NARITA, Japan >> Satoko Nakagomi and Naoko Arimori sat in the departure lounge of Tokyo Narita International Airport with worried expressions as they discussed whether to board a plane to Los Angeles after the U.S. attack on Afghanistan.
Local officials begin
campaign to draw
Japanese back to isles
By Craig Gima
"Should we go to U.S.?" Nakagomi asked. "War has started against terrorists." She said her family urged her to stay home and wondered why the convention she is going to was not canceled.
Such fears of traveling abroad, particularly to Hawaii, are what a delegation of local officials hope to allay beginning today as they meet with Japanese government and tourism officials.
"I think it (the strike on Afghanistan) will have an impact," said former Gov. George Ariyoshi as he left Honolulu yesterday morning on one of the first international flights out after news of the strikes became public. "I think it will complicate things."
Ariyoshi, Gov. Ben Cayetano, county mayors and other tourism officials were to meet in Tokyo today with former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori and Foreign Minister Makiko Tanaka and will be meeting with tourism and business officials over the next week in an attempt to persuade Japanese to fly to Hawaii again.
Ariyoshi said the officials will emphasize the increased security at airports in the state, including the deployment of National Guard troops, which began yesterday. He said the delegation will also try to assure Japanese officials that another closure of U.S. airports is unlikely.
Ariyoshi said some Japanese may not feel comfortable enjoying themselves while Americans are suffering. He said that while people in Hawaii are sensitive to Japanese feelings, the delegation will tell the Japanese to "please come because we get hurt more if they don't."
Nakagomi and Arimori said they are unsure if Japanese will be assured by the delegation's message, adding that it could be months before people feel safe about traveling again.
But Ariyoshi said he noticed tourists were starting to return to Hawaii even before yesterday's U.S. strike.
Now, he said, it is hard to predict what the reaction will be to Hawaii's message.
"I don't know what good it (the delegation's visit) is going to do. But I think it's a necessary effort and that things will be better because of this."