve just got back from a night of savouring sake and scoffing scrumptious sushi at the Embassy of Japan in London. The event was part of the Visit Japan Campaign by the Japan National Tourism Organisation, and was to promote tourism in Japan seven months after March 11th, and also to promote the two new World Heritage sites: Hiraizumi and the Ogasawara Islands.
I’ll be honest, I was in two minds about whether or not to go to the invitation-only event, when an email update came through to sway me. Jonathan Ross, the TV talk show host who is well-known for being a huge Japan fan, would be there.
I didn’t anticipate meeting Mr Ross, and was more than happy to just be in the same room as him and listen to his entertaining speech (which was preceded by a speech from Ambassador Hayashi, and followed by speeches from this year’s Masterchef winner Tim Anderson, Adrian Bridge of the Telegraph, and “Yokoso! Japan” Ambassador Martin Barrow).
However, just as Mr Ross was heading for the sushi I saw my chance and intercepted him. I hadn’t prepared and I’m afraid I waffled, but Mr Ross graciously accepted my business card and shook my hand. (Mr Ross, if you do happen to look this site up, I apologise for rambling and would like to thank you for being so nice. My friends at the ICN gallery were also delighted to meet you, and are hoping you pop along to their cafe someday!)
Celebrity encounters aside, it was a lovely evening where the one clear message was “Visit Japan”. My only criticism of this exclusive event would be that they were pretty much preaching to the converted. I imagine everyone in the room had been to Japan at least once, and we were all invited because of our connections with Japan. There was a lot of tourism paraphernalia around, but it wasn’t being picked up because we already know how great Japan is. It would be nice to have a similar free event which is open to the public, in order to really promote tourism in Japan (but then, I guess the Japan Matsuri did a really good job of that… and I will be writing it up here soon!).
As you may have seen, the Guardian announced on Saturday that, in spite of this year’s disaster, the public have voted Japan as their Favourite Long-haul Country in the Guardian Travel Awards 2011. Also in the news this week, the Japan Tourism Agency has apparently announced that they will be giving away 10,000 free flights to Japan to boost tourism! All I know about this so far is that hopeful travellers will be asked to submit applications online, detailing which areas of the country they would like to visit. Successful entrants will then be asked to write a report about their trip, which will be published online. Believe me, if I’m eligible, I will be entering!!
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – Japan is the most amazing country and everyone should visit. The food is amazing, the people are lovely, the views are incredible, the shopping is fantastic and… Wossy says you should go, so what are you waiting for?
Japan – endorsed by @wossy.