A delegation from the Tourism Bureau received a warm welcome from officials upon arrival in Japan’s Iwate Prefecture yesterday, on a visit aimed at conveying Taiwan’s concern for victims of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.
The Japanese officials raised banners and chanted “Thank you Taiwan” as they greeted the visitors, headed by Tourism Bureau Deputy Director-General Wayne Liu (劉喜臨).
Liu presented Iwate Vice Governor Yoshiharu Ueno with a donation of ￥10 million (US$124,000) from the bureau and Taiwan’s travel industry to assist with the recovery efforts.
“Although the donation is not much, it comes with love from the Taiwanese people,” Liu said.
Ueno, speaking in Mandarin, thanked Taiwan for the donation, and said he hoped to see more Taiwanese tourists in the prefecture.
The inland areas of Iwate Prefecture were not affected by the earthquake, but “negative rumors” have kept tourists away, Ueno said.
Noting that on average half of the foreign tourists to Iwate are from Taiwan, Uneo told Taiwanese reporters that he hoped Taiwan would play the role of “lead goat” and help encourage foreign tourists to visit Iwate and restore its tourism.
After a whirlwind visit to Iwate, the delegation, comprising Tourism Bureau officials, Taiwan Visitors Association executives and representatives of airline companies and travel agencies in Taiwan, took a Shinkansen bullet train to Sendai, the capital of Miyagi Prefecture, which was also hard-hit by the disaster.
They were scheduled to travel to Fukushima Prefecture later in the day to present another donation for earthquake relief.
The delegation will also attend a Taiwan-Japan tourism forum that will begin in Ishikawa Prefecture in western Japan tomorrow.
The March 11 earthquake triggered a massive tsunami that devastated areas of northeastern Japan and resulted in more than 15,000 confirmed deaths, a nuclear crisis at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant and huge infrastructure damage. Iwate Prefecture was struck by a 4m-high tsunami wave that flattened coastal areas.