Chip Factory Opening in Kumamoto, Japan Attracts Tourists from Taiwan

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company’s (TSMC) recent expansion into the southwestern Japanese prefecture of Kumamoto has ignited a surge in travel interest among Taiwanese citizens. The opening of TSMC’s first factory in Japan, set to begin mass production between October and December, has piqued curiosity and prompted an increase in visitors from Taiwan.

Following the launch of direct flights connecting Taipei and Kumamoto by China Airlines and Starlux Airlines last September, the number of overnight stays in Kumamoto by Taiwanese individuals surged. According to Japanese government data, the figures rose by approximately 20,000 from the previous three months to reach 82,160 visitors from Taiwan, showcasing a significant uptick in tourism.

The heightened demand is evident in the high seat occupancy rates on direct flights operated by the Taiwanese airlines, exceeding 80% by the end of the year. The prevailing trend has prompted an increase in the number of round-trip flights between the two locations to cater to the influx of tourists.

Acknowledging the growing popularity of Kumamoto among Taiwanese tourists, Xu Da-fu, an employee at a Taiwanese travel agency, noted the prominence of Kumamon, the prefecture’s black bear character mascot, and TSMC among the locals. Additionally, a TSMC employee reflected on the positive aspects of living near the factory, highlighting the freshness of the air and the natural surroundings.

Local businesses in Kumamoto have experienced a boost in sales, with duty-free goods reaching record highs at Tsuruya Department Store, where spending by Taiwanese visitors accounted for a significant portion of sales. Drawing on the increased footfall of TSMC employees’ families and friends, the department store has adapted by providing more instructions in traditional Chinese characters.

As the influx of Taiwanese visitors continues, vendors like Yuki Uchida, who sells sponge cakes near Kumamoto Castle, have witnessed a notable increase in Taiwanese customers. Efforts to enhance communication between the two communities are ongoing, with organisations promoting cultural exchanges seeking to bridge language barriers and foster a deeper understanding.

The combination of TSMC’s expansion into Kumamoto and the subsequent increase in tourism from Taiwan underscores the growing ties between the two regions. With a shared interest in technology, culture, and travel, the collaboration between Taiwan and Kumamoto is expected to flourish in the coming years.

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