Mon, Jul 28, 2008 - Page 2 News List

‘Strange’ is good to lure Japanese tourists: author

By Loa Iok-sin  /  STAFF REPORTER

Rather than promoting conventional tourist attractions alone, the tourist industry could highlight cultural differences that may seem “strange” — and exotic — to Japanese tourists, Yuka Aoki, author of It’s So Weird!, said in Taipei yesterday.

Aoki, from Japan, spoke at a forum on promoting Taiwan abroad and improving ties with Japan.

Aoki first visited Taiwan as a tourist in April 2002 and became fascinated with the many “strange phenomena” she observed on the trip.

She made another trip to Taiwan in May, then moved here in November that year to learn Mandarin, and has stayed ever since.

“It was very funny to see people sticking their cellphones into the gap between their heads and helmets to talk while driving scooters,” Aoki told the audience at the forum.

“I also found it quite strange that many restaurants hang toilet paper rolls on the wall for customers to use as napkins — in Japan, toilet paper rolls are only for toilets,” Aoki said.

Aoki began writing about her observations of these cultural differences on a personal blog and later published the book It’s So Weird!

After the book became a hit in Japan, Aoki began organizing events in her country to promote tourism to Taiwan.

“I took a picture of toilet-roll napkins in a small noodle restaurant near where I live in Taipei and put it in my book,” she said.

“The owner later told me that many Japanese tourists went to eat at his restaurant and took pictures of the toilet roll,” Aoki said.

She said she believes that, apart from conventional tourist spots, small differences that seem odd to the Japanese are a strength that could help attract more visitors — and gradually enhance the understanding between the two peoples.

Koh Se-kai (許世楷), Taiwan’s former representative to Japan, who also attended the forum, said the government should choose someone proficient in the Japanese language and culture to serve as the next representative to Tokyo so that the “good relations between the two countries may continue.”

“Many Japanese politicians are worried that President Ma Ying-jeou [馬英九] may be more anti-Japan and pro-China. I’m also worried,” he said.

“So it’s very important to select the right person for the position,” Koh said.

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