After traveling some 4,100 kilometers, Osaka resident Youshi Yamazoe finally got a taste of the saying "One eyewitness weighs more than 10 hearsays".
As a member of the first tour group from Japan to visit China's Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region after the COVID-19 pandemic, Yamazoe was excited and astonished by how Xinjiang, once affected by ethnic separatists, religious extremists and violent terrorists, has made great strides in development, becoming a hub of economic growth and cultural diversity.
"It is completely unimaginable that so many brutal and bloody terrorist attacks had happened on this peaceful and tranquil land before," Yamazoe said after visiting an anti-terrorism exhibition in Urumqi on Tuesday.
Yamazoe said he had never seen reports on China's counter-terrorism efforts in Japan before and now he can understand why this could be used as an excuse for the West to smear China. "It is essential to keep the broader public informed and raise awareness about those efforts," he said.
Certain countries and Western media have used Xinjiang as a tool to misrepresent China, claiming there have been "forced labor" or "genocide" issues in the region. The anti-terrorism efforts made by China were distorted as policies to "systematically oppress ethnic groups "in some extreme narratives.
To dispel the disinformation spread by those countries and media, the Chinese consulate general in Osaka made a "seeing is believing" effort and issued a notice in December 2021, inviting Japanese people from all walks of life to travel to Xinjiang after the end of the pandemic.
The invitation drew widespread attention and 1,028 Japanese people applied for the trip within a month.
Now, as part of fulfilling that commitment, the first batch of 20 Japanese tourists arrived in Urumqi on Monday with the help of the consulate.
Xue Jian, consul general in Osaka, said the country is open to anyone who wants to "come and take a look" at China's development and the happy and stable lives of Chinese people. "There have been some noise and disinformation on China's Xinjiang region in recent years … so we hope that through this trip, the Xinjiang region will become a window for the Japanese to become more interested in China's development and changes, and then have a better understanding of China," Xue said.
Keishi Sawada has taken his son with him on this trip, and said that apart from Xinjiang's beautiful landscape, the trip is also an idol pilgrimage tour for him.
"For me, other than personally experiencing the vastness and grandeur of China, I'd like to have a teeny-tiny shot of meeting Chinese actor Chen Jianbin who is also from Urumqi," Sawada said.
According to the consulate, the Japanese tour group will visit Urumqi, Turpan, Aksu, Korla and Kashgar during their nine-day trip at 327,000 yen ($2,308) each, where they will have the opportunity to witness local anti-terrorism achievements, mosques and cotton fields and have interactions with locals and students.