A tourism association in Yamagata Prefecture is selling pillows containing cherry pits that can be heated or chilled and used to soothe aching shoulders or throbbing heads.

"It is probably the first time a cherry pit pillow has been sold in Japan," said Masaru Konno, a tourism association official in Higashine, the nation's largest cherry-producing municipality.

Since cherry pits are hollow, Higashine's Nu Cuise pillow is ideal for providing heating or cooling therapy. Two minutes in a microwave keeps the pillow warm for about an hour, while putting one in a freezer for 45 minutes ensures it will stay cold for about half an hour.

The Nu Cuise pillow, sometimes called a cherry pit thermal pillow, has a cotton cover and measures 26 cm by 12 cm — on the small side for a pillow but handy for popping into a microwave or freezer.

Cherry pit pillows were invented by a Belgian cherry brandy maker who wanted to stay warm during winter, Konno said, adding such products are known as thermotherapeutic items in Europe. The pits come from cherry processors, who dispose of them while making cherry juice or jam.

The Nu Cuise name derives from a modification of "nukui," which means "warm" in Yamagata's local dialect.

The pillow went on sale in October and can be purchased over the Internet or in shops in Higashine for ¥2,100. The tourism association has so far sold 300 of the pillows and received orders for an additional 150, Konno said.