There’s much more to Japan than Tokyo’s famous bright lights and bullet trains.
If the idea of joining a tea ceremony at a cherry blossom festival in Spring or sleeping on a tatami-covered floor in a traditional Japanese ryokan appeals, the Japanese government could make it happen, for free.
The Japan Tourism Agency hopes to offer free round-trip flights to 10,000 foreigners to travel to the country – in return for publishing their experiences on social media.
The national tourism agency has asked the government to approve US$14m (£9m) of extra funding to launch the initiative next year, but it is still at proposal stage.
If the funding is given the go-ahead, online applications for the free flights would open next April – at the height of Japan’s cherry blossom season – and the agency would be expected to select the candidates by early summer.
The 10,000 people selected would be required to pay for all other trip expenses, including accommodation and excursions.
Japan is keen to rebuild its declining tourism industry and reassure foreigners that it is safe to visit, seven months on since a 9.0 magnitude earthquake struck off the East Coast of Japan on March 11, triggering a devastating tsunami and fears of a nuclear crisis at Fukushima, 240km north of Tokyo.
The number of inbound tourists to Japan have continued to slide in the last six months. According to official figures from the Japan National Tourism Organization, the number of foreign visitors to Japan dropped 32% to 546,800 people in August compared to the same period last year.
The Japanese government is concerned that the ongoing Fukushima nuclear plant fallout is putting off visitors. It has reassured citizens that the country is safe except for the immediate vicinity of the plant, which is still being secured.
Update: TERMINAL U will keep our readers informed of how to apply to the Japan Tourism Agency for the chance to win a free flight to Japan if the government approves the giveaway. Stay up-to-date by following us on Facebook, Twitter and Email.