• Kyodo


Kyoto Prefecture may be one of the top tourist destinations in the world, but when it comes to festival destinations, Aomori is the most popular, according to the results of an online survey conducted in Japanese by a domestic travel agency.

Nearly 30 percent of 2,508 respondents picked Aomori, where the Nebuta festival is held every summer, while some 22 percent chose Kyoto in western Japan, famous for its Gion festival, JTB Corp. said Friday.

The Nebuta festival, famous for its nightly parades of illuminated giant paper floats, will be held Aug. 2 to 7 this year. The Gion festival, best known for its parade of elaborately decorated floats, is held in July.

The northernmost island prefecture of Hokkaido, where snow festivals are held in February, came in third with 12 percent voting for it, JTB said.

“We think there is plenty of scope for organizing festival-themed tours,” a JTB official said.

JTB conducted the survey in Japanese from May 7 to 14 on the Internet and attracted 2,508 responses.

Also Friday, a group firm of Tencent Holdings Ltd., one of China’s largest Internet service providers, said it plans to start a service in Japan enabling bills to be paid by smartphone. They hope to cater to Chinese travelers to Japan who have been known to spend small fortunes on Japanese-made products like rice cookers and high-tech toilet seats to bring home.

Users of Tencent’s social networking service WeChat will be able to settle bills by holding a smartphone in front of camera-equipped tablet devices to be set up at shops in Japan.

The firm said it seeks to make the service available at 10,000 shops in Japan within three years, with the service beginning as soon as this month.

The number of foreign tourists to Japan hit a record 13.41 million in 2014, boosted by the weak yen and relaxed visa requirements, according to government data.

There has been a significant rise in visitors to Japan from China and elsewhere in Asia in recent years.