Unique Japanese Programs for Post-Pandemic Incentive Travel

Thoughtful research and close collaboration proved key for the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) when developing new post-pandemic experiences for travel professionals and event organizers. This blog, sponsored by JNTO, provides a glimpse into their process and spotlights five mindful, outdoor, and cultural experiences from their new collection.

With its unique combination of tradition and modernity, impeccable organization, and top-notch technology and infrastructure, Japan has been considered a rewarding destination for incentive travelers for many years.

The Covid-19 pandemic, however, put a long and particularly challenging halt on international tourism. Facing an unprecedented inability to welcome incentive travelers or organize in-person international meetings, the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) had to develop a strategic and creative plan to revitalize the tourism industry and attract post-pandemic travelers. 

In the course of developing a new strategy, JNTO conducted extensive market research on incentive travel, which resulted in the confirmation of several emerging post-pandemic trends: mindfulness, outdoor, exclusive, and empowering activities that stimulate teamwork and well-being. Keen to respond to those growing needs once borders re-opened, JNTO began strategically developing new incentive travel content across Japan to address these changes.

As a start, JNTO reached out to CVBs throughout Japan and encouraged them to develop unique content in their respective regions that would meet the needs of post-pandemic incentive travelers. To further motivate them, the organization announced they would conduct a strategic promotional campaign overseas involving the compilation and translation of the best local content into six languages. In addition, JNTO coordinated information exchange meetings between CVBs and suppliers to further promote know-how sharing on regional content development. 

This content development strategy resulted in 42 new incentive travel programs and experiences. These were recently published as a collection for organizers promoting qualified incentives on a new multilingual website.

Here are five examples of the experiences post-pandemic incentive travelers can look forward to in Japan.

Mindfulness, Luxury Stay and Gala Dinner at a Historic Mountain Temple

Not far from Kansai International Airport, Nara, the ancient capital of Japan, offers a deluxe combination of mindfulness and luxury. This program takes participants on a two-night stay at Japan’s first JW Marriott; a special visit to the 1,300-year-old sacred Hasedera Temple; and a gala dinner in the head priest’s quarters — a wooden building that is typically closed to the public. Hasedera Temple holds historical and religious significance, with its scenic grounds unchanged for over one thousand years.

“Eternal Light of Buddhism” Zazen Meditation

This program invites participants to reset their minds, improve concentration, and relieve anxiety and stress by practicing Zazen meditation guided by the monks of Hieizan Enryakuji Temple in Shiga, east of Kyoto. Participants are invited to write a wish on a traditional Japanese candle and meditate while watching the flame flicker. These candles are likened to the “Eternal Light of Buddhism” that has been alight in Hieizan Enryakuji Temple for 1,200 years. This 90-minute program is ideal as part of a management training for executive candidates.

Revitalize Yourself through Japan’s Unique Green Tea Culture

Here, participants unwind over a cup of hand-picked green tea with stunning views of Mount Fuji in Shizuoka Prefecture, home to the highest mountain in Japan and many premium green tea plantations. This experience immerses participants in the history and nature of Shizuoka’s green tea culture at an open-air tearoom at Kunozan Toshogu Shrine — a national treasure — while enjoying splendid views of Mt. Fuji and Suruga Bay. In the presence of a tea master, participants can enjoy a tea pairing with a special meal, retaining tea ceremony traditions with a modern twist.  

Imperial Palace Running Program in Tokyo

One for the more active travelers, this incentive partners with a professional coach from ASICS, Japan’s leading sportswear manufacturer, whose mission is to help participants refresh their bodies and minds through a special running program at an extraordinary place. The route circles the Kokyo Gaien National Gardens, a park south of Tokyo Imperial Palace and a popular scenic spot for runners. The 5-km lap offers stunning views of the Imperial Palace, the bustling Marunouchi business district, and Tokyo Station’s historic red-brick building.  

Shirataki Forest Healing Off the Beaten Track 

Mie in western Japan is home to Japan’s most sacred shrine, the Ise Jingu (Ise Grand Shrine), Mikimoto pearls, and ninja arts. With abundant natural parks, it is also a wonderful place to embrace the great outdoors. Participants in the Shirataki Forest Healing program can go on a forest hike, along with local guides, in the vicinity of Mie’s Shirataki Daimyojin, where the entire mountain is enshrined as a deity, and traverse the same paths monks take in the forests. After descending the mountain, participants can enjoy a meal with rice that they cook themselves in a traditional Japanese-style house. Guides will also introduce aspects of Eastern dietary medicine such as pickled food and locally produced miso.  

A Variety of Options

In addition to the abovementioned programs, international event planners and organizers looking for ideas for their next event in Japan can find a complete list of delegate experiences by visiting New content will be continuously updated in the future.

Written by

SITE Staff


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