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Tokai Television Broadcasting Ltd. has started to air a new series called “Ninja Boimenkun” (“Ninja Boys and Men”) earlier this month.

The series, broadcast at midnight on the first and third Monday of each month, follows a group of male idols as they explore the Dragon Route, a new tourist route in the Chubu region, while dressed as ninja.

While at first glance it may give the impression of being nothing more than a trivial show, the ninja, based in Nagoya, Aichi Prefecture, have another role — promoting the local economy and ensuring the broadcasting company’s survival.

In the first episode broadcast July 6, the men, who are undergoing training as ninja, visit Sanko Inari Shrine in Inuyama, Aichi Prefecture.

“This shrine is also known as Baigaeshi Jinja (a shrine that returns its offerings multifold),” one character says.

“Since when?” another asks.

“Probably since that drama started being aired . . . ”

Another member quickly cuts in and jokingly says, “And that’s all the answers we need to know.”

The cast consists of members of the group Boys and Men and Kenji Hamatani, a member of the comedy duo Hamaka-n.

In the episode, the ninja apprentices gamely dipped their leather wallets in a famous pond that is said to return double of anything that is washed in it, before visiting a historical archive where they played with wind-up mechanical dolls.

The show takes a unique approach to introducing sightseeing spots.

“Our goal is to sell the broadcasting rights overseas,” said Masahiko Sano, supervisor of Tokai Television’s production division.

“Japanese TV shows are gaining popularity in Indonesia and Myanmar, but no male idol has made it in Jakarta,” he said.

If the company can successfully earn a profit by selling its broadcasting rights overseas, it will reinforce its current strategy to look for ways to keep viewers tuning in.

It was the main reason for the ninja series, which will continue to pursue local content targeted at foreign audiences.

The production team came up with the idea of making the main members in the show ninja because they are widely known characters that are often portrayed in movies and anime. The team members also discussed ideas to “export” local idols and acquire a broadcasting slot in Indonesia, though the date and time has yet to be decided.

The production team says they created the series with foreign audiences in mind, but wanted to first broadcast the show in Japan.

By promoting the Dragon Route, the series hopes to help attract foreign visitors to the area. They have been monitoring the responses to the show in the Tokai region.

“We’ll be very happy if the sightseeing spots featured in our program can help attract more visitors,” said Sano.

“We also hope that Nagoya will be as well known as Kyoto and Hokkaido to foreign tourists by 2020, when Tokyo will host the Olympics.

“Maybe we can also create events that combine the program with tourism,” he added.

The show’s second episode, featuring Ise Shima, aired on July 20.

The series also plans to highlight other areas in the outskirts of Nagoya, as well as other prefectures in the Chubu region such as Gifu, Shizuoka, Kanazawa and Toyama.

The series has been signed for 12 episodes, which will air over the next six months.

Broadcasting companies in Japan have been scrambling to sell broadcasting rights to TV shows overseas.

“Sasuke,” a sports variety program produced by Tokyo Broadcasting System Television Inc., is now broadcast in more than 150 areas and countries.

“Tabi Zukinchan,” produced by Nagoya-based CBC, is also broadcast in various Southeast Asian countries.

Programs featuring local areas often find it difficult to gain a footing in the domestic market, but are popular abroad for “highlighting the charms of Japan.”

This section, appearing Tuesdays, features topics and issues from the Chubu region covered by the Chunichi Shimbun. The original article was published on July 17.

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