Every convention city in regional Japan offers key features that event planners and participants seek for success, along with other benefits that they might not even anticipate. Here we present five special locations in the west of Japan that have excellent spaces to gather, professional expertise that facilitates valuable output, and ready access to one-of-a-kind experiences that generate enduring happy memories. Five compact cities, each with a distinct appeal, each within easy reach of a major airport or station, and each delivering the comprehensive service and support that you need to keep your event moving smoothly forward from start to finish—plus great subsidy programs!
Mountains, greenery, morning markets, sake breweries, temples, shrines, and castle ruins combine to make Takayama a walker's delight and a fascinating MICE destination. But you'll experience far more here than fascinating history and traditional culture. Takayama is actually on the cutting edge of blockchain technology as the venue for the launch of Japan's first regional cryptocurrency, Sarubobo Coin. It's named after the unusual dolls for which the nearby Hida region is famous. Set in the heart of Japan, Takayama is an unbeatable choice for access to such iconic Japanese scenes as the "hands-in-prayer" thatched houses of Shirakawago and the white-walled storehouses of Furukawa, both less than an hour away. Local hands-on activities include farm experiences, chopstick-making, and rice-cracker baking. Takayama is easily accessed via train from Nagoya, itself a quick train ride from Chubu Centrair International Airport.
You may already have a mental image of Gifu even if you have never visited, because this city is known around the world for cormorant fishing (ukai) on the Nagaragawa River, a must-see activity for foreign visitors since at least the days of Charlie Chaplin. The same river runs right past the Nagaragawa Convention Center, designed by renowned architect Tadao Ando, and the convention center is linked directly to a major hotel, contributing greatly to the efficiency and effectiveness of event operations. In Gifu, Japanese paper is a key motif. Local paper lanterns inspired Osamu Noguchi's Akari Light Sculptures, including the spherical, plain-paper lampshades that have been loved the world over for decades. You'd be surprised what else local Mino paper can be used to make, including umbrellas and a giant sculpture of the Buddhs—not to mention your own unforgettable souvenirs! Gifu is only an hour or so by train from Chubu Centrair International Airport, via Nagoya.
Just a short journey west of Osaka and Kobe on the Shinkansen bullet train, Himeji has a great deal to offer event participants, ranging from the RIKEN SPring-8 Center, a state-of-the-art X-ray research facility, to Engyoji, a vast and ancient Buddhist temple complex whose precincts were featured in a well-known Hollywood movie. But if you want a single compelling reason to choose Himeji for your next event, look no further than the incomparable and breathtaking beauty of Himeji Castle, whose appearance has been compared to a pure white egret taking wing. A great place from which to admire this unique building is the roof of Egret Himeji, a city center convention hall whose elegant appearance echoes that of the castle itself. One suggestion for a local team-building exercise: hauling in a catch of fish! Himeji is roughly two hours from Kansai International Airport, and only about three hours on the Shinkansen from Tokyo.
Offering easy access to the Seto Inland Sea, whose pleasures include cruises that take in masterpieces of 20th-century Japanese bridge construction, Okayama is well known as the home of Korakuen, an internationally acclaimed garden that dates back to the 17th century. There's one Okayama feature that for many event participants may prove to be a case of love at first bite: some of the best fruit in Japan! In addition to multiple varieties of world-class grapes and peaches, this "Land of Sunshine" has outstanding strawberries, pears and persimmons. Fruit-picking and other activities are easily accessed, especially when setting out from Okayama Convention Center, which is linked directly to Okayama Station. Offering opportunities to purchase first-rate craft items including Bizen ware and highly sought-after Kojima jeans, Okayama also has strikingly unique venues for your consideration, including a castle. Fly into Okayama Airport from Haneda in Tokyo, and you'll be in the city center within two hours.
A tragic event made Hiroshima known to the world, but over the years it has battled back from devastation to become a dynamic, cosmopolitan city which nowadays is known for chemicals, machinery, the motor industry, manufacturing in general—and excellent food, including oysters and okonomiyaki, Japan's very own pancake/pizza soul food. Hiroshima is full of potential surprises for the first-time visitor, ranging from its many riverside charms to an exceptionally fine baseball team! But reminders of the 1945 attack are never far away, and inexorably draw the visitor's attention. One suggestion for a poignantly memorable evening: a private gathering in Orizuru Tower. This modern building, named after the origami cranes that are folded as prayers for peace, overlooks the Atomic Bomb Dome. Hiroshima is four hours from Tokyo on the Shinkansen, or just over an hour from Fukuoka. Flying from Haneda, you'll reach the city center in around two-and-a-half hours.
Spend a couple of hours to learn the basics of udon noodle making. Great fun when experienced as a group, this workshop ends with a well-deserved tasting session.
Join a master of Japanese paper confection and make your own umbrella or lantern using traditional techniques for shaping, cutting and dyeing.
Take a journey off the beaten path with these bicycle tours of the surroundings of Hiroshima. Discover the unique beauty of the Setouchi inland sea and its islands.
Be a ninja for one day. Experience the legendary spies' outfits and training. You'll receive an initiation to "chanbara", the sword fight, and "shuriken", the ninja stars.
Try and wear a kimono at the Okayama castle and experience what the princesses and lords of the era felt, wandering around in their fancy outfits.
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