The city of Shimanto, Kochi Prefecture, which on Monday became Japan’s hottest city with a record-setting temperature of 41.0 degrees, is now rushing to capitalize on its new title with a string of unique projects.

The mercury hit the all-time high of 41.0 in the city’s Egawasaki district.

Hailing the news as a potential boost to the local economy, the chamber of commerce and industry wasted no time in setting up signboards across the city proclaiming “Egawasaki, the hottest area in Japan.”

An official in the chamber who didn’t want his name released for privacy reasons said the signs are designed to guide tourists to the heart of the sweltering heat.

The chamber is also leading a campaign to sell bowls of shaved ice, known as “kakigoori,” at a discounted price of ¥41 in the Egawasaki marketplace to mark the 41-degree threshold. The sale will continue through Aug. 18, the official said.

“We’re trying to see this heat as a positive thing that will possibly help bolster our economy,” he said.

But concerns are widespread, too, that the heat will cause problems for local residents.

Osamu Inada, a spokesman for the city’s branch office in Egawasaki, said he is particularly worried about a water shortage for local farms. The consequences would be grave, he continued, if the local water pumping station were to suffer a shortage and deprive residents of their household supply. “Ayu” sweetfish in the Shimanto River could start dying off as well, he said.

“Given these concerns, we’re not 100 percent happy about the news. We shouldn’t get carried away,” Inada said.

Shimanto is hardly the only place suffering from scorching heat. The Meteorological Agency issued an alert for more than 30 areas nationwide Wednesday.

An agency official said the Japanese archipelago is enshrouded in a towering high pressure system preventing clouds from forming, leaving the nation directly exposed to sunlight. Highs by nature push air down, so the heat doesn’t dissipate overnight, he added.

Aside from the positioning of the high, a geographic feature of Shimanto apparently also played a part in setting the record. The meteorological observation point sits in a basin between mountains where the heat can get trapped, the official said.

Other factors, including the lack of rainfall and wind, contributed to the record-breaking heat, he added.

The agency is forecasting the hot weather will persist for another two weeks or so.

Shimanto’s surprising rise to stardom Monday dethroned Tajimi, Gifu Prefecture, and Kumagaya, Saitama Prefecture. Both cities were credited with reaching 40.9 degrees on Aug. 16, 2007.

Noriko Kobayashi, a chief spokeswoman for Kumagaya City Hall, said local people were disappointed to hear the news. She stressed the city’s biggest mission for now is not to let the loss of its status derail its campaign to warn the public to stay careful in the heat.

“From now on, we’ll aim to be the most carefully prepared city against heatstroke,” she said.

Tajimi Mayor Masanori Furukawa meanwhile issued a statement congratulating Shimanto. “We’d like to readily acknowledge Shimanto is now the new champion,” he said.

Furukawa pledged the city’s continued efforts to promote safety in hot weather.

“Tajimi carries out the best-thought-out initiatives to warn people against heatstroke,” the statement says.

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