A group of Japanese port cities and towns has agreed to promote tourism and revitalize regional economies in cooperation with the Chinese city of Dalian.
The group made the agreement while meeting in Tsuruoka City, Yamagata Prefecture, on Thursday.
The members used to receive port calls by merchant ships connecting Hokkaido and Osaka along the Sea of Japan coast. Business on the historic route thrived in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Officials of the cities have met annually to discuss cooperation. Thursday's forum was attended by representatives of 22 Japanese cities and towns.
Representatives from Dalian, with which some of the cities have close ties, were invited to join.
An official of the Japan Tourism Agency presented data showing that many foreign tourists hope to have hands-on experiences unique to Japan.
He said regional cities have a good chance of attracting foreign visitors if they offer farm stays or other programs to enjoy rich local nature.
Participants adopted a statement calling for cooperation with Dalian to promote exchange between regional cities of Japan and China and revitalize local communities.
Mayor Itaru Maruyama of Sakata City, Yamagata Prefecture, said after the forum that he's convinced strengthening ties with Dalian will help his city develop.