PACIFIC ISLAND LEADERS TAKE TIME TO RELAX IN MIYAZAKI

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By Al Hulsen

MIYAZAKI, Japan (April 24, 2000 – PIDP/CPIS)---Miyazaki really rolled out the red carpet Sunday, providing Pacific Island leaders who came to the southern resort city for the PALM 2000 summit Saturday with a full day of relaxation and entertainment.

Included on the daylong agenda were a goodwill Japan-Pacific Islands rugby football match, traditional music and dance, visits to a botanical garden and a children’s park and several receptions organized by Miyazaki’s movers and shakers.

Traveling throughout the city and prefecture by luxury bus, the presidents, prime ministers and their spouses and official parties were greeted everywhere during the day by flag-waving children and their families, who lined up to catch a glimpse of the Pacific Islands region’s most prominent citizens.

Never before, the visitors from Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia agreed, had they ever seen so many national flags of the Pacific in one place. The banners fluttered in the gentle, almost tropical breeze along the main streets, on bridges, and high atop the stadium where the ruby match took place.

The morning – Easter Sunday – began with a choral presentation and organ recital at the Miyazaki Prefecture Arts Center Concert Hall.

High school girls sang folk songs while renowned organist Junko Wada performed the music of Bach on what local civic boosters called the largest pipe organ ever built in Japan.

The leaders then moved on to the riverside Kanko Hotel, where they were treated to regional food specialties and toasted by the prefecture’s governor, Suketaka Matsukata. He later noted that a high school student exchange program would be conducted between Miyazaki and South Pacific Forum countries later in the year.

Entertainment at the luncheon featured a traditional lion dance, accompanied by ancient musical instruments.

Then it was off to the goodwill rugby game between a combined Japanese national team and pan-Pacific competitors from eight South Pacific Forum countries, brought to Miyazaki for the occasion by the Japanese government.

The highlight of the competition was new Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori himself, dressed in the Japanese team’s red and white colors, kicking off the first ball before a cheering crowd of 11,000. It was received by a player from Samoa.

Japan won the match 31 to 24, with the Pacific team, after a slow start, putting up a threatening challenge in the second half.

Later Governor Matsukata, wearing a wry smile, said, for good Pacific Island relations, it might have been better if Japan lost. South Pacific Forum Chairman and Palau President Kuniwo Nakamura said, "One match is not enough. I think we deserve a re-match."

Following rugby, there was a visit to a manicured botanical garden, in full spring bloom, that included an outdoor koto recital and demonstrations of the Japanese tea ceremony.

Next stop was Miyazaki Prefecture Children’s Park.

Students had prepared works of art depicting Pacific Island scenes and organized an outdoor display of watercolor paintings for each South Pacific Forum country. The leaders obviously enjoyed their discussions with the students and the images of the Pacific the young Japanese artists had created.

The day concluded with the leaders returning to Miyazaki Airport for a return flight to Tokyo and a final farewell from Governor Matsukata.

For most leaders, Monday’s schedule includes a special meeting in the capital with representatives of Japan’s Federation of Electric Power Companies to discuss energy and environment issues. Others have scheduled bi-lateral meetings with government officials and businessmen and some will be returning immediately to their home countries.

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