The Fiji Embassy in Tokyo (FET) is capitalizing on sports diplomacy to enhance Fiji’s bilateral relations with Japan. In this regard the Embassy is working with relevant agencies to ensure that the Rugby World Cup 2019 (RWC) which will be held in Japan later this year, will provide not only sports development opportunities but it will become a  gateway for Fiji to promote its lucrative tourism and investment sectors.

 Ambassador at the Fiji Embassy in Japan, Isikeli Mataitoga said that FET is already consulting Tourism Fiji, Fiji Airways, Tour Agents/Operators on ways Fiji can best use RWC19 and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics as a platform to strengthen Fiji-Japan sports diplomacy and also create socioeconomic development opportunities.

 Progressive steps have been taken through the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) by the Fiji Rugby Union (FRU) with the relevant institutions in Akita on pre-camp training in Akita prior to the official RWC 2019 tournaments. The official signing was held at the Akita Prefecture City, Japan.

 As a build-up to the Fiji National Team’s participation in the RWC 2019, Akita will host the Flying Fijians Rugby 15 Team for a pre-tournament camp from 7th to 12th September 2019.  Once the RWC19 officially starts, the Flying Fijian Rugby 15 Team will move to a new location, that is at Abashiri city, Hokkaido. According to the MOU, the host will provide training facilities, transport, and other necessities for the Fiji National Rugby Team during their stay in Akita and it will also support the Fiji team in their aspiration to attain victory at RWC2019.

 In the meantime, Oita City, Oita Prefecture has offered to host the Fijian Rugby 7s Team and officials for pre-tournament training for the Kitakyushu Women’s’ HSBC Rugby World Tournament. It is scheduled for April 2019 in Kitakyushu, Fukuoka and this would be the second time for Oita City to host the Fijian Rugby 7s Team for pre-tournament training.

 Ambassador Mataitoga says that Fiji’s ongoing collaboration with 3 Japanese prefectures [Saga, Oita and Akita] will also enhance the opportunities for Fiji’s sports training and technical human resource development.

 “Akita City, for example invited the Nasinu Secondary School [NSS] Rugby Team and officials [34 in total] to visit Akita City in 2018, the full cost of their visit was paid for by Akita City. It was the FET that negotiated directly with Akita City and Akita Prefectures officials to get the financial support.

 “When the NSS touring group was in Japan, we at the Embassy conducted a 2 day Fijian outreach and tourism promotion, using the students to perform cultural events and visits school, Aged Care facilities and other community groups,” he said.

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