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Biz / TechWednesday, April 13

A Chance to Shine in Mie

Leaders of the Group of 7 countries will be gathering in May for a summit in central Japan. And the people of Mie Prefecture see this as a big chance to put themselves on the tourist map.

Amateur radio operators have set up a special service in honor of the event. These local enthusiasts have acquired a special call sign, "SMT," which is the abbreviation for "summit."

They advertised the call sign on websites for ham radio users. Anyone making contact receives a card commemorating the big event.

"We are introducing people to the G7 summit, but we're also acting as tour guides. We're telling everyone: 'come to Mie!'" one of the radio operators says into a radio.

"I love Mie actually. I've been there a number of times, and enjoyed the delicious seafood," says a man on the other end of the transmission.

One day recently they responded to 150 calls. They're planning to operate the service until the summit opens in May.

"The responses have been amazing. So many people are eager to talk with us," says Yutaka Hattori, of The Japan Amateur Radio League Mie Branch. "We'd like to be of as much help as possible in bringing more visitors to Mie."

Not far away, an auto dealership is also gearing up for the gathering of world leaders. It's selling a camper with a specially customized interior.

The furniture is made of locally grown Japanese cypress. Adding to the Mie theme are traditional paper stencils.

Company officials say the custom-fittings have bumped up the price. But they wanted to create a roving ambassador, and it doesn't pay to cut corners.

"We want people to know more about Mie's tradition and culture. We'll keep trying to promote this prefecture to the world," says Masahito Momota, president of Direct Cars.

Mie Prefecture was the first place in the world to produce cultured pearls for jewelry. Summit visitors might be surprised where they show up.

These are drain covers, embedded with pearl oyster shells and pearls. They are the work of a company that makes metal gratings. They did it by molding the pearls in resin casings before fitting them into their products.

Some of the high-class gratings are now dressing up a golf course very close to the summit venue.

"The most difficult part was to give our products warmth," says Shuji Ozaki, who is with the sales department at Ishida Ironwork. "We want to help support the pearl industry by giving people a chance to see why pearls are so appealing."

Excitement is building in Mie. Residents hope their promotion campaigns start a movement that lasts well beyond the G7 summit.