The United States is famous for many things; Hollywood and the vibrant pop culture of the country including several different elements, one of which is said to be comics that emerged in the United States in the 1930s and have become a global phenomenon. Comics and graphic novels have also been credited with boosting tourism in the country.

When it comes to Japan, the comic book equivalent is manga, which are comics or graphic novels that originated in the East Asian country. Dating perhaps from the 12th century, those comics or graphic novels based on a right-to-left reading style that were once exclusive to the Japanese mainland have since become an even bigger global phenomenon than American comics.

The popularity of Japanese manga among readers led to the birth of the anime industry in this East Asian country. Animation in Japan dates back most precisely to the 20th century, when filmmakers attempted to experiment with techniques they borrowed from European countries and the United States, while the very first dated animation works appeared around 1917, while animation as an industry in Japan was established around the middle. 1930s.

Since then, the anime industry in Japan has undergone several changes while gradually developing into the global phenomenon that it is today. There is little to no debate that the new-age popularity of anime on a global scale is primarily due to OTTs or streamers such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and several other internet streaming platforms that have provided extensive and easy access to audiences outside of Japan as well.

By the late 2010s, there were an unprecedented number of global consumers of Japanese anime and it has since become so extremely popular that most West-based animation projects tend to opt for artistic styles inspired by the anime.

But how has this popularity of Japanese anime impacted the country’s tourism?

An article circulated on Polygon in 2018 claimed that a US national living in China had traveled from Shanghai where his home was based in Tokyo and took a “four train sequence” to get to Hida, which is a small town in Gifu. . Prefecture. The trip did not end there as the individual walked 10 minutes to a bus stop.

This particular person’s rather odd travel choice was influenced by what she had seen in a now popular animated feature film around the world; Kimi no Nawa (English translation: your name) released in 2016.

Kimi no Nawa’s massive international success, particularly in China, had made certain places on the Japanese map famous that one would not ideally identify as a must-see tourist spot. The aforementioned anecdote is just one such incident. According to reports, Kimi no Nawa’s success drew an estimated 130,000 tourists to the Hida bus stop in less than two months. The Japanese have a name for it; “Seichijunrei” which, in the relevant context, translates to “lively pilgrimage”. But this correlation between the influx of tourists and popular entertainment venues is not limited to just “seichijunrei” but also “butaitanbou”, which means a “more exhaustive exploration” of filming locations where fans would continue. to organize the composition of a “photo to match as closely as possible to what is on the film.”

We’ve seen several Instagram posts where people allegedly took a photo and placed it on a background that the image fits perfectly. Anime fans tend to take actual photos of the places they have observed through feature films or anime series and post them to show how accurately the places have been drawn.

Perhaps the heavy use of actual rural areas of Japan in anime content, which in turn generated huge viewership numbers, is having this lasting effect on audiences and piquing the audience’s curiosity to visit the places. themselves to test how accurately the locations were represented. Whatever the reason, the end result seems to have had a positive impact on Japanese tourism.

Japanese anime has also largely and in some cases exclusively helped boost tourism to some of the more rural and remote places in the country. For example, a large number of travelers can be spotted on a bridge in Ogaki as it had been featured in Koe no Katachi (English translation: A Silent Voice).

The importance of anime culture in the country and its positive impact on the tourism industry led to the formation of the Anime Tourism Association which is a champion in promoting “lively pilgrimage” tourism in the country.

The president of the association, Tsuguhiko Kadokawa, told the Japan Times: “It is impressive that the presence of Japanese pop culture in the world has become something that can be compared to Hollywood.

Travel trends in Japan have largely altered the dynamics of popular and bustling Japanese cities such as Tokyo or Kyoto, replaced by rural countryside as priority vacation destinations for travelers visiting the cultural hub of East Asia. . A guide to Japan organized by Expatbets explains that more and more visitors are choosing to visit rural areas such as Biei-cho and Tsurui, both located in Hokkaido due to the tranquil and serene vibe the places permeate.

Perhaps this is the reason why the respective tourism developers and the government are actively promoting the rural countryside to attract potential travelers.

Ogimachi village is now a popular tourist spot due to the popularity of “Higurashi – When They Cry” – Photo: The Travel

The anime has not only inspired its viewers around the world to visit the country, but also to try authentic Japanese specialties, given the way the cuisines have been portrayed in several feature films and animated series. Some of Studio Ghibli’s popular films that have a very unique way of portraying food in their films are a prime example of the allure and aesthetics of Japanese food culture. for example, Kiki’s delivery service or the ever popular Spirited Away have been the main reason many travelers have tried Japanese cuisine.

The government’s efforts to boost tourism through the use of Japanese pop culture date back to 2009, when it was reported that the country’s government was planning to “fund cultural industries like music, manga, and movies. ‘animation “with the aim of resuscitating” a faltering economy. ” There have been several instances where iconic and popular manga characters have been used by local government agencies to increase the number of travelers.

One such example is a statue of Gundam from the long-running manga / anime franchise “Mobile Suit Gundam”. Located in Suginami City, Tokyo, this statue is a popular landmark for visiting tourists.

Outside of Japan, the highest demand for anime content came from the United States, followed by the Philippines, France, Mexico, Brazil, South Korea, Thailand and Taiwan as well as several other countries – this data was collected for the period April to June 2018. Tourism statistics show that American travelers visiting Japan increased by 415.2% in June 2021, while the number of South Korean travelers for the same period recorded an increase of 75.7%.

Perhaps there is no direct correlation that can be observed here between the popularity of anime in these countries and the increase in the number of tourists to Japan from these countries. However, it is undeniable that the worldwide popularity of the Japanese animation industry has had a huge impact on the country’s tourism industry.

Over the past few years, manga and cartoons have also become extremely popular among the relatively young generations of the Maldivian community, and most of the heavy consumers of Japanese entertainment content may also be advertising themselves as potential travelers to the Maldivian community. giant of East Asia. .

That wouldn’t be a bad thing given that the Japanese source market to the Maldives is steadily growing in the Maldives due to travelers opting for quiet places – meaning there is a notion of balance. Who knows, one of these days a mangaka (a person who creates manga) might visit the Maldives and find inspiration to use the country for their next manga series. It might just create a kind of pseudo-quid pro quo relationship between the two nations in the context of tourism.