Leaders from Pacific Islands to Be Welcomed at Ama Huts in Mie Pref.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Ama grill seafood at the Ama Hut Satoumian, a potential venue for the local program of the Pacific Islands Leaders Meeting, in Shima City, Mie Prefecture, in February 2020.

In preparation for this year’s Pacific Islands Leaders Meeting (PALM), to be held in Shima, Mie Prefecture, and other places, the prefectural government has decided to use a facility where people can experience ama (women divers) huts as a candidate site for the local program to entertain the leaders of each country.

The prefectural government will make the proposal to the central government as soon as the summit’s schedule is decided.

The PALM is held in Japan every three years to strengthen its relations with Pacific island and other island nations. The summit marking the ninth such gathering of Pacific leaders this year is expected to be attended by about 200 leaders and other participants from 19 countries and regions, including Japan, Palau and Samoa.

The local program is a welcome event planned by the host city in conjunction with bilateral summit meetings. It will be an opportunity to entertain the leaders of each country and promote the attractiveness of the host city at the same time. At the last summit in 2018 in Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, participants harvested tomatoes and were introduced to the city’s efforts in food safety.

Ama huts are where the traditional women divers rest after the day’s work or make a fire to warm themselves.

The candidate facility, called Ama Hut Satoumian, has an ama museum and three ama huts that resemble originals. Ama grill seafood on the hearth and serve it to tourists visiting the huts.

The unique hospitality of the ama huts is gaining popularity. The facility was also chosen as the venue for the welcoming event at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Senior Transport Officials Meeting in 2018, and it was well received by attendees from various countries.

There is a plan to display a canoe that was presented to the prefecture by Palau in 1996 as a token of friendship, at Satoumian, if it is chosen as the venue.

Mie Gov. Eikei Suzuki said: “Pacific island countries are highly interested in fisheries and resource management. We would like to make the local program a place to convey traditional ama fishing.”

■ Preparations underway while assessing COVID-19 infection situation

Due to the global outbreak of the novel coronavirus, the official schedule for the PALM has not been announced, but preparations are underway with interim ministerial meetings of foreign ministers from various countries and expert meetings held since last autumn.

The summit is usually held in May, but an official of the Foreign Ministry said, “[May] could be a target time frame, but it does not mean that the summit must be held in May.” The official added, “We will carefully assess the infection situation and make preparations to hold the meeting face-to-face [instead of online.]”

However, some of the countries and regions scheduled to participate have taken strict measures to prevent infections, such as not allowing their own citizens to return to their countries after they have gone abroad. The Foreign Ministry has said that it needs to consider the method of travel for the leaders.