• Kyodo

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A 52-year-old man will soon embark on a four-month trip around Japan in a bid to boost tourism to Okinawa, which had plunged in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the United States.

Masanobu Ashimine, head of the Okinawa Sports Walking Association, will start his trip in a camper on April 22.

“I want everyone to know the beauty of Okinawa,” Ashimine said. After the September attacks, about 250,000 tourists canceled trips to the prefecture.

Ashimine hopes to get 1 million people to sign up as Okinawa supporters and raise money by taking 100 yen membership fees from each supporter. The funds will be used to encourage school trips to the prefecture, he said.

Ashimine also said he hopes to help build schools in Afghanistan by using some of the funds.

He will start from Okinawa, then go to Kagoshima Prefecture, then north via the Pacific Ocean side to Hokkaido.

He plans to return from Hokkaido in the beginning of July, and head south along the Sea of Japan and return to Okinawa by late August.

Ashimine plans to drive about 150 km a day and visit all 47 prefectures during his journey, he said.

The number of tourists to Okinawa recovered in January to almost the same level as a year earlier — after the national and prefectural governments spent about 600 million yen in promotional campaigns.

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