Yoshihiko Kamo, consul general of Japan in Honolulu, told Hawaii leaders and lawmakers exactly what they wanted to hear Tuesday.

“I want to tell you that Japanese tourists will be back soon,” he said in an extraordinary address to a joint session of the Hawaii House and Senate at the state Capitol that included Gov. Neil Abercrombie, Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz and Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald.

Kamo was invited to speak by the House and Senate.

“The great earthquake and tsunami made many Japanese refrain from having fun to show condolence and solidarity with the victims,” said Kamo. “With more than 500,000 cancellations, Japan’s domestic tourism suffered a heavy blow. Accordingly, there has emerged a growing apprehension that excessive self-restraint does more harm than good to the stricken area as it slows down the economy. Hawaii’s appeal to Japanese tourists remains unchanged.”

Kamo said the drastic drop in travel to Japan, however, is due to the fear of radiation from the damage to the Fukushima Daichi nuclear plant. Kamo sought to ease those fears, too.

“Radioactive contamination is largely an on-site and near-site issue,” he said. “A large part of Japan escapes from contamination that poses general threat to the public health. World Health Organization (WHO), International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and International Maritime Organization (IMO) have made objective assessments that general travel restriction to Japan is not needed.”

Kamo continued: “Going to Japan is not prohibited by any laws. Whether it is Hokkaido or Kyushu, Tokyo or Kyoto, we eagerly await you in Japan and opportunities to reciprocate the hospitality.”

Kizuna: ‘Bonds of Friendship’

Kamo did not say when, exactly, Japanese tourists would begin returning to Hawaii’s shores.

Since the March 11 natural disaster, which has left more than 27,000 people dead or missing, hotel bookings from Japan in the islands have plunged and major carriers have cut back on flights between Japan and Hawaii. A decline in the state’s third-largest visitor market is already affecting local tax collections.

But Kamo stressed that the strong relationship that began to develop between Hawaii and Japan more than 125 years ago continues. Hawaii’s tourism brand, he said, was also a major plus.

“Nature, people, history, safety, cleanliness, and proximity all contribute to alluring Japanese to Hawaii,” he said. “You can count on our loyalty.”

Fukushima Daiichi ‘Top Priority’

Much of Kamo’s address involved reading a statement from Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan.

Kan expressed gratitude for the outpouring of support the country has received from around the world. “The Japanese people deeply appreciate the Kizuna (a Japanese word for ‘bonds of friendship’) that has been shown to us by friends around the world.”

Kan reiterated that bringing the situation at Fukushima Daiichi under control “at the earliest possible date is currently my top priority.”

The country’s efforts include dealing with the outflow of radioactive water from the plant into the ocean. It has taken “highly precautionary measures” to ensure food and product safety.

“In order to assure domestic and foreign consumer confidence in the safety of Japanese food and products, my administration will redouble its efforts to maintain transparency and keep everyone informed of our progress in the complex and evolving circumstances” at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, Kan said in his statement read by Kamo.

Kan said the Japanese government would determine the cause of the incident at the nuclear plant and “proactively contribute” to a global debate to enhance the safety of nuclear power generation” and to be involved in “aggressive promotion of clean energy” to help solve global energy issues and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to combat global warming.

Kan called his plan the “Rebirth of Japan.”
 
In remarks to reporters after his address, Kamo said Japan “still believed” in nuclear power.

Kamo also defended the actions of the government and other officials in response to the disasters, saying “confusion prevented delivery of a perfect media response … They did the best they could.”

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