Kumamoto: Students develop app to tour earthquake areas via ‘One Piece’ characters

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Students at the Prefectural University of Kumamoto show the Ikou app on their smartphones in front of a statue of Monkey D. Luffy in Kumamoto City.

KUMAMOTO — Six university students have developed a smartphone app that allows people to tour areas stricken by the 2016 Kumamoto earthquakes, where 10 statues of characters from the popular manga series “One Piece” have also been installed.

The app is designed to support reconstruction efforts, and also informs users of damage caused by the disaster, such as damaged bridges. The Prefectural University of Kumamoto students hope that having people visit these places will help prevent the memory of the disaster fading away.

The prefectural government launched a project to install statues of the “Straw Hat Pirates” — One Piece characters — in 2018, and 10 statues were placed in nine municipalities that suffered particularly severe quake damage. The project is funded by an ¥800 million donation toward reconstruction efforts from One Piece creator and Kumamoto native Eiichiro Oda.

For example, a statue of Sanji, one of the characters, can be found in Mashiki, which was struck twice by earthquakes measuring the maximum 7 on the Japanese seismic intensity scale — the first such event in recorded history in Japan — and one of the other characters, Nami, in Nishihara, where more than half the houses in the village were partially or completely destroyed.

The app was developed by students over two years. They named it Ikou, which means “disaster ruins” as well as “let’s go” in Japanese, with the hope that it will help app users visit disaster-stricken areas and ruins.

“I want people who don’t know about the earthquake to use the app too,” said Yu Fujikawa, 22, one of the students.

The Japan News

The app introduces disaster ruins in the prefecture. App users can get a sense of the changes in affected areas through photos taken immediately after the disaster and photos taken recently by app users that are shown side by side.

In addition to a map to find the locations of the One Piece statues, if users activate the app within 40 meters of the statues, they can download special images and hear each character’s lines.

Yomiuri Shimbun photos
Clockwise from top left: Monkey D. Luffy (Kumamoto), Sanji (Mashiki), Roronoa Zoro (Ozu), Nico Robin (Minami-Aso), Usopp (Aso), Franky (Takamori), Brook (Mifune), Nami (Nishihara), Chopper (Kumamoto) and Jinbe (Uto)