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Web users angered over Japan tour

(Global Times)

08:21, October 22, 2012

A group trip to Japan by 1,500 Chinese tourists amid tensions between the two countries over a territorial dispute has prompted controversy at home, but analysts argue that citizens' freedom to travel should not be affected by politics.

People in the city of Yatsushiro welcomed the tourists, who had come to see a fireworks festival, Jiji Press reported.

"I hope their visit will be a chance to melt the snow between Japan and China," the report cited Kiichi Matsuki, head of the Yatsushiro Chamber of Commerce and Industry, as saying.

But the tour, scheduled in 2011, soon became center of debate, with some Web users saying that spending money in Japan at the moment would help boost their economy, which would be unpatriotic.

"There is nothing to argue about regarding the recent group tour to Japan, since traveling to Japan at this time or not should be left to tourists to decide," said Yang Bojiang, director of Japanese Studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.

Yang told the Global Times that he saw signs of easing tensions, as the Japanese government has shown willingness to talk about a compromise plan on the Diaoyu Islands and a US-Japanese military drill was reportedly canceled.

Tourism exchanges between China and Japan had slumped since September, when Japan announced its "nationalization" of the Diaoyu Islands.

"We canceled all our tour groups to Japan since mid-September, as a gesture to meet public opinion, although it means economic losses on our side," said Zhang Wuan, spokesperson of Shanghai-based Spring International Airline Service.

The China International Travel Service also canceled most of its tours to Japan since last month.

"Chinese tourists are a major source of visitors to Japan and it's a loss to both parties when the exchanges break," said tourism expert Wei Xiaoan.

Tourism and other economic exchanges will not fully recover in the short term, he said, but he suggested that they should not be affected by politics.
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