Attract Dedicated Fans to ‘Sacred Places’ Seen in Works to Aid Regional Vitalization

Japanese animation is a cultural asset that the nation can show off to the world. It is vital to devise ways to use this to attract visitors to Japan, which had declined due to the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to regional vitalization.

Japanese anime released overseas continue to be big hits.

In China, director Makoto Shinkai’s “Suzume no Tojimari” (“Suzume”) was released in March, and its box office revenue exceeded ¥15 billion. This made it the highest grossing Japanese anime of all-time in China.

The basketball anime “The First Slam Dunk” also surpassed ¥10 billion at the box office in China after its release there in April.

Both films are also booming in South Korea. It can be said that the films show off the appeal of anime, transcending political conflicts and ill feeling and grabbing the audience’s hearts and minds.

Not content with just watching films, dedicated fans have also visited the places where animation works were set and have been deeply moved. Dubbed “anime tourism” or “anime pilgrimages,” these have also contributed to attracting visitors to Japan.

Of the visitors to Japan in 2019, 5% visited “sacred places” from anime and 10% said they would like to visit them next time. Every year, the Anime Tourism Association, which mainly consists of local governments and private companies, selects recommended spots to visit and also introduces tours to relevant places.

There are many popular Japanese anime. Such attempts will undoubtedly lead to tapping new tourist demand.

There have been successful examples of cooperation between animation producers and people involved in sacred places to promote local communities.

In Kuki, Saitama Prefecture, a shrine in the city has been featured in the anime series “Lucky Star,” becoming a sacred place for fans. The local commerce and industry association has negotiated with the copyright holders, and such activities as sales of goods have been realized.

At a festival in the city, fans carry a portable shrine depicting the characters, and foreign visitors are also noticeable.

In the town of Hokuei, Tottori Prefecture, the hometown of Gosho Aoyama, the author of popular manga “Meitantei Conan” (“Detective Conan”), there is a facility that exhibits materials associated with the manga, and visitors from abroad have accounted for 10% of all visitors there in some years.

While it is beneficial for anime enthusiasts to become fans of local communities, these sacred places are also living spaces for local residents. To prevent sudden visits by large numbers of people from causing chaos and trouble, those involved with these sacred places need to take measures and strongly call for adherence to manners.

The promotion of anime tourism will not be possible without the continued production of high-quality works. As part of its strategy to increase the number of visitors to Japan, the central government intends to strengthen the dissemination of information on these animated productions domestically and internationally and promote the development of human resources in this respect. The hope is the government will make hard-nosed efforts for that purpose.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 4, 2023)