JAPANESE COUPLE REHEARSES WEDDING 26 FEET UNDER WATER OFF NOUMÉA

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NOUMÉA, New Caledonia (May 22, 2001 - Oceania Flash/SPC)---Masa and Yumi were the first two Japanese visitors to use a newly opened underwater facility, the Divescope, as a wedding locale, RFO's Télé Nouvelle Calédonie reports.

The ceremony was only a rehearsal, however.

Yumi is a single beautician visiting New Caledonia and Masa works in New Caledonia's tourism industry, where he organizes trips for Japanese tourists.

But the ceremony took place all the same, with two other occupants in the small capsule: a mock priest and a witness.

The bride and the groom were both dressed in white.

"We had to bring everything, including clothes and the champagne bottles and glasses, in air-tight containers," organizer Joelle Canelle-Ezoe said.

New Caledonia is one of Japan’s favorite South Pacific tourist destinations and a significant revenue earner for the local tourism industry, which thrives on honeymoon packages.

Local operators hope to lure more tourists (especially from Japan, Australia and New Zealand) with the "underwater wedding" feature.

The Divescope was officially opened to the public earlier this month in the lagoon off the capital, Nouméa, at a depth of 26 feet.

It is a Plexiglas and steel module positioned at a stable depth underwater and can accommodate up to six adults for a half hour.

Environmentalists in New Caledonia have hailed the project, saying it can help increase public awareness about New Caledonia's reef, flora and fauna and their protection and preservation.

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