The Foreign Ministry is planning to invite prominent users of social networking sites to tour the devastated northeast as part of its efforts to rebuild Japan's image overseas following the March disasters and nuclear crisis.

Around 15 foreign bloggers and users of SNS sites such as Facebook and Twitter will be invited to tour prefectures devastated by the March 11 quake and tsunami, a Foreign Ministry official said Wednesday.

The ministry earmarked approximately ¥1.5 billion in the second supplementary budget in fiscal 2011 for efforts to restore Japan's image, and around ¥20 million of this money will be used to bring the SNS users over for the visit, according to the official.

"We would like them to visit Japan and use their unique talents to spread and promote Japan's appeal," he said.

Harmful rumors regarding the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant are continuing to circulate abroad, damaging the region's tourism and agricultural sectors.

While the ministry plans to invite the first group of SNS users sometime around November, no decision has been made yet on the precise details of the tour or the SNS users who will be invited to Japan.

It is thought likely, however, that they will tour in groups of three.

The idea emerged after seeing the key role social networking sites played in the "Arab Spring" uprisings that swept across the Middle East earlier in the year.

Since June 1, the ministry has been operating Facebook and Twitter accounts on an experimental basis.