‘Local culture could draw back Japanese tourists’

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Japan’s consul to Saipan believes the lack of a strong emphasis on the CNMI’s culture is why Japanese arrivals, which used to be the No. 1 tourist market of the Commonwealth, are dwindling.

In an interview with Saipan Tribune yesterday, Japanese Consul Kinji Shinoda said that, as a tourist who has visited many places around the world, the CNMI could re-attract Japanese tourists if the indigenous Chamorro and Carolinian culture is further advertised.

“As a Japanese tourist who has visited many places, I go to places to see the culture, try the cuisines,” he said.

According to Shinoda, upon arriving on the island, he has seen Chinese restaurants, Japanese restaurants, Filipino restaurants, but he has yet to find an authentic restaurant that specializes in Chamorro and Carolinian food.

Shinoda said the islands are beautiful and their beauty will surely attract many tourists but Japanese tourists like him don’t just want scenery, they visit different places for the cultural experience and to bring back authentic souvenirs.

Shinoda also cited the lack of authentic local souvenirs. He said Japanese tourists love to bring back trinkets from their trip that represents the places that they have visited.

Unfortunately, upon visiting the numerous souvenir stores here, he was saddened to see that he could only find basic souvenir items like shirts, sandals, etc. Even the chocolates that are available for purchase in these stores are from Hawaii, not the CNMI.

Shinoda said he encourages the islands to let the rich indigenous culture shine and for the islands to sell the culture along with the scenery.

Shinoda has shared his opinions with other local officials and, according to him, they fully support his suggestions.

Shinoda suggests that indigenous dances, songs, and cuisines should be revitalized on the islands because culture is what Japanese tourists come for.

Because Japanese tourists usually travel with their families, he strongly feels that cultural family activities should also be revitalized.

The numbers of Japanese tourists continue to decrease and, in Shinoda’s opinion, focusing on the local culture is one way to bring those numbers back up.

Arrivals from Japan totaled 3,385 visitors in July 2017, 19 percent lower compared to July 2016.

Kimberly Bautista | Reporter
Kimberly Albiso Bautista has covered a wide range of news beats, including the community, housing, crime, and more. She now covers sports for the Saipan Tribune. Contact her at kimberly_bautista@saipantribune.com.

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