Japan and China kicked off "2006 tourism exchange year" on Friday in Tokyo, with both sides expressing hope that tourism and grassroots exchanges can help improve the strained political relations.
"China and Japan should strengthen exchanges," Kazuo Kitagawa, the Japanese Minister of Land, Infrastructure and Transport said at the opening ceremony, referring to the need to mend the cooling political ties between the two neighbors. "It is our common view to boost tourism and therefore we decide to start tourism exchange year from now."
"It is our joint task to improve bilateral relations. To achieve this, we need the support and understanding of the people from both countries," Chinese Ambassador to Japan Wang Yi said," tourism is an important means to increase understanding."
Japan's former Prime Minister Tsutomu Hata expressed a similar opinion at the ceremony, saying that he hopes the two countries can use tourism as a way to promote exchange and communication.
A series of tourism promotion events are expected be held in many cities in Japan and China following the kickoff. Tourism ministers from China, Japan and South Korea will hold a joint conference this July in Hokkaido of northern Japan, according to Kitagawa.
Japan has allowed Chinese group tourists to travel in all regions of Japan since July 25, 2005. Statistics show that around 600,000 Chinese visited Japan in 2005, meanwhile over 3.38 million Japanese visited China.
(Xinhua News Agency March 11, 2006)