More and more business people and travel industry experts are recognising Japan as a premier destination for meetings and team-building events. While major cities such as Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto have well-earned international reputations, Japan offers many other attractive locations worthy of consideration for your next meeting or event.

These alternative locations still offer everything that discerning travellers have come to associate with Japan, including ease of access from major airports, high-quality accommodation options and outstanding hospitality. This is combined with an abundance of regional charm, exciting attractions, local food and unique culture.

Here are some top choices from among Japan’s many diverse destinations.

Sapporo

Japan’s diverse meetings and events destinations - Odori-Park

The view over Odori Park in Sapporo

The capital of Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island, Sapporo is known for its ski resorts and is home to the famous Snow Festival, which attracts about two million visitors annually. However, this charming city is a prime destination for business events at any time of the year.

Among Sapporo’s various meeting venues, Sapporo Art Park showcases the city as a centre for culture and arts, and features a sculpture garden, art museum and craft hall. Enjoy a fusion of art and nature in this beautiful setting.

Beer is big in Sapporo, and the city’s namesake brew is popular throughout Japan. Another site to consider is the Sapporo Beer Museum, where your guests can learn more about the history of the brand and then feast on traditional Hokkaido cuisine.

There is also plenty of scope in terms of side-trips from Sapporo. A destination in its own right, Niseko is popular with outdoor enthusiasts, offering cycling and water sports in the warmer months and world-class powder snow for skiers and snowboarders. The picturesque town of Otaru is known for its canals, while Lake Toya boasts pristine scenery and some of the region’s finest onsen (hot spring baths).

Nagoya

Japan’s diverse meetings and events destinations - Nagoya-Castle.jpg

Nagoya Castle, built between 1610 and 1612, and today functions as a museum

Japan’s fourth largest city offers all the convenience of a metropolis but with an intimate and friendly atmosphere, as well as the chance to experience a variety of Japanese culture. Two attractions in the heart of the city are Nagoya Castle, which is particularly beautiful in cherry blossom season, and the Tokugawa Art Museum and gardens. The Tokugawa family were wealthy and powerful leaders in feudal times, ruling over the entire country for several centuries. The museum showcases various treasures including their samurai armour and swords.

The Nagoya Noh Theater is avenue for fascinating Japanese performing arts such as noh and kyogen. Noh is a type of theatre involving music, dance and drama, while kyogen are short comical acts that come between the main noh performances, with both art forms dating back to the 14th century. Featuring exquisite traditional design, the theatre also offers state-of-the-art facilities for conferences.

The nearby city of Toyota is the original centre of the legendary Japanese car industry and offers factory tours and museums, making it an ideal destination for a daytrip. For those wanting to experience rural Japanese culture, the villages of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama are just the ticket. These UNESCO World Heritage sites are known for their traditional thatched farmhouses. Developed over hundreds of years, the architecture is designed to withstand the region’s heavy winter snow.

Nara

Located within easy reach of both Tokyo and Kyoto, Nara was Japan’s first capital in the 8th century and the city still retains an air of quiet dignity. There are many examples of Nara’s rich heritage on offer in the city’s beautiful temples, shrines and gardens.

Imagine hosting your event in the environs of a World Heritage Site with a history dating back 1300 years. At the Todaiji Temple Cultural Centre conference facility you can do exactly that. The centre is part of the Todaiji Temple complex, Nara’s most famous attraction, and is also home to both the Great Buddha statue and the Todaiji Museum. Another major meeting venue is scheduled to open in the heart of the city in 2020. Combining the elegance of traditional design with cutting-edge conference facilities, the Nara Prefectural Convention Center is certain to be an attractive venue for event planners.

More traditional culture and beauty awaits in the surrounding areas.The town of Iga Ueno is known for its ninja history and visitors will enjoy learning about Japan’s legendary masters of stealth, while Yoshino, another UNESCO World Heritage site, is arguably Japan’s most famous location for cherry blossoms and features 30,000 cherry trees, along with shrines and mountain scenery.

Japan’s diverse meetings and events destinations - Yoshino

Yoshino is famous for its thousands of cherry trees that blossom in the spring

Nagasaki

Nagasaki, in Kyushu, holds an important place in Japan’s history of international exchange, as it was the only port where trade with other countries was allowed during Japan’s isolationist period (1639 to 1853). This heritage can still be felt today, reflected in the city’s cosmopolitan vibe. Nagasaki’s night view is considered one of the top three in the world, offering an enticing dimension to outdoor evening functions. Nagasaki Champon, a delicious and filling local noodle dish, is also not to be missed.

Japan’s diverse meetings and events destinations - Nagasaki Champon

Champon is popular across all of Japan, but is thought to have been first served in Nagasaki

Glover Gardens is an open-air museum located in the area where many Western families settled after Japan’s isolationist period ended. Named for Scottish merchant Thomas Blake Glover (1838-1911), the gardensmake for an attractive event location. Meanwhile, Hirado Castle in the nearby town of Hirado is slated to open its doors to overnight guests in the summer of 2020. Visitors will wake up to spectacular views out over Hirado Bay. With a new Hilton Hotel also opening in Nagasaki in 2021, this charming port city is a destination to watch.

Okinawa

Okinawa is Japan’s marine playground and most southern prefecture, offering a blend of Japanese hospitality and a relaxed tropical vibe. As Okinawa was a kingdom for about 450 years with its own royal family, the islands developed independently from the rest of Japan and have their own special history, architecture and cuisine. Moreover, domestic visitors voted Okinawa Japan’s most hospitable prefecture in 2019.

A must-do daytrip is Miyako Island to take advantage of its stunning array of beaches and coral reefs, along with opportunities for water sports. Okinawa also offers wonderful opportunities for team-building activities, such as a tour to see the unique ecology of the caves and forest of the Gangala Valley, or a lively performance of traditional Okinawan arts, such as the colourful and distinctive Eisa dancing.

Widely considered Japan’s best, the Churaumi Aquarium features the enormous Kuroshio Tank, which teems with a variety of marine creatures. What could be more fitting in Okinawa than to host your function surrounded by colourful sea life in the unique ambience of the aquarium?

Japan’s diverse meetings and events destinations - Okinawa Churafuri Aquarium

Okinawa Commemorative National Government Park (Ocean Expo Park) / Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium

Sebastien Duval, a Tokyo-based travel consultant for Japan Travel who works in the inbound tourism industry, is well-versed in helping the local market meet the needs of international visitors. “Japan’s top assets are its unique mix of tradition and modernity, making for a wonderful stay and great discoveries, along with its people, who strive to produce high-quality services for guests at every location,” he says.

With such dedicated professional support for international meeting planners and so many diverse and exciting destinations on offer, Japan always delivers an unforgettable experience for event guests.

 

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