• TOKYO - A central Japan city that appeared in the popular animation film "your name.," and Kyoto, which has inspired several anime and manga comic works, were among 88 "holy sites" for anime fans selected in a vote, organizers said Saturday.   The Anime Tourism Association, which aims to promote tourism at places that inspired or were the real-life locations of animation works, picked the 88 sites for fan "pilgrimages" based on the online vote conducted worldwide since July last year.   The city of Hida, Gifu Prefecture, has drawn many fans of the hit film "your name.," which has been shown in such countries as China and the United States. The city of Kyoto hosts the Kyoto International Manga Museum and sites featured in works including "Hakuoki" and "Shonen Onmyoji."   The 88 spots also include the city of Ueda in Nagano Prefecture, where the animation film "Summer Wars" was set, and Kuki in Saitama Prefecture, home of a shrine that inspired the animation "Lucky Star."   The association is headed by Yoshiyuki Tomino, the director of animated television series "Mobile Suit Gundam," and its executives are from such companies as content and media producer Kadokawa Corp., travel agency JTB Corp. and Japan Airlines Co.   "I hope (fans) will deepen their understanding (of selected sites) starting from their interest based on animation," Tomino said.   ==Kyodo
    2017.08.28 | Chiba
  • Two Himalayan black bears at Sapporo Maruyama Zoo in Hokkaido, the northern main island of Japan, are gaining a reputation for relaxing in an empty water tub. The female bears Minami, 22 and Tomo, 19, both 1.6 meter tall, love the stainless steel tub, which is around 1 meter long, 50 cm wide and 30 cm deep. They began taking turns sitting in the tub from late last year after zoo workers emptied it of water. "They look almost like humans lazing about at home," a zoo official said. Showing no trace of self-consciousness, the bears yawn and scratch their heads and legs. "How lazy," laughed one visitor, among many who have been lapping up the sight of them. Ayako Nagano, who works at the zoo, said the bears may find the temperature inside the tub comfortable and like how they fit into it. Although staff fill the tub with hay, the bears remove it so they can climb inside, according to the zoo. The Himalayan black bear is classified as the same species as the Asian black bear. They make their habitat in Nepal and China and are known to be good at climbing trees. But Minami and Tomo rarely exhibit any inclination to show off their climbing prowess, according to the zoo, preferring instead to laze around in their tub. ==Kyodo
    2017.08.03 | Hokkaido
  • A Japanese city boasting one of the world's largest hot-spring resorts opened a special amusement park on Saturday with a hot-tub merry-go-round and other rides featuring immersion in its famous thermal water. The "spamusement park" will operate for just three days at an existing amusement park in Beppu, Oita Prefecture, after the southwestern Japan city successfully raised funds to set up special rides featuring the local hot-spring water. The attraction became a reality after Beppu Mayor Yasuhiro Nagano committed to open such a park in a YouTube video uploaded last November. The local representative pledged to go through with the idea if the video got more than 1 million views, a goal achieved in just three days. The video's conceptual footage showed men and women of all ages wrapped in towels having fun at a park combining bathing and rides, which was originally an idea to promote tourism in the city. The roller-coaster was depicted in the video as having seats filled with hot water, but the city opted to use bubbles made from hot-spring ingredients instead of water, due to safety concerns. "I got so excited. This is something extraordinary you can experience only here," said visitor Yuko Akagi, 28, after riding the roller-coaster. Wrapping her bathing suit-clad body with a towel, she said the bubbles felt nice. "I felt refreshed," said Akagi, who lives in Beppu. The city, which crowdfunded about 82 million yen ($740,000) for the project, is letting only those who donated a certain amount of money enter. About 12,000 people are expected to ride the park's eight attractions in the three days it is operating, city officials said. ==Kyodo
    2017.07.31 | Oita
  • The mayors of two Japanese cities known as the home of ninja, or feudal mercenaries, launched a ninja council Tuesday to boost tourism in cooperation with private businesses. Clad in ninja costumes, the mayors of Iga in Mie Prefecture and neighboring Koka in Shiga Prefecture signed an agreement at the inaugural meeting of the council at Aburahi Shrine in Koka. The shrine is believed to have been a gathering point for the Koka ninja clan in medieval times. The two cities are planning to disseminate information on ninja by setting up a common website or video footage to attract foreign tourists in the run-up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics. Koka Mayor Hiroki Iwanaga called the event "a historic moment that revived collaboration" between the two areas, while Iga Mayor Sakae Okamoto said, "I'm filled with deep emotion when I think about our ancestors who came together like this. We are good friends." The Koka ninja clan and Iga ninja clan are often depicted as hostile to each other in films and animations but the cities said they were in a collaborative relationship. In April, the two cities were selected as "Japan Heritage" properties to promote tourism. ==Kyodo
    2017.06.28 | Shiga
  • A new complex containing restaurants and stores opened in Osaka Castle Park on Thursday with the operator aiming to cash in on the growing number of foreign and local tourists visiting the major historical attraction in Osaka. The two-story complex, named Jo-Terrace Osaka, is located near JR Osakajokoen Station and has a total floor space of around 4,800 square meters. It houses about two dozen outlets, including restaurants, cafes and a convenience store as well as a tourist office providing multilingual information. Also among the outlets is a facility serving runners, and a range of restaurants, with one Japanese-focused eatery offering an experience in which customers can dress up in traditional Japanese attire. Osaka Castle is known as a token of the power and fortune of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, a prominent 16th-century warlord. Its main tower attracted 2.56 million visitors in fiscal 2016 to last March, an all-time annual record. "Hopefully this park will draw more visitors and continue to grow as an attractive regional tourism hub by showcasing a piece of history," Osaka Mayor Hirofumi Yoshimura said in a speech at the opening ceremony of the complex operated by a business consortium including Daiwa House Industry Co. Another similar complex is scheduled to open near the castle's main tower in October as local businesses and municipalities look to take advantage of the recent tourism boom. ==Kyodo
    2017.06.23 | Osaka
  • Aichi Prefecture said Thursday it will build a theme park based on an animation film by director Hayao Miyazaki within a park in central Japan, aiming to open the area in the early 2020s. In collaboration with Studio Ghibli Inc., the tentatively called "Ghibli Park" will be constructed to restage situations and landscapes of Miyazaki's 1988 film "My Neighbor Totoro" at the Expo 2005 Aichi Commemorative Park, Gov. Hideaki Omura said at a press conference. Omura said Toshio Suzuki, the company's producer, agreed on the plan during their meeting on Wednesday, adding that the prefecture and Studio Ghibli will decide on details of the plan such as operators and size of the new area, and will also solicit other companies to join the project. "Studio Ghibli's films have love toward living creatures and Earth, which fits the concept of the expo," Omura said. "I would like to pass down this idea to future generations." The 200-hectare commemorative park, also known as Moricoro Park, was the site of the 2005 expo in Aichi Prefecture. Under the plan, playgrounds and other parts of the park will be used for the Ghibli Park to avoid felling trees, according to the governor. The expo park, which attracted some 1.6 million visitors in fiscal 2016, already contains the attraction "Satsuki and Mei's House," which was modeled after the house belonging to the lead characters in the film "My Neighbor Totoro." ==Kyodo
    2017.06.02 | Aichi
  • Japan's long-selling popular dress-up doll Licca-chan has proved to be a strong tourist magnet supporting reconstruction of Fukushima Prefecture from the 2011 nuclear and earthquake-tsunami disasters. The beloved doll in the form of an 11-year-old schoolgirl, which first went on sale in 1967, is featured in a theme park in the rural town of Ono that the doll's maker Tomy Co. opened in 1993. During Japan's Golden Week holidays in early May, Licca-chan Castle was packed with families and fans of what is often touted as the Japanese version of the Barbie doll. The theme park is the embodiment of a dream by Yasuta Sato, Tomy founder and a native of neighboring Iwaki city, to "show children the process of manufacturing." The castle not only showcases dolls from the original to the current fourth-generation versions but also allows visitors to observe how craftsman implant hair and color the doll. After passing through a newly built garden commemorating the 50th anniversary of the doll, visitors are welcomed by a life-size Licca-chan. Costumes are available for both adult and child visitors and some parents and children even wear matching dresses. Chieko Aizawa, a 58-year-old woman who came to the castle with her granddaughter from Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, said she looked out for a Licca-chan doll of her "own generation." The walls on the second floor of the building are filled with visitors' messages encouraging people to overcome the 2011 disasters such as "Stay strong, Fukushima," and "Our hearts are with you." "At the time of the disaster, we were very worried about what would happen next," said Yoshino Hakata, a 48-year-old staffer at the theme park.  After the nuclear crisis, the castle, located around 40 kilometers from the crippled Fukushima Daiichi plant, was not designated by the government as belonging to an evacuation zone. It therefore resumed operation about 50 days after the accident, but the number of visitors drastically fell to around 30,000 from some 100,000 a year, with many inquiring about radiation effects from the disaster. To make visitors feel safe, the theme park set up an indoor play area and posted radioactive levels around the facility every day on a blog. Thanks to such efforts, the number of annual visitors has recovered to about 80,000. "I am helped by children's smiles. I feel rewarded for doing this," said Hakata. The castle had been strongly tied to the town even before the earthquake and nuclear disaster. In 1993, Licca-chan was appointed as the "princess ambassador" for revitalizing the town with its ageing population. In front of the facility, illumination events have been held every year on a road named after the doll. Following the nuclear crisis, the park opened its facility free of charge so that local children who were deprived of safe places to play could come to the site. Licca-chan and her "family members" were also given special residence certificates by the town. Those making donations to the town under the "furusato nozei" hometown tax scheme can now select gifts including a Licca-chan doll in a pink dress. The gifts have proved popular, with only 45 dolls left as of Monday out of up to 500 gifts prepared since May 3. The national tax scheme allows people to make tax-deductible contributions to a prefectural or municipal government of their choice, usually for a gift in return. "Licca-chan is an indispensable icon for the town. We want her to play active roles in various places," said Yasuhide Akasaka, deputy head of the town's industrial promotion. The petite doll is named Licca Kayama but has become better known as Licca-chan, with a suffix attached in Japanese denoting endearment, usually to a baby or young girl. ==Kyodo
    2017.05.25 | Fukushima
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