TAIPEI — A two-day festival to celebrate the upcoming launch of direct flights between Taipei’s Songshan Airport and Tokyo’s Haneda Airport began in Taipei yesterday, drawing the attention of large crowds of people. The Songshan-Haneda flights, scheduled to begin Oct. 31, are expected to boost the number of people traveling between the two countries each year from the current 2 million people to 3 million, according to the Japan Interchange Association (JIA), the organizer of the fair. The event, held in Taipei’s Xinyi shopping district, featured an exhibition of the traditional Japanese tea ceremony, a Japanese taiko drum performance and a rock concert, as well as a lucky draw and various promotions by travel agencies and air companies to generate interest in the new flight services. “The launch of Songshan-Haneda flights will help promote the 2010-2011 Taiwan-Japan tourism exchange year,” said Tadashi Imai, head of the JIA Taipei office, which acts as Japan’s representative office in Taiwan in the absence of diplomatic ties. Imai was referring to a campaign designed to promote cultural and artistic exchanges between Japan and Taiwan after the third Taiwan-Japan Tourism Summit Forum that took place in March. All four carriers that will provide Songshan-Haneda flights — China Airlines (CAL) , EVA Airways, Japan Airlines (JAL) and All Nippon Airways (ANA) — also touted their offerings at the fair. According to the carriers, they will each offer two flights from Songshan to Haneda per day, with fares of around NT$14,000 (US$454) for round-trip tickets, with stays of up to 30 days. Songshan Airport, which used to be the country’s main gateway, served direct flights to Haneda until 1979, when international flights were relocated to Chiang Kai-shek Airport, now known as Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport.