Miss Laos 2011, Louknum

Thidalat Vongsili, the winner of Miss Laos 2011, who is known as Louknum, has made a bid to introduce Japan to her fellow countrymen via social media while dancing with high school students, taking part in a fashion show and visiting a tourist destination during a recent trip to Japan.

"I think I was able to achieve my objective of sending out information about Japan via social media like Instagram," Louknum, 23, said in an interview with Kyodo News.

The model and actress visited Japan from March 16 to 22 under a project by the Japanese Foreign Ministry to invite influential overseas figures to Japan and have them introduce the country via social media for better understanding abroad.

"I was very happy that I was selected for the project," she said.

Louknum said she posted some photos via social media, including images of her in a beautiful kimono in Takayama in central Japan, a city famous for its well-preserved traditional townscape.

"With this opportunity, I hope people in Laos will better know Takayama and other places they do not know well," she said.

Upon her arrival in Japan, Louknum visited Sakura Kokusai High School in Tokyo.

The school briefed her about its efforts to build schools in Laos with funds raised from donations and charity bazaars. Eight schools have been built since the school started the scheme in 1996.

At the school, Louknum observed dance club members practice ahead of the Laos Festival in Tokyo in May and then danced the traditional Laotian Basalop dance together with dance club members.

The school and the Lao embassy in Tokyo have been jointly hosting the festival since 2007 to help people in Japan see the charm of Laos, including its culture, food and tourism.

"I received a very warm welcome from the students and teachers," Louknum said.

"That was (something) I had not anticipated. I was so happy that tears came to my eyes."

Miss Laos 2011, Louknum, and dance club

During her stay in Japan, she also joined a fashion show in Fukuoka in western Japan. As the only model from Laos participating, she walked on a runway, wearing traditional Laotian silk clothes.

"I was very glad to be selected as one of the models" for the Fukuoka Asia Collection featuring Asian brands, including local brands in Fukuoka, Louknum said.

"This has provided a good opportunity for Japanese people who do not know Laos to know it."

Louknum said she wants to introduce more Japanese cities which people in Laos do not know, adding that more people in Laos would be able to visit Japan if direct flights open.

On the other hand, she said there is a lot of food, nature and other attractive things in Laos which Japanese people have yet to know.

"I would like more and more Japanese people to visit Laos, deepening Japan's understanding," Louknum said.