Japan’s Prime Minister Abe said,
“The rich sea of Shima in front of your eyes is connected to the Indian Ocean via the Pacific Ocean. As the host, with the thoughts of many countries in Asia and Africa, Japan would like to exchange opinions frankly with the leaders of the world to realize a peaceful and prosperous world.” He added,
“The Japanese landscape is full of nature, with islands of various sizes and beautiful inlets, so the leaders of the world will be able to experience our rich traditions and culture firsthand.”
Certainly, the Ise-Shima area is a stunning jewel amongst the natural beauty of southern Mie prefecture. It is home to one of Japan’s most sacred Shinto shrines, Ise Jingu, and is thus considered to be Japan’s historical and cultural birthplace. Ise-Shima also boasts the famous Mikimoto Pearl Island, and the 400-year-old traditional puppet theater in Anori, not to mention a stunning coastline with pristine beaches and the Ise-Shima National Park.
However, it surprised me that Ise-Shima was chosen as the venue for this summit, despite it having the number one economic growth rate in Japan, for it is a rural, coastal area with just 130,000 residents. Mie Prefecture has a total population of only 1.8 million, barely one seventh the size of Tokyo with its population of over 13 million people. The logistics alone will be mind boggling.
While the leaders are being flown directly to Ise-Shima by military helicopter transport, their entourage, staff, translators and all the journalists covering the event will be using the highways to get there. All the local highways are being monitored by police for security reasons, and residents of southern Mie are being asked to avoid the highway altogether and use alternative routes for the two days the summit is being held. To assist in this effort, public schools will close for those two days to cut down on traffic. However, as the event falls during the week (Thursday and Friday to be precise), I’m not sure what parents will do about their children being home for those two days. Mind you, my school (Takada High School, a private Buddhist school in Tsu) is one of the few schools in the area that have chosen not to close. Hence I will be driving to school as usual and teaching lessons while the summit takes place in Ise-Shima. I can just imagine what the traffic will be like!
Incidentally, there will also be a Junior Summit in Mie from the 22nd of May through to the 28th, although it will be held in Kuwana-city in Northern Mie. Participants are from the same seven countries as the G7 Summit, and are aged between 15 and 18 years old. Four representatives from each country will discuss issues of global concern in English.
At least a bright spotlight will be shone upon the area of Ise-Shima and the prefecture of Mie, including Matsusaka city, for the world to see. Hopefully as a result, there will be a boom in tourism for many years to come, at least until the spotlight is refocused on Tokyo for the 2020 Olympics. Mie has many other tourist attractions apart from Ise-Shima’s famous oysters and spiny lobster, and Matsusaka’s delicious ‘wagyu’ beef. (Oranges and green tea are also very popular in this region.) Other must-see sightseeing spots include Iga Ueno Castle, the Ninja Museum of Igaryu, Nagashima Spa Land (a popular amusement park), Toba aquarium, the picturesque Mount Gozaisho (the autumn colors there are spectacular), the Mie Prefectural Museum, Meotoiwa (the wedded rocks), Mikimoto Pearl Island, and if you like racing then you can’t miss a trip to Suzuka Circuit.
I just hope the roads next week don’t resemble those at Suzuka Circuit, with everyone trying to get to work on time while not using the main highway. Wish me luck.