Taipei, Oct. 11 (CNA) The maiden flight between Taipei's Songshan Airport and Japan's Matsuyama Airport lifted off at near-full capacity Friday, carrying passengers on a novel journey between two airports which share the same name in Chinese characters.
Despite the pronunciation difference, Songshan and Matsuyama are witten with the same two characters which literally mean "pine mountain," a shared name that has brought the two cities together in various cultural campaigns since 2009, accoding to Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin, who was at the inaugural ceremony.
Friday's two-way charter flight is another opportunity to bring together Taipei's Songshan District and the Japanese city, Hau said, and will be followed by another chartered flight on the same Boeing 737-800 set for Oct. 14. Both flights are operated by China Airlines.
Later in the day, the return flight left from Matsuyama, which is located in Japan's western Ehime Prefecture, carrying Governor Tokihiro Nakamura. Nakamura headed for Taiwan to attend the Hot Spring Festival and celebrate the 260th anniversary of Ciyou Temple, which is located in Songshan District.
Hau and other officials hope that the flights can boost tourism, a concern since inbound Japanese visitors has fallen this year.
In the first eight months of the year, some 890,000 Japanese nationals visited Taiwan, according to the Tourism Bureau, a six percent annual drop driven by the depreciation of the Japanese yen.
The currency shift has worked both ways, with about 1.6 million Taiwanese visitors to Japan over the same period for an annual increase of six percent.
(By Huang Li-yun and Lee Hsin-Yin)ENDITEM/WH