Yawatahama's bright idea of a black list


A scenic western Japan port city has gone to the dark side in a bid to attract visitors — offering them an array of black-colored foods and other items, the same color as the water of the local onsen hot-spring spa.

After the spa facility opened in Yawatahama in Ehime Prefecture last summer, a group approached shops and restaurants in a nearby mall with the idea to create a black-themed shopping arcade as a way to revitalize the district. The initiative, which was launched in January, was intended to run for a limited period, but it garnered so much attention that there are now plans for it to run indefinitely.

The “black list” leaflet of 50 shops and eateries in the 800-meter-long mall introduces such items as a champon noodle dish featuring black soup made with squid ink, as well as black-colored manjū (sweet bean buns), cheese cake, pasta, curry rice and fried chicken. Sushi rice mixed with black bamboo charcoal powder is also offered. A musical instrument shop, meanwhile, sells melodicas with keyboards colored all black, while elsewhere in the mall a postbox and a vending machine have been painted black.

Many visitors say they found it all pleasantly spooky, while some were amused to find items that are normally black, such as boys’ school uniforms, formal dresses and suits worn at funerals, also added to the list.

“The look of the (black) dishes may be shocking,” says Junichi Shimizu, a senior member of the promotional campaign, who hopes images on social media will create further buzz about the area, “but they are delicious once you taste them.”