TOKYO, May 17 (Itar-Tass) - The first for this year group of 62 Japanese nationals left on Friday for the South Kurile Islands within the framework of the program for visa-free trips.
The Etopirika passenger ship built specially for these trips will take this delegation to Kunashir from the port of Nemuro on Japan’s northernmost island of Hokkaido.
These Japanese nationals first of all intend to visit Japanese cemeteries and meet with local Russian residents. They are scheduled to return to Nemuro on May 20.
The Etopirika ship with the water displacement of 1,124 tons can carry almost 90 passengers. It has elevators for elderly travelers and cabins are designed for wheelchair passengers, as former Japanese residents of the South Kurile Islands are elderly people.
This year about 30 delegations from Japan will visit the Russian Kurils without visas. A group of Russian children will visit Tokyo.
These exchanges were launched in 1991. Since then about 8,500 residents of Iturup, Kunashir and Shikotan have visited Japan, and over 18,000 Japanese nationals have visited the South Kurile Islands.