LONDON – Tourism officials are preparing for an increase in Japanese visitors to England’s Lake District next year with the release of a movie on the life of children’s author Beatrix Potter.
Potter’s most famous book — “The Tale of Peter Rabbit” — is read by many Japanese and the image of Peter Rabbit is well known across the country.
The author drew on the Lake District for much of her literary inspiration.
Now, the finishing touches are being made to a Hollywood biopic of the famous children’s author, “Miss Potter,” which will star Renee Zellweger.
The Japanese already represent one of the biggest groups of overseas tourists to the Lake District — which lies 420 km northwest of London — but hopes are high that next year’s movie will boost numbers even more.
To capitalize on the biopic, tourism officials are looking to create tours for Japanese specifically on Potter’s life, involving visits to several of her former homes and farms.
And they hope Japanese will extend their stay and visit many of the movie locations.
The Lake District contains several large lakes set among picturesque countryside and hills.
Richard Foster, who heads the Lake District Japan Forum and runs the World of Beatrix Potter Attraction, said, “The number of Japanese tourists is growing every year and we are sure that it’s going to increase.”
He said he hopes the film encourages those who have read “Peter Rabbit” to take a closer look into the life of its creator.
Asked why Peter Rabbit — whose image in Japan adorns everything from credit cards to mayonnaise jars — is so popular, Foster said, “He’s a cute, lovable character.”
In May, members of the forum traveled to Japan to promote the area to 50 tour operators. As well as Beatrix Potter’s links to the Lake District, they also highlighted the area’s walking tours and gardens.
On average, 11,000 Japanese come to the Lake District each year, but most will probably spend only a day or two.
Ellis Butcher, spokesman for the Cumbria Tourist Board, said, “The Japanese who come here tend to have a fixed itinerary. The movie, ‘Miss Potter,’ gives them the chance to see a lot more of Cumbria — places, which they have probably never seen before.”
Potter published “Peter Rabbit” in 1902. It told the story of naughty Peter Rabbit and his adventures in Mr. McGregor’s garden.
She also illustrated her books.
Potter started vacationing in the Lake District during her teens. In 1913, she moved there and purchased Hill Top Farm in the village of Sawrey.
“Miss Potter,” which was shot partly in the Lake District, will hit British screens in January and Japanese cinemas the following September.
The movie will focus on Potter’s battles against male chauvinism and the close relationship with her publisher, Norman Warne.
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