KwaZulu-Natal premier S'bu Ndebele says his province will continue to build and strengthen its economic ties with Japan.
Ndebele is leading a KZN delegation, which includes agriculture and environmental affairs MEC Mtholephi Mthimkhulu, on a study tour of Japan.
The visit is to strengthen economic ties, study Japan's waste management and tea production initiatives as well as promote co-operation in areas of joint interest between KwaZulu-Natal and certain prefectures in Japan.
Speaking at a dinner hosted by South Africa's ambassador to Japan, Ben Ngubane, on Friday night, Ndebele said: "We have no doubt that Japan will discover that coming to KwaZulu-Natal also opens the way to the rest of Africa.
"One of the reasons KwaZulu-Natal has set its sights on Japan is to help improve our tea production in the province to meet international standards," he said.
"Despite its potential, tea production in KwaZulu-Natal has not reached the desired levels.
"We have projects such as Ntingwe Tea, Paddock Tea and Ngome Tea Farms. Our cooperation will help improve their production capacity," Ndebele said.
Ndebele said the fact that Japan boasts the second largest economy in the world, enjoys a trade balance that indicates strong annualised growth and its particular focus on science and technology, makes Japan an ideal strategic partner.
"We also admire Japan's best practice in respect of the management of world heritage sites.
"A partnership between our St. Lucia Wetlands and Shirotake in Hokkaido could be considered.
"We can learn from the city of Kitakyushu about environmental management. Of interest to us in this area is the One-Village-One-Product initiative," he said.