Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Kannagi: Crazy Shrine Maidens - or How to Kick Start Your Local Economy

Ok, this article came straight from www.yomiuri.co.jp and so all credit to them.  Really very interesting how successful media productions can lead to unforeseen benefits in the wider world.  I think it's great that the show is helping out and credit to the town for knowing how to cash in on a good thing.  I wonder how many of those non anime watching townspeople have now become closet otaku. ;)

Article begins:

A small seaside town in Miyagi Prefecture is proving popular with a new type of visitor, many of whom carry handmade leaflets and take photographs of scenes that appear in a highly popular TV anime series.

Shichigahamamachi has turned into a mecca for otaku (geeks) who are fans of the anime "Kannagi," as the work is said to be set in the town. To many of them, visiting the town is the same as making a pilgrimage to a holy site.

The town's residents were quick to pick up on the phenomenon, and this month several commercial facilities in the town started selling items related to the anime series. They quickly sold out in many of the stores and restaurants where they were put on sale.

The TV series, which began in October, features a Shinto deity who appears as the manifestation of a girl named Nagi.

The town's Hanabushi Shrine is believed by fans to be the model for a shrine dedicated to the deity in the anime.

Glancing from a shrine to a leaflet containing a scene from the series, a 30-year-old company employee from Fukushima said, "Look here, this is very similar!"

"The positions of the koma-inu (lionlike statues of Korean dogs) and the height of the stone staircases are exactly the same [as those depicted in the series]," he said.

He said he visits the town every month and tours the shrine, a residential area and other locations that are said to have served as models for the TV series.

The man carried more than 20 pages containing scenes from the anime to compare with the shapes of houses, the color of roofs and other elements in the town.

Since last autumn, an increasing number of fans of the anime have been visiting the town.

On weekends, dozens of young people descend on the area. Over the New Year period, some fans came and worshipped at the shrine.

Many of the fans are careful to keep the local community in mind, with some walking around checking whether any garbage has been discarded by thoughtless visitors, while others attend rituals at the shrine.

Atsuko Hongo, 69, chief priest of the shrine, said she welcomed young people.

"At first, I was embarrassed. But they're all polite and have a sense of respect for the deities," she said.

Officials of the town's tourism association had been worried about the decreasing number of visitors in recent years, so they were extremely happy that the anime series was instrumental in attracting a new type of visitor.

Believing the phenomenon could serve as an opportunity to the raise the town's profile, the association recently produced seven kinds of cell phone strap featuring characters from the TV series.This month, 15 restaurants and stores began selling the products.

The association employed a clever tactic to help as many businesses as possible by having each of the stores or restaurants sell only one or two of the straps. In this way, a visitor who wants to collect all seven straps must visit a number of stores.

Matty's, a surfers shop, has proved popular even among people without a suntan--a rarity before the recent boom.

On May 1, the store's 20 items associated with the anime sold out quickly. Some of its customers had traveled from as far away as Shizuoka and Ishikawa prefectures.

The shop's owner, Toshinari Hoshi, 42, expressed surprise, saying: "Until recently, my place was frequented only by surfers who wanted to hit the high waves. But anime also has great drawing power."

The town's tourism association has produced a map of the town indicating places where character goods are sold, as well as the locations of restaurants and inns.

One association official said, "We want people to learn everything that's positive about our town, not only those parts related to the anime. We hope people keep returning here."

Article ends.

Just to tie it all together, here's a picture of the rather lovely new Zange-chan figure from FREEing.

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