BOSTON — Boston is getting the country’s first commercial route flown by the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner. The flight lifts off Sunday afternoon, nonstop to and from Tokyo. The Japan Airlines flight will also give a lift to Boston’s economy, with Asian tourists and business travelers now just 13 hours away.
From Logan Airport, it’s just a five-minute cab ride to the North End, with its pizzerias, pastry shops and sidewalk cafes.
“Right now you’re at my gelateria,” said owner Frank DePasquale, who also owns high-end restaurants, a bakery and a seafood bar in the North End. He was born in Italy, in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius. Now he’s preparing for an influx of customers from the shadow of Mount Fuji.
“I did a menu that is written in Japanese. I’m giving them the food that they really love, which is the fresh oysters, the cold-water oysters from the Northeast,” he said.
DePasquale has added more seafood dishes: crab, ceviche and raw fish. He heard that many Japanese turn up their noses at American-sized meals, so he’s added smaller menu items: “A dish of pasta that is absolutely not overflowing on the dish,” he said. “Not that extra sauce, flooded in sauce. We’re trying to give them a dish that they would eat in their own home country.”
Boston restaurants are not the only ones planning to serve a boost in Japanese visitors.
At the Westin Copley Place Hotel, marketing manager Perry Kessler has been running cultural boot camps for employees.
“Whether it’s the reading of a business card, bowing, there are certain things that may be thought to bring back luck,” Kessler said.
The hotel has hired Japanese speakers to help guests get Red Sox tickets and figure out where to shop.
“Everything in Japan is so expensive,” said Shoko Hirao, a Japanese native who has been advising local businesses how to cash in on this new wave of high-spending visitors.
“Average is I think $3,800 per person for a five-night stay,” she said.
Hirao has helped the Wrentham Premium Outlets print international sizing charts. She’s told Boston’s historic museums to call themselves a “national treasure” to draw more Japanese tourists. But it’s the potential for corporate travelers that has Kendall Square Association President Tim Rowe excited about Boston’s first-ever nonstop flight to Asia.
“If you don’t have a direct flight, then the foreign company would never consider even a regional headquarters here,” Rowe said.
Rowe said the new Japan Airlines flight makes Boston now one-and-a-half hours closer to Tokyo door-to-door than New York City. And that, he said, is a game-changer.