Japan Tourist Bureau (JTB), c. 1920.

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Japan Travel Bureau postcard advertising Nara, Japan, c. 1920.

Japan Tourist Bureau postcard advertising Nara Park, Nara, Japan, c. 1920.

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Nara Park, Nara, c. 1910

“In March 1893, a voluntary organization called Kihin-Kai [Welcome Society of Japan], headquartered in Tokyo Shokokai (the predecessor of the present Tokyo Chamber of Commerce and Industry), was formed to promote foreign tourism. In those days, the estimated annual number of Westerners visiting Japan was probably no more than 10,000, a more-than-obvious reason for establishing Kihin-Kai …They persuaded hotels and inns to improve their buildings and facilities, urged upgrading the quality of tour guides and interpreters, and arranged tours of noted and historic places. English guidebooks and maps were written and distributed to arouse foreigners’ interest in visiting the country.

“[The modern-day Japan Travel Bureau] was established in 1912 as Japan Tourist Bureau [Japan Tsûrisuto Byûro], mainly with the aim of handling foreign visitors coming to Japan. JTB grew steadily over the ensuing years and by 1925 it had expanded into domestic as well as overseas tourism. Overseas travel by steamship grew rapidly during the between-war years. JTB’s inhouse travel magazine, Tabi [trip], was begun in 1924 and its first issue featured an advertisement for travel to China. By 1934, Nippon Yusen was sailing fortnightly to San Francisco and monthly to Vancouver and Seattle and monthly to South America; around twenty thousand issues of Tabi were being printed monthly. In 1937, with the beginning of the Sino-Japanese War travel was discouraged for pleasure purposes was officially discouraged and in May 1940 [pleasure travel] was banned completely.

“In May 1941 JTB’s name was changed from ‘Japan Tsûrisuto Byûro‘ to Toa Travel Company [Tôa Ryokosha], in keeping with government policy of banning foreign loan words … In 1943, the company’s name was changed again, this time to Nihon Kôtsu Kôsha [Japan Transport Corporation]. The word ‘travel’ (ryokô) was replaced with ‘transport’ (kôtsu) since the government believed ‘travel’ was too frivolous an expression [to use in wartime].

“Two days after [General Douglas] MacArthur’s arrival [on Aug. 30, 1945, beginning the Occupation of Japan], its name reverted back to JTB. JTB was the Japanese government’s sole designated company arranging for the repatriation of Japanese soldiers to Japan after the war – as well as the return of schoolchildren to their home towns following the mass evacuation of schoolchildren that had begun in August 1944.”

The Historical Development of Japanese Tourism, Dr. Roger March, University of New South Wales, 2013

From the wiki: “A company was established by the Japanese imperial government in 1912 as the ‘Japan Tourist Bureau’ to primarily serve foreign visitors to Japan. In 1941, the Japan Tourist Bureau was renamed as ‘East Asian Travel Agent’ and, in the following year, it changed its status from corporation to foundation while still retaining its travel agency functions. After World War II, the company was renamed as ‘Japan Travel Bureau’. In 1963, JTB was divided into two separate entities, with the travel agency arm becoming an independent corporation while the foundation remained a non-profit organization. However, both organizations retained the Japan Travel Bureau banner. JTB is presently (2016) the largest travel agency in Japan and one of the largest travel agencies in the world.”

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