Poland's flag-carrying airline LOT is to launch direct flights to Tokyo and the central Japanese city of Nagoya from next March, the country's civil aviation office announced Wednesday.

Poland's tourist industry is banking on a rise in the number of Japanese visiting the country next year, thanks to the 200th anniversary of the birth of Polish-French composer Frederic Chopin who is best-known for his piano works.

"LOT will fly 10 times a week to Japan, with three flights to Tokyo's Narita airport, and seven to Osaka or Nagoya," the office's spokeswoman Katarzyna Krasnodebska told AFP.

LOT currently flies only to Osaka in central Japan.

Chopin, who died at the untimely age of 39, has an avid following in Japan, with tourists heading to his birthplace near Warsaw and the church in the Polish capital where his heart lies in a crystal urn.

An extra draw in 2010 will be October's 16th edition of the international piano competition held every five years in Warsaw to honour Chopin.

Japanese and other Asian pianists have regularly topped the rankings in the competition.

Japanese, South Korean and Hong Kong Chinese contestants came in the top 10 in the 2005 edition, which was won by a Pole for the first time since 1975.

A rise in Asian passenger numbers would be good news for state-controlled LOT, which lost 733 million zlotys (174 million euros, 257 million dollars) in 2008 and is due by May 2010 to cut 400 jobs from its current 3,500-strong payroll.