From Japan ...
Takefu trip an eye opener

by Richard Gleeson
Northern News Services

NNSL (NOV 13/96) - Last week's twinning mission to Takefu, Japan was a big success, say those who were there.

"The city of Yellowknife really benefited from that trip," said Terry Ward, general manger of the Yellowknife Inn.

The Yellowknife group included Mayor Dave Lovell, aldermen Vi Beck and John Dalton, senior administrator Doug Lagore, director of community services Max Hall and businessmen Jonathan Cross, Bill Tate and Ward.

"There wasn't anything they could do to make us feel comfortable that they didn't do," said Lovell.

Characteristic of the consideration the Yellowknifers were paid during their visit was the constant appearance of a familiar emblem.

"For the whole time we were there the Canadian flag was flying at their city hall," said Lovell. "And any place we visited that was big enough to have a flag pole in front had a Canadian flag flying from it."

The delegation was repaying a visit to Yellowknife by a group of Takefu representatives last winter.

Yellowknife and Takefu are considering cementing economic and cultural ties by becoming twin cities. The interest of Japanese tourists in the northern lights has spurred winter travel to northern cities.

Jonathan Cross, another member of the delegation and general manager of both the Explorer and Discovery Inn put the growth of Japanese tourism into perspective.

"That's something we've been working very hard on for the last 10 years," said Cross.

"Four years ago, the first Christmas I was here, the Explorer had 8-10 Japanese tourists. This year we're fully booked for Christmas."

Cross said all of the bookings have been made by Japanese tourists through travel agents in Vancouver. He anticipates 1500 Japanese will stay at his hotels this year.

The tight itinerary included tours of auto parts, electronics and knife factories (Takefu is world famous for its knives); the unveiling of the stuffed polar bear sent as a gift after last winter's visit; discussion of establishing a student exchange; tour of the chrysanthemum gardens and a youth concert.

Those on the tightly-scheduled noted of Takefu something American tourists single out about Canada.

"The cleanliness would blow you away," said Ward. "You could eat off the floors of their factories...The city is immaculate -- I saw one plastic bottle on the streets during the time I was there."