Tourism Expo Japan: A World of Possibilities

Going to any kind of major exposition is a bit like buying a lottery ticket — the real pleasure is in dreaming big about what could be.

If you’re in Tokyo right now and want to learn about possible travel destinations–whether it’s more about a place you already know you want to visit, or an introduction to someplace you’ve never even thought of visiting–now is your chance.

Tourism Expo Japan is taking place now (finishing at 17:00 tomorrow, 23 September, actually) at Tokyo Big Sight.  For just JPY1,300, you can explore Japan and the world!

The two large exhibition halls open up the entire world to visitors.  One hall features Japanese destinations, while the other has exhibitors from all around the world, conveniently grouped by region, but also with special exhibitions such as cruises, study abroad, adventure travel, and wedding resorts.  Any sort of traveller will find something interesting here.

I spent the bulk of my time wandering the Japan hall, since I so love traveling in Japan.  Even places I’ve already visited were presented in fresh and exciting ways that made me want to visit again.

Some exhibitors had large backdrops of their most famous spots, so that visitors can literally put themselves in the picture.  What a great way to trick your friends into thinking you’re someplace you’re really not.

Every booth had friendly staff standing by to explain their destinations or activities, or answer questions.  Each place I stopped was ready to speak in English, and most had brochures and other materials ready in English, Japanese and a number of other languages as well.  At the booths of places I’d already visited, I particularly found it fun to challenge exhibitors to suggest something to see/do that would be new to me.  Most could think of something that would compel me to make a return visit.  In typical Japanese fashion, they always thanked me for my past visit as well.  (So sweet!)

Some exhibits offered activities, as well.  For example, the Tokyo Metropolitan area was focussing its exhibit on its islands and western mountain areas (it seems the Tokyo wards and cities had their own booths, so the populated areas of Tokyo were otherwise covered) and offered visitors a chance to create their own ocean or forest memento at a crafts table.  I picked some little shells and driftwood and crafted a small beach scene in a plastic cup.


Other exhibitors were offering Virtual Reality experiences.  Using this technology, I walked atop one of the massive suspension bridges spanning the Seto Inland Sea.  I also swam with dolphins and went white water rafting.  All from the comfort of a little stool!  While I was initially concerned that the VR experience would leave me feeling like there was now no need to actually have the real experience, in fact, it just left me wanting more, wanting to see and experience things for myself.

Since mascots are so popular in Japan, many exhibitors brought their mascots along to participate.  They weren’t the only VIPs on hand.  I spotted Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike on her official walk-through, too.

Many parts of Japan are particularly proud of the products of their area.  And sometimes those products are very much identified to that place.  These specializations were also reflected in the exhibits.

Sake, arguably Japan’s national drink, also featured heavily.

For visitors who get tired or hungy (or thirsty), there are plenty of refreshment options, too.  Some exhibitors offered tastes of their sake or, more refreshingly given the context, fruit-infused water.  I particularly enjoyed water with the lemons of the Izu Islands or hibiscus from Miyako-jima.

There were also food courts.  On the Japan side, there was a “donburi grand prix”, featuring donburi (deep bowls with rice and various local toppings) from across the country.  On the “world” side, a World Food Court had various offerings and at the other end of the hall, a World Beer Expo.  It’s tempting to advise you to be hungry/thirsty when you arrive, lest you miss out!

Like any Expo, plan that you’re going to come away with all kind of brochures and sometimes even small mementos.  This being Japan, most are nicely bagged up to make them easy to carry.  But it may still be a good idea to go with a large tote bag to stuff everything into.

While my list of places to visit never seems to get shorter, after this Expo, even more possibilities have opened up for me.  So many places to dream about visiting, and eventually to reach.

Don’t feel bad if you can’t get there today (10:00-18:00) or tomorrow (10:00-17:00).  Instead mark your calendar for next year’s event in Osaka:  October 24-27, 2019.

© 2018 and Vicki L. Beyer
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