Japan and Newfoundland and Labrador already have strong economic ties, but there are areas with potential for further development.
During a visit to St. John’s Thursday, Tatsuo Arai, the Consulate General of Japan at Montreal, said the potential spans the fishery, mining and tourism sectors.
The offshore oil industry is another area Japanese companies are interested in, he said.
“In the oil industry, you have great potential here,” Arai told The Telegram.
“So far no Japanese enterprises are involved. But in the future, Japanese enterprises might be interested in this, and why not?”
Japan, an island country forming an arc in the Pacific Ocean to the east of the Asian continent, is made up of four large islands — Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu and Shikoku — and many smaller islands. The country has a vibrant fishery that many coastal communities depend on, much like in Newfoundland.
But with a large population — Japan’s total population in November 2012 was 127,540,000 — and a great appetite for various fish species, the country is always looking for new outside supply sources for seafood.
Arai said species he believes are underdeveloped in Newfoundland, that could gain a foothold in the Japanese marketplace, include tuna, eels and seaweed.
“We eat a lot of fish, and Newfoundland exports many fish species to Japan,” he said. “Eel, for example, sometimes there is a shortfall. And here seaweed is not developed. Nobody pays attention to it. Already in Halifax they export seaweed to Japan.”
Japanese fishery-related companies are also eyeing aquaculture in Newfoundland and Labrador with great interest, he noted.
“In aquaculture, there might be some possibility of a collaboration.”
Arai left St. John’s to travel to Labrador Thursday afternoon. Japan has for years imported a lot of iron ore from Labrador, and there are hopes for other deals in the province’s mining sector.
He added that Japanese people love to travel, and with better publicity in Japan on what Newfoundland and Labrador tourism has to offer, the province could become a key destination.
“The landscape is beautiful and there’s a unique history to Newfoundland and Labrador,” he said. “There is whale watching and iceberg watching. Iceberg watching is not known in Japan. If the people are informed, that will attract Japanese tourists.”
Arai noted that many young people from the province already are experiencing Japanese culture by taking part in the Japan Education Teaching program. It’s an exchange program in which young people have the opportunity to live in Japan for between one and five years to teach English in public schools.
Further programs, including more partnerships with Memorial University, he said, can be explored.