Regional Japan adds stargazing as new element to woo visitors


Local governments are trying to attract tourists by promoting clear starry skies.

A popular hot springs area in Unzen, Nagasaki Prefecture, will start a unique stargazing event Saturday in which participants watch the skies while staying in a kotatsu, a wooden table with a blanket, set up on a paved walkway warmed by terrestrial heat.

Because the area is surrounded by white rocks, people “can feel like they are watching the stars from a lunar surface,” an event organizer said.

The village of Achi, Nagano Prefecture, started holding an off-season stargazing tour at ski resorts in 2012. Since the tour proved popular, the village now offers it throughout the year. Last year it drew around 150,000 people.

Tottori boasts being a stargazing prefecture, saying the Milky Way can be seen from every municipality in the prefecture. Tottori posts on its website a map that shows recommended sites to see the stars.