FEATURE: Nagano Pref. city banks on anime ‘Summer Wars’ to draw tourists

​UEDA, Nagano (The Japan News/ANN) - The municipal government of Ueda, Nagano Prefecture, as well as the city’s tourist association, among others, are looking to anime as a tourism resource.

The city was the stage for the animated movie “Summer Wars” and was selected as one of the Anime Tourism Association’s “88 Japanese Anime Spots.”

The city hopes to attract foreign travelers and boost declining tourist numbers with “Cool Japan” events. In 2016, the year NHK broadcast the yearlong historical drama “Sanada Maru,” Ueda was visited by 7.21 million tourists, a record high and up 1.68 million from the previous year. In 2017, however, this figure dipped to 5.04 million. 

Looking for a tourist draw to follow “Sanada Maru,” the Ueda City Tourism Association and other entities turned their gaze to anime.  “Summer Wars” tells the story of a second-year high school boy who is spending the summer at the countryside home of a relative of a popular 18-year-old high school girl, a close friend of his. He becomes involved in a battle against an artificial intelligence that appears in a virtual world and throws the world into chaos. 

The film was directed by Mamoru Hosoda, who decided to set the story in Ueda after visiting his wife’s family home there. 
 Since the movie’s release in 2009, social events have been held in Ueda almost every summer, attended by fans visiting anime-related sites and local supporters, among others. 

The 10th anniversary of the movie’s release is seen as an opportunity to hold a big event. The city’s tourism association, the Ueda Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the municipal government and others plan to set up a new organization later this month.
 Japanese animation is popular overseas and the industry actively promotes itself to foreign tourists.

The Anime Tourism Association’s list of “spots” was drawn up based mainly on the results of a worldwide survey of 30,000 people. The association provides information on these spots on its website to fans around the world.  “I think foreigners will see the charms of Ueda as well,” Norimichi Suzuki, managing director of the association, said during a visit to Ueda on Feb. 5 to present the city with a plate commemorating the designation. 

Hosoda also directed “Mirai no Mirai” (Mirai), which won Best Animated Independent Feature in February at the Annie Awards, considered the Academy Awards of anime. To capitalize on this, organizers are planning a panel exhibition on both “Summer Wars” and “Mirai” at the anniversary event. Ueda City Tourism Association Director Kenichiro Yanagisawa said they wanted to appeal to tourists.