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Travel & Leisure

Japan's folk dance capital offers $11,000 cultural tour

Tokushima leans on unique heritage to draw international luxury travelers

Tokushima's Awa traditional folk dance will be part of the high-end tour. (Photo by Takeshi Hasegawa)

TOKUSHIMA -- Japan's Tokushima Prefecture will host a 1.2 million yen ($11,000) multiday tour next year highlighting local traditions, seeking to attract affluent foreign travelers to an often-overlooked region.

The cultural tour in Tokushima, site of the country's largest annual folk dance festival, will run from March 11 to March 13. Air Travel Tokushima will handle sales, cooperating with overseas travel agencies with access to high-end clientele.

Customers in the U.S., Europe and Australia will be the main focus. Organizers aim for a minimum of 10 travelers, and a maximum of 20 participants in 10 groups.

"Foreign tourists who are staying two to three weeks in Japan will spend three days in Tokushima," said Koichi Tamura, council chairman at the East Tokushima Tourism Authority, the organizing body.

Cultural experiences normally out of reach for tourists will form part of the program. Participants can dye bandanas with the indigo pigment Tokushima is known for at a workshop using techniques dating back to the Edo era.

Ranshu Yano, an internationally recognized expert in the Tokushima indigo-dyeing process, will be on hand to instruct visitors.

Guests will also have private access to the Otsuka Museum of Art. There, they will attend a dinner show at a hall fashioned after the Vatican's Sistine Chapel. Tokushima's Awa folk dance is on the itinerary as well.

Tokushima -- part of Shikoku, the smallest of Japan's four main islands -- has struggled to attract foreign tourists, and those who do come tend to spend less. Each overseas visitor to Tokushima spends the equivalent of around $300 in Tokushima, according to a 2018 study by the Japan Tourism Agency, compared with more than $400 in nearby Kagawa and Kochi prefectures. A lack of places to spend in Tokushima has been blamed.

"Tokushima will become a sought-after travel destination by gaining recognition among the world's high-end travelers," said Hisanori Isamu, an official at the East Tokushima Tourism Authority.

"I hope this will lead to greater pride and confidence in the region," Isamu said.

The organization plans to hold one high-end tour a year and incorporate feedback from past participants. It hopes that featured activities in its program are picked up as part of other tour packages as well.

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