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Holiday spirit pushes work to Okinawa back burners

Date Posted: 2004-12-24

The holiday season is well under way, and Okinawans are looking past the western Christmas traditions to the end of the year time off.

The primary vacation season for Japan begins Wednesday the 29th, and runs through January 3rd or 4th. An uncooperative calendar reduces the number of easily scored days, as a tight economy if forcing many employers to be more miserly in giving time off.

With more liberal employers granting time off until Tuesday the 4th, long vacations aren’t in the cards this year. Instead, most families are turning to mainland Japan visits. Hokkaido, the country’s northernmost island prefecture, is well into the snow season, and that’s an attraction.

Others are flocking to Tokyo and points within Kyushu, where hot springs and spas are an alluring vacation spot.

The younger set, which somehow has more tangible cash to spare, is setting sights on overseas destinations such as Thailand, Guam and Taiwan. And there’s a new destination on the books this year: Korea.

Young adults are calling it the best… something different. A television love story aired recently, which paints the Korean countryside in a warm light, is attracting countless Okinawan young and not so young ladies in search of the magic. “Why now? Because the pure love story is booming,” says one. “And because the social world has too many tired things happening. People want to have love, especially pure love.”

The “Winter Sonata,” the TV soap that spawned the current Korea boom, girls say, makes Korea particularly appealing. Okinawans don’t know much about Korea, but they’re dreaming, and learning. The hero and heroine concept is so popular in Korea, it offers something different to Okinawan young people.

In Okinawa, even housewives are beginning to study the Korean language, and young ladies are clamoring for opportunities to meet Korean men, with an eye toward marriage. Marriage consultants are cropping up, with an increasing number of clients coming from Japan and Okinawa.

Korean tourist companies are thrilled with the activity. They’ve even chartered planes to carry tourists to Seoul. Every flight for the season had been sold out by December 3rd.

“Okinawan people want to see the snow and cold weather,” says one travel agent. “Okinawans also like the idea of Tokyo Disneyland. The going price of ¥59,800 per person is making it a great family destination for three days and two nights.” Those, the agent noted, are also fully booked.

A spokesman for H.I.S. Travel Agency says “this year’s vacation days are so short, so people aren’t going far away.” The agents say they’re busy, despite the tight economy, with plenty of people going to many destinations within the country.

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