While ago, I watched a show on TV in which the people in a small village of northern area in Japan planning to activate the village so that more and more people come. I still remember the story took place in Akita Predecture[秋田県], and the leader in the committee was…yes, an anime otaku. He was trying to revitalize the village with a power of moe[萌え]. We say 村おこし[mura-okoshi] and 町おこし[machi-okoshi] to mean to revitalize a village or a town. The most frequent ways are to make the most of the popularity of a famous manga or anime which the scenes are actually from the village or the town. Or to make a monumental stone of the characters those are from the manga or the anime. Otherwise, it could be a totally original character they create. All of this is to attract more tourists and visitors This is a new type of revitalization, 萌え起こし[moe-okoshi].
This has become more frequent since 2007 when a hit anime らき☆すた[Lucky Star] came out. The village is Washimiya-chou[鷲宮町] in Saitama Prefecture[埼玉県], you can google it now. Well I am pretty sure some of you have already heard of this village if you have been to Japan or lived for a short time. The spot where countless fans go is defnitely Takamiya Shrine[鷹宮神社], the model of Washimiya Shrine[鷲宮神社] in which Kagami and Tsukasa live. This small village, 鷲宮町[Washimiya-chou] is designated as Holy Land of Lucky Star by the fans, and more and more people are paying a visit on New Year’s Day or the other time…anytime…Until Lucky Star came, there was not a word 萌え起こし, but we used to say 村おこし, 町おこし, or アニメを使った町おこし[anime wo tsukatta machi-okoshi] or revitalization with anime.
I think I have mentioned this kind of thing as 聖地巡礼[seichi junrei]. If not anime fans, some people like to pay a visit a filming place. Actually, before I became an anime fan, I paid a visit the filming place of Korean soap opera, Winter Sonata[冬のソナタ]. オトメンだからロマンチックな話が大好きなんで（笑）Nami Island is one of the places, and there were quite a few spots where the filming took place.
Anyway, when the monthly anime magazine, Newtype introduced Takamiya Shrine as a Holy Land, more fans started to come even though some maniacs used to come from the beginning. Because of this, Yukite-shi[幸手市] which is a model Konata lives also tried to revitalize the town. They made some commercial goods and launched events. Around the end of 2007, this shrine was officially designated as Holy Land, monumental stones were built, some voice actresses came for the event, and they sold commercial goods…things became more fabulous than before. The amount of the visitors on New Years Day in 2008 were 300,000 people though it was 130,000 in the previous year. And Hiiragi Family officially got a certificate of residence.
This is the most successful example of moe-okoshi, but there were some more before Lucky Star. Even in my town Chiba Prefecture[千葉県], there was a small amusement park named バンダイミュージアム[Bandai Museum]. It was like a big game centre where the commercial goods from Bandai are sold or displayed such as Keroro Gunso, Sailor Moon, or Gundam. Now it’s closed. Speaking of Gundam, I must mention the full-lenghth Gundam in Odaiba last summer. Besides, every summer Pokemon Stamp Rally[ポケモンスタンプラリー] by JR takes place. At some main stations, there are Pokemon stamp desks so that kids can get a stamp. In this way, kids go to one or another to collect all the stamps. I always see some kids with their mothers on the train every summer and they are holding a stamp list.
I am not quite sure this is the same thing as what I saw on TV, but in Akita Pref, Ugo agricultural cooperative[うご農協] would succeeded in 萌え起こし years ago. They made a moe-bishoujo for the local product, あきたこまち[Akita komachi]. It is actually one of the most popular rice brand such as koshihikari[こしひかり] or sasanishiki[ササニシキ]. And the bishojo was designed by Aoi Nishimata[西又葵] who did the character design for Shuffle. Also, they auditioned portraits of bishoujo for the upcoming summer festival, and chose some bishoujo for the advertisements. As a result, they could get more visitors. I think Akita komachi is really nice, so I want to buy if this rice is available near my place. It is an irrelevant note, we say ゆるキャラ[yuru chara] to mean an original character to promote the local service or whatever. Especially when the design is not so good, it is often labelled as a ゆるキャラ. ゆる[yuru] is from ゆるい[yurui] or too mediocre.
Why did Lucky Star’s moe-okoshi go so well? Accroding to some visitors, they said the service is so homey but they are strict for rude fans, and dropped a line between fans and sheer visitors so that they don’t get confused.
There are other machi-okoshi, however, some of them didn’t go well. One of the reasons is price for goods or service. When machi-okoshi features a TV-drama like a samurai one from NHK, the price would be very expensive because the railway service or the travel agnecy get in to commercially promote the Holy Land. The price for drink or food would be also too expensive. Because the popularity wouldn’t last forever, they seem to make a killing while the drama is still popular. This is what most otaku do not like. To promote something is good, and to revitalize is also good. But to exploit money as much as possible is not the same thing. This may be why Lucky Star could succeed. It wouldn’t be moe-okoshi if it annoyed fans…
By the way, the amount of the visitors at Takamiya Shrine this year is quite well although it is in this recession. Moe conquers all, really.