Japan to offer 10,000 free flights in 2012 in bid to boost tourism

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Japan to offer 10,000 free flights in 2012 in bid to boost tourismThe Kiyomizu-dera temple, Kyoto: PA


Fancy a trip to Japan but thought you could never afford it? Worry not. The country is giving away 10,000 FREE flights to foreigners looking for an Asian adventure.

And all you have to do in return is write a report about your trip, which will be published online.

The Japan Tourism Agency wants interested travellers to apply online for the flights, indicating which areas of the country they'd like to visit.

The move is a bid to boost Japan's ailing tourism industry following the 11 March earthquake, which killed 16,000 people and triggered explosions at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

Tourist number dropped by 50% year-on-year in the three months that followed the earthquake and tsunami, picking up slightly to a 32% drop by August 2011.

But the government is keen to reassure tourists who are staying away that Japan is safe, apart from the immediate area around the destroyed nuclear plant.

Top of many people's Japan must-visits is Tokyo, which offers a plethora of sightseeing and shopping opportunities (don't miss the Ginza neighbourhood where you'll find all the famous luxury boutiques).

Another Tokyo top spot is Shinjuku's Park Hyatt, the hotel made famous in the film Lost in Translation, where you can drink in the views - and a cocktail - at the penthouse New York Bar.

Other popular destinations outside the capital include Kyoto and Osaka.

Kyoto is widely known as one of the most beautiful places in Japan, with its stunning ancient temples and Zen meditation gardens.

Osaka, meanwhile, is home to one of the country's most famous attractions, the Osaka Castle, rich in Japan's history.

Online applications for free airfares will open in April 2012, and the agency will select the candidates by early summer.

The project will only cover travellers' flight fare, and visitors will have to pay all other costs, including accommodation and food.

It will cost the tourism agency around £6m - 10% of its 2012 budget - but Shuichi Kameyama, a Japan Tourism Agency official, says it's worth it, telling the Wall Street Journal: 'Since the earthquake, the number of visitors has dropped drastically, so to make an impact we think it's necessary to have this many people (10,000) come to Japan.'