Thursday, June 26, 2003

Gov to promote isle travel
in week-long trip to Japan

Lingle will emphasize hula and a
technology conference in her tour

Armed with advice from Masatoshi Muto, Japanese consul general in Honolulu, Gov. Linda Lingle will lead a one-week tourism promotion mission to Japan starting July 5.

Lingle told reporters yesterday that she was briefed by Muto during a dinner party at the Japanese Consulate earlier this week and was told to emphasize hula during her trip.

"Consul General Muto said hula in Japan is a huge new opportunity. He said there are 1 million women in Japan taking hula," Lingle said.

The women, Lingle reported, tend to be older and want to learn the native Hawaiian dance to improve their general health.

"It is almost creating a new industry between Hawaii and Japan," Lingle said.

The trip is aimed at luring more Japanese visitors to Hawaii, but Lingle said she also hopes to handle some other business while in Tokyo.

She plans a meeting with officials from Sony Corp. to promote a technology conference to be held in conjunction with the annual Sony Open golf tournament.

The official party traveling with Lingle has not been completed yet, Lingle said, although she wanted to have dancers from the Merrie Monarch hula festival travel with her.

Legislators, who had traveled with past governors on tourist promotion trips to Japan, have not yet been invited, according to Lingle.

The lack of an invitation disturbed Senate President Robert Bunda, who said he expected to be included in the entourage.

"No, we haven't been invited; we don't have a formal invitation. Is that partisan or what?" Bunda said yesterday.

"I think it is a worthy trip. We think that going to Japan is something we would want to participate in," Bunda added.


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