Japan has come to depend on its tourist industry, but after the earthquake/tsunami one-two punch that leveled parts of the coast and damaged the Fukushima nuclear reactor, the number of foreign visitors dropped by 50-60 percent (via NileGuidance). Since then, the Japanese travel industry has come up with several promotions aimed at combating the negative perception of the country that still lingers even today. For example, in July, a group of Japanese resorts held a contest to send one lucky travel blogger on a tour of the country for free.

Now, the Japan Tourism Agency is seriously considering expanding that idea in a big way, by giving 10,000 foreign tourists free flights into Japan. According to the Daily Mail, the initiative still needs to be approved and funded by the Japanese government. However, as long as the approval process goes smoothly, the program should be up and running by next April.

To get one of the free flights, you will need to fill out an application. Since Japan hopes to use this promotion to create positive word-of-mouth, it is likely that they will consider factors like how well you can write, whether or not you already have a blog and the size of your online audience. Winners will still have to pay for their own accommodations, food, and activities, as well as for transportation within Japan.

Agency spokeswoman Kylie Clark explained to the Daily Mail how Japan hopes to use the free flights to reinvigorate its tourist industry:

“When people visit Japan they fall in love with it. So rather than spend millions on a big advertising campaign, we hope to be able to give away free flights so people can go and experience Japan for themselves and then tell their family, friends and colleagues what a fantastic destination it is for a holiday.”

Of course, to visit Japan you will need a US passport. Applying well in advance is essential here, as processing time ranges from three weeks for the Department of State’s expedited processing to six weeks for normal processing. Should you need it more quickly, you can make an appointment at one of the 24 regional passport agency offices sprinkled throughout the US. Or, you can go the easier route and use a private expediting company like RushMyPassport to deliver your US passport application to the Department of State, for processing in as little as 24 hours.

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