Mayor talks trash to experts in Japan
Hannemann seeks solutions to urban ills from landfills to traffic
TOKYO » Mayor Mufi Hannemann wrapped up his first full day of official business here in Japan's capital by talking about trash -- learning how one company is trying to get rid of this nation's opala, with an eye toward doing some of the same things on Oahu.
Star-Bulletin reporter Crystal Kua is traveling with Mayor Mufi Hannemann and the Honolulu delegation and will be filing reports from Japan all week.
"Japan is an island, just like Honolulu. Many of the things that we're mulling, they've actually gone out and tested," Hannemann said yesterday.
The mayor's week-long visit to Japan is being dubbed "Wow Honolulu" and is supposed to invigorate Hawaii tourism and make connections with business and political leaders.
But Hannemann is also talking to Japanese companies interested in helping Honolulu tackle some of its infrastructure problems, like solid waste.
Hannemann sat down with representatives of Kajima Construction and discussed the firm's garbage-to-energy plant and the other ways they recycle garbage.
The mayor said that Japan's concerns about what to do with its garbage sounds like a page out of Honolulu's plight with the Waimanalo Gulch landfill.
But he said Kajima is doing remarkable things with recycling, composting, methane and incinerator ash while trying to keep what's put in the landfill to a minimum.
"Obviously, if we're interested they're saying, 'We're available, we'd be interested in partnering with you.' I was very impressed with that in their presentation," he said.
Hannemann said that these are technologies that Honolulu should have been exploring a long time ago.
"We're way behind. We should've been doing this stuff yesterday," he said.
Hannemann is also seeking information from the Japanese on another basic city service: transportation, which is why he'll be talking with officials from the Sumitomo Corp., which is interested in building a rail system for Honolulu.
The mayor also met with officials from the Japan Travel Bureau, opening discussions about possibly expanding the annual Honolulu Festival, which JTB sponsors, to lure more visitors to Honolulu for longer stays.
Hannemann said another way to increase tourism would be to bring Hawaii Winter League Baseball back to the islands.
And on a day also filled with protocol duties, Hannemann found that the Japanese were intrigued by his 6-foot-7 stature.
"They are very surprised at my height," he said. "They're just amazed that I'm so tall."