Journalistic Fellows from Pacific Island Nations report on Japanese Tourism [2007/12/12]
Journalists of the Pacific Island Nations at the Nippon Foundation Building
From October 21st to 28th, three journalists from the Pacific islands visited Japan under the Sasakawa Pacific Islands Journalism Fellowship and reported on efforts to promote tourism here. The fellowship, sponsored since 1991 by the Sasakawa Pacific Island Nations Fund (SPINF), aims to develop the journalistic abilities of reporters in that region. The articles written by the Fellows this year serve as an introduction to Japan and will appear in their affiliated newspapers, as well as a Hawaiian magazine with a wide readership in the Pacific Islands area.
Selected from eight applicants, the three fellows include Mr. Moffat Mamu from The Solomon Star (the Solomon Islands), Ms. Suzanne Chutaro from Marshall Islands Journal (the Marshall Islands) and Ms. Agnes E. Donato from The Saipan Tribune (the Mariana Islands).
Tourism, the theme of this year’s fellowship program, is one of the few industries capable of drawing foreign currency into the resource-poor Pacific island nations. However, efforts to develop tourism in the Solomon Islands (a collection of nearly 1,000 islands, part of which has been designated a world heritage site) lag well behind schedule. The importance of this fact is clearly illustrated by the way in which the scaling back of direct flights from Japan to Saipan has seriously weakened the island's overall economy. Given the many problems affecting the Pacific Island Nations, it was determined that the Fellows would cover the state of Japan’s tourism campaign.
In Tokyo, the Fellows examined the Visit Japan Campaign, a strategy promoted by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport to attract foreign tourists. They interviewed a folklore researcher about pilgrimages during the Edo period to the Ise Shrine—journeys regarded as the origin of Japan’s travel culture. They then visited Toshi Island in Mie Prefecture, famed as the base for the Kuki suigun (navy) from 1568 to 1600. Toshi Island currently has a population of some 2,700. With fishing the island’s sole industry, the rise in the cost of crude oil and declines in fish prices have weighed heavily on island residents. In response, island women, who work as divers, have established the Shima no Tabisha (Island Travel Company) to integrate the tourism and fishery industries. The three journalists demonstrated a keen interest in these efforts.
To date, nearly 100 journalists have visited Japan under the auspices of the Sasakawa Pacific Islands Journalism Fellowship. Initially, fellows worked primarily on their own, but since 2006, the program has been expanded to recruit experienced professionals who provide Fellows with instruction on gathering information and writing articles, with the result that he three latest Fellows authored nearly ten articles during their stay in Japan.
Next year’s program theme will be “The image and importance of the Pacific Islands in Japan.”