FN Interviews : Asian City Journalist Conference

On Nov. 29, 2012, the 7th Asian City Journalist Conference was held in Fukuoka City. The theme of the conference was “Water” in Asian Cities.

“The Asian City Journalist Conference is held jointly by UN-HABITAT ROAP, Nishi Nippon Newspaper, and the Government of Japan (Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Tourism and Transport), inviting distinguished journalists from Asian cities such as Shanghai, Guangzhou, Dalian, Busan, Bangkok, Jakarta, Hoh Chi Min, Manila, Kuala Lumpur, Ipoh, and Singapore. The Conference aims to discuss the urban sustainability agenda, from sustainable transportation, urban safety, to broader topics such as addressing the urban divide, and to clarify the roles, responsibilities and further possibilities of the media.” Source: UN-HABITAT Fukuoka Office.

Fukuoka Now reporter Nicole Okimura interviewed six journalists attending the conference, from various nations and media companies, to gauge their thoughts on Fukuoka’s assets, weak points and more. Read the full interviews below…

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Ms. Cynthia Delgado Balana (Philippines)
Senior Reporter, Philippine Daily Inquirer

Comment: Cynthia has been to Fukuoka four times. She is bubbly and chatty and was generous to give us so much time to interview her. She was keen to share her positive experiences of Fukuoka.

How well is Fukuoka known in your home city or country?
I think it is becoming a work destination for Filipinos as PAL (Philippine Airlines) has a direct flight from Manila.

As a destination for visitors from overseas, what do you think are Fukuoka’s best assets?
Fukuoka’s best asset is its people. They are very courteous and always on time.

Did you have an image of Fukuoka before your visit? Has it changed?
It is my fourth visit and the people are still the same- very courteous, and progressive in their way of thinking.

How does Fukuoka differ from other cities you have visited in Japan?
It is not as modern as Tokyo, but for me it is the kind of people who matter most, and the people are lovely here.

What kind of difficulties or inconveniences have you encountered so far during your stay in Fukuoka?
Nothing major, but the lack of English signs has been a little inconvenient.

What is your impression of the friendliness of Fukuoka locals?
Fukuoka people are your typical Japanese – very helpful, trustworthy and disciplined.

What is your impression of the transportation system of Fukuoka?
It is quite impressive. I haven’t noticed many traffic problems.

What do you think of Fukuoka’s potential as a host city of MICE (Meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions)?
Fukuoka seems to be doing well as a convention site. It is my fourth time here, and every time I have come to attend conventions.

What is your opinion of the Fukuoka City tourist map ‘Now Map’?
It is very handy and easy to use. I always use this map when I am in Fukuoka. I don’t get lost with it.

Have you noticed any changes in Fukuoka since your last visit?
Fukuoka still has the same people – disciplined, reliable and trustworthy. I don’t think you need to change that. I have been here four times already, and each visit is an experience. I learn new ideas and meet new people- though I am happy to see familiar faces.

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Mr. Arun Katiyar (India)
Independent journalist, a former Bombay Bureau Chief of India Today

Comment: Arun was so interesting to speak to. His eco-friendly lifestyle, including his bamboo bicycle, kept us intrigued. After we said our goodbyes, Arun went to rent a bicycle to ride around the city.

How well is Fukuoka known in your home city or country?
I have a friend who had visited Fukuoka told me of a yatai near the subway, but that is all anyone knew about Fukuoka.

As a destination for visitors from overseas, what do you think are Fukuoka’s best assets?
Fukuoka has great weather, it’s a good environment and it is quiet. These are its best assets.

Did you have an image of Fukuoka before your visit? Has it changed?
My image of Fukuoka was that it would be very high-tech. Once I came, I realized that it is a city with many gardens and parks.

What kind of difficulties or inconveniences have you encountered so far during your stay in Fukuoka?
The only problem is the language. I need to learn Japanese!

What is your impression of the friendliness of Fukuoka locals?
Fukuoka locals are very helpful.

What is your impression of the transportation system of Fukuoka?
I have only walked. I have not needed to use the bus or train. I noticed that rental bikes are available.

What do you think of Fukuoka’s potential as a host city of MICE (Meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions)?
Fukuoka has a lot of potential as a MICE location in Asia. Beijing is being marketed as a MICE city but it has its baggage. There are opportunities for Fukuoka, especially with its proximity to the rest of Asia.

What is your opinion of the Fukuoka City tourist map ‘Now Map’?
Great map but I wished the rental bike locations were on it.

On future trips to Fukuoka, what would you like to do?
I need to eat the oysters that I read about in the Fukuoka Now magazine this month! I would also like to visit shrines and take a sushi making class.

Would you recommend Fukuoka as a destination to your friends (for vacation/business)?
Yes! My wife wanted to come with me this trip, so next time I will bring her. She wants to do the sushi making class too.

What area of town, building or landmark, did you find most remarkable or memorable?
The ACROS Fukuoka building is amazing in structure and design. I have walked around and around it. It is a fascinating building.

Fukuoka is working on bike paths, increasing bike parking around the city and subway stations, and generally encouraging more people to ride. What have you noticed on your visit here?
I have noticed many people riding. I am a keen bike rider, so I will rent a bike this afternoon and look around the city.

I hear you have an interesting bike. Please tell us about it.
I have a ‘bambike’, a bamboo framed bike. A friend of mine, Vijay Sharma, first created the bike and together we tweaked it to become a wonderful bike to ride. He wants to keep the production natural and not make it a business. He teaches others how to make bamboo bikes. Each bike saves about two kilograms of aluminum and steel.

Have you noticed any changes in Fukuoka since your last visit?
I have noticed the friendly buskers.

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Ms. Anuradha Kadogoda (Sri Lanka)
Journalist, Sunday Observer

Comment: Anuradha was so excited to be on her first trip to Japan. She enjoyed her stay and is keen to come back. Anuradha is very outgoing and friendly. We hope to see her on her next visit!

How well is Fukuoka known in your home city or country?
In Sri Lanka, the most famous city in Japan is Tokyo. I only heard of Fukuoka through a friend, who was planning to come here to complete her studies.

As a destination for visitors from overseas, what do you think are Fukuoka’s best assets?
Out of many assets, Fukuoka’s most precious asset would be its people. They are helpful, polite and truthful.

Did you have an image of Fukuoka before your visit? Has it changed?
I saw a documentary about Tokyo and imagined Fukuoka would also be a busy city. I have found it to be not like that. It is a relaxed city with lovely people.

What kind of difficulties or inconveniences have you encountered so far during your stay in Fukuoka?
I have had no troubles. This is the ‘Friendly City’, and the people are so helpful.

What is your impression of the transportation system of Fukuoka?
The transportation system is amazing. It is safe and convenient. Even the buses arrived on time.

What do you think of Fukuoka’s potential as a host city of MICE (Meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions)?
It is a great location for MICE. The hotels and restaurants are accommodating and the people are accepting.

What is your opinion of the Fukuoka City tourist map ‘Now Map’?
I noticed it is up-to-date and very convenient.

On future trips to Fukuoka, what would you like to do?
I would like to experience more traditional and cultural areas. I am also interested in organic farming and the food production here. Next time I would like to explore these areas.

Would you recommend Fukuoka as a destination to your friends (for vacation/business)?
Yes, definitely. It is safe and convenient. The best city I have visited in the world.

What area of town, building or landmark, did you find most remarkable or memorable?
I particularly like Deai-bashi Bridge and the ACROS Building.

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Ms. Syavira Putri (Indonesia)
Editor, Yahoo Indonesia

Comment: Syavira was very excited to be in Japan. She told us of the popularity of Japanese culture in Indonesia especially more recently with music groups including AKB48. She was very impressed with the locals’ acceptance of other cultures.

How well is Fukuoka known in your home city or country?
It is not known well, but I did know that it was a city in the lower part of Japan.

As a destination for visitors from overseas, what do you think are Fukuoka’s best assets?
The atmosphere of the city is its best asset. It is busy, has great food, and is a beautiful city with wonderful scenery. The fusion of tradition and contemporary found in Fukuoka is attractive for overseas visitors.

Did you have an image of Fukuoka before your visit? Has it changed?
Not really. I grew up with many Japanese things and it was just like I had imagined.

What kind of difficulties or inconveniences have you encountered so far during your stay in Fukuoka?
I can’t read Japanese and there doesn’t seem to be many English speakers in Fukuoka. The language was a problem.

What is your impression of the friendliness of Fukuoka locals?
The people of Fukuoka are very friendly and helpful. We had language problems though.

What is your impression of the transportation system of Fukuoka?
The transportation is very convenient and punctual.

What do you think of Fukuoka’s potential as a host city of MICE (Meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions)?
Fukuoka has fantastic potential as a host city of MICE. It has an open culture and is accepting of others.

What is your opinion of the Fukuoka City tourist map ‘Now Map’?
I have found the map very useful. The only thing is that I didn’t find it until the third day! I wish that I had have found it at the airport when I arrived.

On future trips to Fukuoka, what would you like to do?
On future trips I hope to explore more of the city and surrounding area.

Would you recommend Fukuoka as a destination to your friends (for vacation/business)?
Yes! The only hard thing for Indonesians is that there are currently no direct flights. I tried my first hot spring and really enjoyed it. I also loved Dazaifu.

What area of town, building or landmark, did you find most remarkable or memorable?
The almost-full moon I saw from the bridge was delightful.

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Ms. Nguyen Ham Bao Truc (Vietnam)
Reporter, Saigon Giaiphon Invetstment Finance Newspaper

Comment: Truc was so happy to visit Fukuoka again. She is so cheerful and energetic!

How well is Fukuoka known in your home city or country?
Fukuoka is not as well known as Tokyo or Osaka but they do have direct flights now from Ho Chi Minh City.

As a destination for visitors from overseas, what do you think are Fukuoka’s best assets?
I have been to Fukuoka four or five times. Each time the city is ‘new’. The people here are kind and the English information guides are helpful.

Did you have an image of Fukuoka before your visit? Has it changed?
Not a particular image.

What kind of difficulties or inconveniences have you encountered so far during your stay in Fukuoka?
The bus stops are hard to understand so it was difficult to know where to get off the bus. The route names are written in Japanese only. I can’t understand written Japanese at all so it was difficult to ride the bus.

What is your impression of the friendliness of Fukuoka locals?
Fukuoka locals are friendly people who always make me feel comfortable.

What is your impression of the transportation system of Fukuoka?
Generally, the transportation system is very convenient.

What do you think of Fukuoka’s potential as a host city of MICE (Meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions)?
Fukuoka is a great location for MICE events.

What is your opinion of the Fukuoka City tourist map ‘Now Map’?
I found the map at the airport. It has been very helpful.

On future trips to Fukuoka, what would you like to do?
On my next visit, I hope to visit some shrines and temples.

Would you recommend Fukuoka as a destination to your friends (for vacation/business)?
Yes, of course! I love Fukuoka City!

What area of town, building or landmark, did you find most remarkable or memorable?
I found the Tenjin Chikagai underground shopping complex wonderful.

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Ms. Gao Ying (China)
Commentator, Global Times

Comment: Gao was impressed with Fukuoka’s effort to reach out to Chinese visitors. She enjoyed the area around her hotel and mentioned the proximity of Canal City Hakata and the Tenjin area made it easy for her to enjoy her stay.

How well is Fukuoka known in your home city or country?
The best thing for Chinese people is that Fukuoka is very close to China. Fukuoka and China have a friendly relationship and this is important for Chinese people.

As a destination for visitors from overseas, what do you think are Fukuoka’s best assets?
Before I came to Fukuoka, I checked the internet for information. In China, moreover Beijing, Fukuoka is known as a port for cruise ship tours.

Did you have an image of Fukuoka before your visit? Has it changed?
I knew the sea was beautiful in Fukuoka but unfortunately in the four days I have been here, I haven’t had a chance to see the sea.

How does Fukuoka differ from other cities you have visited in Japan?
I have been to Tokyo. Tokyo and Fukuoka are very different. Transportation in Tokyo is very crowded and the people are always in a hurry. Fukuoka, on the other hand, is easy to get around and has a more relaxed feel about it. It must be a comfortable place to live.

What kind of difficulties or inconveniences have you encountered so far during your stay in Fukuoka?
I have had no troubles since I arrived. The first three nights I walked around Tenjin and Canal City Hakata, the proximity is very convenient.

What is your impression of the friendliness of Fukuoka locals?
When I visited Iwataya I had assistance in Chinese. Also, Canal City and Marinoa Outlet had Chinese homepages. I felt Fukuoka is trying to help Chinese and I thought this was wonderful.

What is your impression of the transportation system of Fukuoka?
I only had one opportunity to use the transportation system. I rode the subway from Fukuoka Airport to Nakasu-Kawabata Station. It was very close and very quick. We spent all our time in meetings so I was unable to ride again. Next time, I hope to ride the JR line.

What do you think of Fukuoka’s potential as a host city of MICE (Meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions)?
I think Fukuoka will become like the Hong Kong of Japan. It has a good port, beautiful scenery, delicious food and kind local people. However, Fukuoka will have its problems. If Fukuoka wants to become a bigger more global city, it must look to more internationally minded people to assist it.

On future trips to Fukuoka, what would you like to do?
I am not a student or looking for a job but I wish to visit Dazaifu. I saw many things on my visit but next time I hope to visit Fukuoka as a tourist and ride on the Green Bus and see many beautiful sights.

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The 7th Asian City Journalist Conference was organized by: UN-HABITAT Fukuoka Office, Supported by: The Nishinippon Newspaper. Fukuoka Prefecture, and Fukuoka City.

For more information, read the full event report online.

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