Since the national government launched its “Cool Japan” initiative in 2013, Japan’s regional officials and agencies have been urged to tap the appeal of pop culture to lure tourists.

The government has tried to lead by example. In 2016, at the close of the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, then-Prime Minister Shinzo Abe popped up on a podium cosplaying as Super Mario.

Anime such as the film “Your Name.” and the series “Slam Dunk” and “One Piece,” which went on to become international hits, helped spawn an official Anime Tourism Association in 2018. Before COVID-19 struck, fan pilgrimages to locations featured in anime were becoming commonplace.