• Kyodo News


From cash-strapped local governments to small municipalities eager to promote their cultural and tourism resources, public servants are increasingly turning to the world’s biggest video site.

Osaka Prefecture, Aizuwakamatsu, Fukushima Prefecture, and Hakodate, Hokkaido, are among local authorities that have gone online in attempts to benefit from self-made clips on YouTube, which is believed to have more than 20 million frequent viewers across Japan.

Deficit-ridden Osaka opened an official “movie news” YouTube channel in February in place of the public relations TV and radio programs it terminated last summer to help reduce costs.

Popular and outspoken Osaka Gov. Toru Hashimoto is a featured figure for the news channel, appearing in a frank and candid manner in video clips taken by officials at his office.

“Information about our administration doesn’t often reach young people, and hopefully our YouTube news will help them get to it,” a prefectural official said.

Officials in Aizuwakamatsu, a city of nearly 130,000, pride themselves on being pioneers in sending public service videos via YouTube.

Junior city employees hit on the idea during discussions on how to open video archives to the public.

The target was simply “people around the world” and it did not take long before the city also won over some overseas audiences, including the operator of a martial arts training center in Serbia.

The Serb sent an e-mail to the city expressing gratitude for the YouTube images of the swordplay employed by teenage Byakkotai warriors who were involved in a 19th-century civil war fought in northeastern Japan between Imperial and shogunate forces.

“We proposed to use the biggest video online site and just wanted ours to be watched by many people,” recalled one of the proponents of the idea.

Hakodate, known for its night views and exotic sightseeing locations, has built up a following for the YouTube clips it launched last November in a joint project with a local production firm.

The collaboration has so far led to more than 210,000 viewings of the videos.

One of the clips mixes pictures of popular sightseeing spots with computer graphic images of a gigantic alien trying to destroy the city — and efforts to drive away the invader.

“Protect our historical, cultural heritages!” says one caption on the video, which city officials say has drawn e-mail from across the globe heaping praise on the project.

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