For its 11th edition, the Language Resources and Evaluation Conference (LREC) came to the Asia-Pacific region for the first time. A total number of 1,149 delegates, from as many as 63 countries, convened in the ocean-view Phoenix Seagaia Resort in Miyazaki, Japan. With a comprehensive schedule over 6 days, the different sessions of the congress started on Monday 7th and finished on Saturday 12th of May.
In terms of demographics, the most represented nations by number of delegates were Japan, Germany, the United States, France, China, the United Kingdom, India, Spain, Sweden, the Netherlands, South Korea, Czech Republic, Republic of Ireland, Italy, Canada, Taiwan and Poland. The number of delegates from these countries was higher than the general average for this conference.
The Conference Ambassador Program, coordinated by the Japan National Tourism Organization, supported Professor Hitoshi Isahara, Director of Information and Media Center of Toyohashi University of Technology, in his efforts to attract and realize the conference in Japan. JNTO assisted with selecting the host city and contacting the respective convention bureaus, and provided support letters to include in the bid. In the latter stages of the selection process, JNTO provided the congress organizers an opportunity to experience the destinations first-hand, inviting a key professional from the European Language Resources Association for a site inspection.
Furthermore, the achievements of the conference were selected to receive the “JNTO Best International Convention Awards 2017”, in the “International Conference Bid Division”. This was in recognition of the efforts shown by the local authorities and organizations from the earlier planning stages, which put together the geographical and historical appeal of the region - highlighting as well the good accessibility from overseas airports in direct flights- and provided their support in an unprecedented flexible manner.
Only in Japan
Good weather enabled delegates to fully enjoy the area of the Phoenix Seagaia Resort and the unique venue chosen for the welcome reception: the sacred Miyazaki-Jingu Shrine , historically dedicated to the first Emperor of Japan. For the reception on Wednesday 9th, a five star hotel provided catering and created a festival-like atmosphere by serving food from the yatai (food stalls) set up for the event in the shrine complex. Participants could indulge in local tastes, such as Miyazaki-produced shochu (sweet potato based sake), chicken nanban (fried chicken) and other popular plates in Japan.
On a stage built at the shrine’s complex for the occasion, Local Governor Kouno and Mayor Toshiki showed their continuous support for international exchange in Miyazaki by offering the opening speeches of the welcome reception. Governor Kouno personalized his delivery, adding heart-warming words in Italian, to honor the homeland of Ms. Calzolari, the honorary president of the organizing international association (ELRA).
On a cultural note, the honorary president and the mayor dressed in garments that evoked the historical figures of Princess Konohanasakuya and Emperor Jimmu –first Emperor of Japan, in 660 BC– which are strongly related to the origins of Miyazaki-Jingu Shrine and the roots of Japan.
As the evening fell, the Shrine priests and priestesses performed the traditional kagura ceremony, symbolically praying for the success of the conference, and mesmerizing the attending delegates with their costumes and dances.
It is worth mentioning the teamwork that led to a successful conference management between the organizing committee in coordination with the Miyazaki Convention & Visitors Bureau and local volunteers who helped at the conference registration desks.