Hit China movie aids Hokkaido’s tourism

by

Kyodo News

A hit Chinese romantic comedy screened in movie theaters during China’s New Year holidays is turning Hokkaido into a new tourism spot for Chinese travelers.

Chinese tour operators are already taking advantage of the latest Feng Xiaogang work, “If you are the one,” offering weekly tours to locations featured in the movie, which immediately became a box office hit.

“We would like to use this opportunity to get more Chinese visitors to Hokkaido,” said a Hokkaido prefectural official in charge of tourism promotion.

The movie, the latest in Feng’s series of New Year’s Celebration Films, is a love story involving two young Chinese and their romance that starts while they are sightseeing in Hokkaido.

Unlike Tokyo, Osaka and other tourist spots in Honshu, Hokkaido is known for its natural beauty and the pristine scenery of the eastern part of the island, including the Okhotsk Sea coast, the World Natural Heritage site of Shiretoko and the wetlands of Kushiro.

In “If you are the one,” Feng takes his audience to Abashiri, a scenic fishing town in northern Hokkaido where the Okhotsk Sea appears magnificently blue.

Also featured in the movie are the little Catholic church on the plains of Shari on the northern shores of Hokkaido and the entry point to the Shiretoko heritage site.

In Kushiro, the main eastern Hokkaido city known for its wetlands, the movie features the small Japanese bars where many visitors, both foreign and local, spend their evenings after soaking themselves in the hot springs of the Akan spa town.

The movie was first screened in China just before Christmas and topped 300 million yuan (¥4.1 billion) in revenues in its first 19 days.

An estimated 6 million people saw the movie, and multiple pirated DVDs are now said to be circulating in China.

According to officials at the Beijing office of the Japan National Tourism Organization, the office has been flooded with inquiries about the tourist spots featured in the movie.

Some young Chinese said they want to have their weddings at the Shari church, while others have inquired whether the Akan bars in the movie are real or just sets.

“Hokkaido was presented in the movie as it naturally is. This is probably what has made Hokkaido popular,” a tourism organization official said.

There are no official figures yet but it is believed that more Chinese visitors spent their Lunar New Year holidays in Hokkaido this year than in 2008.

Beginning Sunday, a Beijing-based tour operator will start weekly sightseeing tours to Hokkaido to visit the locations featured in the film.

Hokkaido tourism officials say they hope the movie will draw more Chinese visitors to the island and this will make up for the loss of visitors from South Korea and elsewhere as a result of the global economic crisis.