TOKYO, September 19 (Itar-Tass) - Japan’s Minister of State for Okinawa and Northern Territories Affairs, Ichita Yamamoto, has arrived on a visit at the islands of the Southern Kurile chain - Kunashir and Iturup.
The press service of the department he stands at the head of told Itar-Tass a ship carrying the Japanese delegation left the port of Nemuro Thursday morning.
Yamamoto and the accompanying delegation are visiting the islands in the framework of a program of visa-free exchanges.
Although The Etopirika, a ship that was built specially for cruises to the Southern Kuriles, arrived to the shores of Kunashir Thursday night, Yamamoto and the accompanying officials would go ashore only Friday morning. The press service said his itinerary included a meeting with representatives of the local administration and residents of the island and a trip to the Japanese cemeteries located there.
The minister will also get familiarized with the technical condition of the infrastructure and roads on Kunashir.
Friday night, he is expected to go to Iturup where the two-day official program of his visit is due to begin Saturday. His agenda there also includes meetings with the local authorities and the population, and he will also visit a Japanese cemetery.
Visa-free exchanges between Japan and Russia started out in 1991. More than 8,000 residents of Iturup, Kunashir and Shikotan - the three larger islands of the Southern Kurile chain - have visited Japan since then. On the Japanese side, more than 18,000 people have visited the islands that went over to the Russian jurisdiction after the end of World War II.