Officials from the government-backed tourism body toured Oita Prefecture on Sunday to study local barrier-free facilities, as the government is looking to attract tourists with disabilities ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.
Officials from the Japan National Tourism Organization visited the prefecture in the southwestern island of Kyushu with South African Pieter du Preez, who went on to win the T51 classification in Sunday's Oita International Wheelchair Marathon.
Preez traveled by lift-equipped bus and took a dip in one of the famous hot springs in the city of Beppu that was configured to be accessible by wheelchair. He praised not only the barrier-free designs in the prefecture but also the hospitality of its people.
Oita is known for putting a premium on accommodating the disabled, being the birthplace of Yutaka Nakamura, the pioneering doctor who helped bring the Paralympics to Japan for the first time in 1964.
The JNTO expects the number of foreign visitors to Tokyo to spike leading up to the 2020 Games but faces a challenge in bringing those visitors to other parts of the country.
Katsue Takeshima, an official at the organization, said she hopes to show that "we have a welcoming environment for those with disabilities, even outside of Tokyo."
(Pieter du Preez visits a hot spa facility in Beppu)
(Finishers at the Oita International Wheelchair Marathon)