THERE is more to explore between Cebu and Japan, particularly in the area of tourism.

Recently, the Network of Independent Travel and Allied Services, Phils. (Nitas) met with the officials Nagasaki Prefectural Government to boost tourism promotions and cooperation between Nagasaki and Cebu.

Nagasaki is the capital and largest city of the Nagasaki Prefecture. It is a port city in the southern island of Kyushu that has played a prominent role in Japan’s foreign trade relations, especially during the country’s period of isolation.

According to Nitas president Robert Lim Joseph, there is huge tourism potential between Cebu and Nagasaki, both in terms of faith and historic/cultural tourism.

Joseph said Nitas will be promoting pilgrimage tours to Nagasaki, where the first Filipino martyr and saint Lorenzo Ruiz was executed. The organization will also work closely with its counterparts in Nagasaki to also raise the Philippines’ inbound Japanese traffic.

Nagasaki boasts of over 130 churches and related sites reflecting Japanese Christians’ strong faith. One of the churches dedicated to Christians who were persecuted in Japan is the Nakamachi Church, which is dedicated to 16 martyrs including Ruiz.

Nagasaki is also the second city after Hiroshima to be destroyed by an atomic bom towards the end of World War II.

“We have to introduce Nagasaki because the destination is different from other popular sites like Tokyo and Osaka,” said Ricky Tio, past president of Nitas-Cebu.

Joseph said Cebu’s improved access to Japan now makes traveling more convenient and easier. Cebu, he said, is now in an advanced position to capture this lucrative tourism market.

Beaches, diving sites, countryside tours, and other leisure activities are what attrac Japanese to visit the country, with some of them staying longer, said Joseph, who is one of Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo’s tourism consultants.

There were 584,180 Japanese who arrived in the Philippines last year.

On the other hand, the eased Visa requirements of Japan since 2014 has attracted more Filipinos to visit Japan.

In 2016, the DOT got the approval of the Japan Association of Travel Agents (Jata), Japan’s biggest travel association, to promote new Philippine destinations the same way they marketed Cebu to become Japanese tourists’ favorite destination.

“With Jata’s renewed commitment to promote the Philippines, the DOT could only anticipate the Japanese market to rise to number one in generating inbound tourists,” said Teo, in a statement.