For almost half a century Japan Airlines (JAL) have been operating flights between Japan and Australia. Last year saw a surge in the number of Australians travelling to Japan. This meant that for the first time in history, the number of Australian tourists travelling to Japan exceeded the number of Japanese tourists visiting Australia, indicating the growing popularity of Japan as an international travel destination amongst Australians.
In light of this recent tourism boom, we have invited the Japan Airlines Regional Manager of Australia, Minoru Tajima, to share with us his insight into how tourism and the aviation industry play a big role in fostering cross-cultural ties. We are glad to have him on board today.
Q:First off, could you tell us a bit about your operations in the Japan-Australia flight network?
A: At the moment, we maintain a sizeable fleet of 300 B777 aircraft that we operate on the Sydney-Narita route as well as several other destinations including London and New York. We currently offer four seating options: First Class, Business Class, Premium Economy and Economy. Last year was actually the most surprising year we had as there were 380,000 Australians visitors to Japan and 330,000 Japanese visitors to Australia. It’s the first time in history these figures had reached this high!
Q: Are there any particular places in Japan that you recommend Australians to visit this year?
A: To be honest, just about anywhere in Japan is a great holiday destination.
But personally, I recommend Aomori and Tokushima. The number of repeat visitors to Japan is increasing and for these I would recommend purchasing the JAL explorer pass. The explorer pass offers a flexible and affordable way of traveling around Japan. You can select which routes you would like your pass to cover, and each sector costs 10,800 yen regardless of travel distance, for example you could fly from Tokyo to Okinawa.
Q: Which destinations are particularly popular among Australians?
A: Australians love to ski, so Niseko in northern Japan is where you would expect most Australian tourists to be. Nowadays though other ski resorts, such as Hakuba, throughout central and north-eastern Japan are gaining in popularity.
Besides ski resorts, culturally rich tourist spots such as Tokyo, Kyoto, Nara and Hiroshima are popular as well, These are places where tourists can enjoy and experience traditional and also the latest Japanese culture. Cycling areas around the Seto Inland Sea and the 88 temple pilgrimage in Shikoku are also becoming well-known. It is clear that places popular among locals will also be popular among Australians.
Q: Japan Airlines’ inflight menu is very reputable; could you explain to us what goes into making the quality of these meals?
A: We pay a lot of attention to our customers’ needs when designing our inflight menu.
For our First Class guests, Australian grown Wagyu beef is our specialty, I‘m actually in Sydney airport quite often, and whenever I’m there I always pay a visit to the aircraft to inspect first-hand how the Wagyu beef dishes are cooked. The pictures I take during those inspections take up so much memory on my phone that I’m running out of space! ( laughs )
We also collaborate with well-known Japanese restaurants to bring on board a variety of Japanese cuisine. The menus are seasonal and change every 3 months. Some of the meals you can expect to see on our inflight menu include beef bowls from Yoshinoya, burgers from Mos Burger, a range of soup from Tokyo Soup Stock and noodle dishes from Taisho-ken.
Q: If possible, could you share with us what plans you have in store for the future?
A: Japan Airlines is often called the airline of Japan. This is because for many years Japanese flew JAL to go overseas for business and tourism. We hope that our company is well received not only by Japanese customers but also by customers from other countries including Australians. All of our JAL team,including the ground staff and cabin attendants, would like our customers to enjoy our service from the moment they board based on the Japanese mindset of “Omotenashi” or hospitality, and at the same time being aware of the needs Australians may have as a culturally diverse country.
Q: Switching over to the Matsuri-Japan Festival, were you involved in the Matsuri event last year.
A: Unfortunately, we hadn’t adequate time to prepare any events or activities at last year’s Matsuri event, but we did set up a booth. Our female employees wore Yukata (summer kimono), while the male employees (including me) wore Happi coats and distributed JAL pamphlets and paper fans. It was hot that day! Our employees also brought their children along to help out. We also had many people visit our stand and this gave us a great chance to inform the public about our services.
Q: Could you share with us your plans for this year’s festival?
A: This year, we hope to spend more time preparing for the festival. We are specifically thinking of setting up an area where children who visit our stand will have a chance to dress up as in pilot, cabin attendant and other airport-themed outfits and have their family take some nice photos. I‘m hoping it’ll be an exciting day for the kids.
Q: What are JAL’s expectations of festivals?
A: Festivals convey the essence of Japanese culture. When you attend a festival, the energy, tradition and values are encompassed within the event. They are also about promoting and strengthening the connections between Japan and Australia. Therefore, festivals should be stable, and continue long into the future. I understand that there are also many other events that communicate and spread Japanese culture besides festivals. So, I‘m really thankful towards the Japanese and Australian people who participate in perpetuating our connections through various events and activities.
Q: What do you think Sydney’s Festival event is about ?
A: Just as I have said earlier, for half a century, Japan and Australia have been connected through air travel and trade. This is a business born from the interaction between the Japanese and Australian people as well as their adventurous spirit of wanting to explore and experience both cultures. The festival is a way to broadcast Japanese culture to Australians while simultaneously allowing Japanese people in Australia to experience a sense of ‘home’.
Q: Could you briefly describe what festivals mean to you?
A: It means having Omisoka festival, New Year’s festivals and summer festivals, Cowra-Memorial Service. These festivals that are long standing and deeply held in tradition should continue. I believe these festivals are an extremely important part in upholding tradition and I would like to think that Matsuri-Japan Festival will also continue like this.
This marks the end if our interview with Mr. Tajima of Japan Airlines
It definitely made me feel like having some Australian-grown Wagyu beef after this interview!! For now, we are looking forward to JAL’s booth at the Japan-Sydney festival. We can’t wait to see and take pictures of the children there dressed up as pilots, cabin attendants and other various flight uniforms. We hope you enjoy the upcoming event!
Interviewer: Moeno Natsume, Nao Fujii, Vincent Duong
Translation: Vincent Duong