Japan’s first lady Akie Abe praises strong relationship with Hong Kong
Originally published at the South China Morning Post on October 14, 2016.
In a rare visit to the city, Japan’s first lady Akie Abe said Hong Kong and Japanese relations would become more crucial in the coming years as the neighbouring nation faces economic challenges.
At a ceremony marking the launch of the inaugural Japan Autumn Festival at Exchange Square in Central on Friday, Abe emphasised the importance of trade and tourism between the two territories.
She said she hoped Hongkongers visit the less-travelled areas of Japan, which are currently experiencing a declining population and slowing economy.
“I hope that Hong Kong people will visit local areas in Japan that people seldom visit,” Abe said. “I hope the festival will deepen the relationship between Hong Kong and Japan and attract as many visitors as possible.”
The two-month festival, which is set to become an annual event, will feature over 130 attractions including music, movies, art, sports, food and beverage.
Speaking at Friday’s ceremony, Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-nor said trade and tourism between Hong Kong and Japan is a “telling statement” of the strong relations between the two territories.
Japan was Hong Kong’s third largest trading partner in goods last year, while Hong Kong was Japan’s seventh. In services, Japan was also Hong Kong’s fourth largest trade partner. There are currently about 1,300 Japanese companies with offices in the city, Lam said.
Last year, about 1.5 million Hongkongers visited Japan, up 65 per cent from 2014. In the first half of this year, about 500,000 Japanese tourists also visited Hong Kong, representing a 3 per cent increase year-on-year, she added.
“The ties between us are frequent and strong,” Lam said. “I understand that this is the first time a festival of this scale is held outside of Japan. That Hong Kong is chosen...is indeed an honour.”