WEDNESDAY, 5 JUNE – ABASHIRI CITY, HOKKAIDO – Ambassador Mataitoga pays courtesy call on Abashiri City Mayor
On Wednesday, 5 June 2019, HE Mr. Isikeli Mataitoga paid a courtesy call on His Worship Yoichi Mizutani, Mayor of Abashiri City in Hokkaido. The call is aimed at encouraging both parties to work cooperatively for the promotion of the 2019RWC and its exchange opportunities.
Ambassador Mataitoga opened the meeting by relaying his appreciation for the Mayor`s invitation and the Fiji Rugby Union (FRU) and Abashiri City`s preparation for the 2019RWC. Abashiri is the first official campsite for the Flying Fijians, and for the last few months through the support of the RWC Secretariat and FRU, have been preparing the required training ground, training facilities, indoor swimming pool, etc. for the Fiji Team. Also, the City, together with its line sports agencies, have been working hard in preparing the citizens of Abashiri in welcoming the Fiji Team this year, September 2019.
It is noted that the most prominent industries in Abashiri are fishery and agriculture related. Agricultural activities mainly include dairy farming and the cultivation of a variety of crops, whereas Fish processing has grown to be an important secondary industry. Forestry is another important industry in Abashiri and is supported by a rich supply of natural resources, together with Tourism for its beauty of the lakes, the landscape, and the Sea of Okhotsk, with the drift ice it carries to shore each winter (mostly in February), are all very attractive sites which the Ambassador later visited.
Speaking further, Ambassador Mataitoga pointed out that Fiji is interested in a more long-term exchange opportunity, most especially in the areas of sports, cultural, and educational exchanges. He further seeks the support of Mayor Mizutani in developing community-to-community relations between the people of Abashiri and Fiji, through tourism promotion, study tours for school students from Abashiri to visit Fiji. This, after all, is part of the PALM 8 Iwaki Declaration, and in particular, increasing exposure and people to people exchanges between Japan and Fiji/PICs. Ambassador Mataitoga further cited ongoing fruitful exchanges between Fiji and Saga, Oita, Akita, and Takanezawa machi of Tochigi Prefecture respectively.
Fiji’s interest in attracting tourists from Abashiri was noted, particularly given the resumption of Nadi-Narita direct flights from 3 July 2018, Fiji needs the regional connections to be made in such a way that will allow an increasing number of visitors from Japan. Ambassador Mataitoga further stressed the required Tourism PR of Fiji`s delicious food, culture, tourist spots, etc.
Both sides agreed on the need to keep track of the impact of climate changes and their effects, particularly on the agriculture, fisheries and tourism industries. Helping rural communities who are dependent on fisheries for their economic livelihood, etc. were also discussed.
Ambassador Mataitoga thanked Mayor Mizutani for the excellent discussion that has transpired and looks forward to having further discussion on a variety of areas.
Following the meeting with Mayor Mizutani, Ambassador Mataitoga visited the Drift Ice Museum, which provided an opportunity to learn about the amazing natural phenomenon drift ice and also see the effects of climate change. It is noted that watch year ice forms near the mouth of the Amur River in Russia and is carried southward by current and wind until it eventually rolls onto the coast of northern Hokkaido. Drift ice varies in its shape due to the effects of wind and tide.
Also, close by is the Abashiri Prison Museum, in which the Ambassador was advised of the history of the prisoners and the role they played in the development of Abashiri. About 800 prisoners from throughout Japan are said to be detained in this prison.