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‘Weak’ Japan presence in NMI ‘regrettable,’ says consul

JAPAN and the CNMI should continue to work together to attract more Japanese tourists and investors to the commonwealth, Japan Consul to Saipan Kinji Shinoda said.

“It is so regrettable,” he added, referring to the declining Japanese investments and tourist arrivals.

“Japan and the CNMI should make our best efforts to stop the negative trend before it is too late,” he said.

Shinoda noted that in the 1990’s, 1,300 Japanese lived in the CNMI compared to the current number which is 735.

In 1997, he said more than 450,000 Japanese tourists visited the CNMI, but last year only 50,000 visited the islands.

“The presence of Japan in the CNMI is getting thinner and thinner, weaker and weaker,” Shinoda said in his remarks during the birthday reception for Japanese Emperor Akihito at the Grandvrio Resort on Tuesday.

Emperor Akihito will turn 84 years old on Dec. 23.

“The emperor is the symbol of the unity of Japan,” the consul said. “His majesty is loved and respected by the Japanese people.”

The reception was attended by CNMI government officials led by acting Gov. Victor Hocog and lawmakers as well as business executives,

“We express our sincerest greetings to the emperor of Japan for his goodwill toward the people of the commonwealth,” Hocog said. “We wish him health, and we will continue to strengthen our relationship with Japan.”

He said the islands can never forget its historic ties with Japan.

During the Japanese administration of the NMI and other Micronesian islands, the region enjoyed economic progress as well as extensive infrastructure development.

When the NMI became a commonwealth, Japanese investors led the way in creating the local tourism industry and invested heavily in the commonwealth.

“The Japanese people and the NMI people have lived and worked together here,” the consul said. “We developed [the islands], and made them a great success.”

At the reception, Shinoda presented video footage from Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko’s historic visit to Saipan in June 2005.

Shinoda then introduced Keiichiro Saeki, president of the Sugar King Foundation and a descendant of Maruji Matsue, known as the “Sugar King” for establishing a successful sugar industry in the NMI.

On Tuesday, Saeki participated in the opening of an art exhibit that highlights the islands’ Sugar King era at Joeten-Kiyu Public Library.

Shinoda said he hopes that the annual Japanese Autumn Festival, sponsored by the Japanese Society of Northern Marianas, the Marianas Visitors Authority and the Saipan mayor’s office, will continue.

“The festival is an important event to remind us of our historical ties and friendship,” he added.

Source: Marianas Variety : http://www.mvariety.com/cnmi/cnmi-news/local/100669-weak-japan-presence-in-nmi-regrettable-says-consul

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