Photo/IllutrationA small U.S.-made aircraft used for charter flights connecting Nagano Prefecture with airports across Japan is shown at Matsumoto Airport in the prefecture. (Masahiro Haba)

  • Photo/Illustraion

MATSUMOTO, Nagano Prefecture--A charter service targeted at well-heeled individuals has taken off from Matsumoto Airport here with direct flights across Japan.

The program is the brainchild of Myojinkan, which operates a luxury ryokan in Matsumoto, as part of efforts to promote tourism in the local Shinshu region.

Myojinkan has tied up with Skytrek Inc., a small aircraft charter service provider based in Tokyo’s Minato Ward, that operates four small single-engine turboprop aircraft. Each of the aircraft, developed by Quest Aircraft Co. in the United States, can accommodate up to six passengers.

Based on passenger requests, passengers can fly to Matsumoto Airport from many airports in Japan.

The charter service is expected to make Nagano Prefecture drastically easier to visit for sightseers, as it normally is a hassle for those from outside Japan and in urban areas in the country to get to Shinshu.

The small aircraft charter program will allow passengers to arrive in Matsumoto Airport only in 50 minutes from an airport in Okegawa, Saitama Prefecture, outside Tokyo, for 290,000 yen ($2,695). The one-way flight from Chubu Airport will take 60 minutes and cost 520,000 yen. The flight of 85 minutes from Kansai International Airport is priced at 620,000 yen.

However, Narita, Haneda, Osaka and Fukuoka airports are among facilities not available for the aircraft, so the charter service cannot land there.

The service will cater primarily to wealthier families and group tourists both in and outside Japan for the time being.

Plans are also afoot to join hands with Fuji Dream Airlines Co., which offers regular flights from Matsumoto Airport, to sell travel packages, including stays at Myojinkan, and organize sightseeing flights over the Northern Japan Alps in collaboration with other accommodation facility operators.

“Shinshu has the brand power to urge people to visit it,” said Tadamasa Saito, president of Myojinkan. “I want to pitch high value-added tourism packages.”