Although it has been overshadowed by interstate highways, U.S. 89 in Utah, Wyoming and Montana passes through some scenic territory and interesting places and officials of those states are trying to convince Japanese tourists to tour the road.

They have devised a regional tourism promotion called "On Highway 89 in '89" and recently state officials, tour operators, hotel executives and ski industry representatives went to Japan to push the promotion.Osamu Hoshino, director of the Utah International Marketing Office, said the response the delegation received was overwhelming. "The Japanese people are looking for something other than bright lights and fast-paced excitement. They want to return to nature and Utah has it."

While in Japan, state officials met with representatives of Japan, Northwest Orient, United and Delta airlines and they seemed excited about helping with the promotion, Hoshino said. Japan Air Lines has committed to contribute matching money to the campaign and all of the airlines are willing to send people on familiarization tours.

Hoshino said 45 journalists attended a press conference in Tokyo. Kent Derricott and Kent Gilbert, native Utahns who have achieved some notoriety in Japan, participated in the press conference and seminars to help promote tourism.

The Mainichi newspaper, with a circulation of 4.5 million, has committed to produce an eight-page feature story on the Highway 89 promotion. Photographers and writers from the newspaper will be in Utah in September and the story will be published next spring.

Hoshino said the Ministry of Travel in Japan expects that by 1991, about 10 million Japanese will travel to foreign countries and an estimated four million of these will come to the United States.