A city suffering from population decline has attracted nationwide attention through its promotion video, which has had over a million views on YouTube.

The city of Kobayashi in Miyazaki Prefecture created a promotion video — “N’da-mo-shita’n Kobayashi,” which means “What a surprise” in English — to join a contest hosted by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications as part of the government’s regional revitalization policy aimed at encouraging people to move to the countryside.

The video’s unique twist — using a Frenchman speaking in the local Nishimoro dialect, which, some say, sounds similar to French — captured the attention of many on social media.

Just a month after the launch of the video on YouTube, it had logged 1.3 million views on YouTube and 930 shares on Facebook.

The contest will continue until the end of the month.

“I cannot count how many emails and phone calls we have received over the last three weeks, ” city official Daisuke Yukiwaki said, expressing the city’s excitement at the video’s popularity with both residents and nonresidents to the city.

According to census data, the city’s population declined from 48,000 in 2010 to 46,000 in 2015. The city is a typical municipality facing the problem of a declining population, said Yukiwaki.

“Yet the hurdle to settle in a new city is very high,” he added. “We are thinking how we can communicate with the people interested in our city to actually start living in this city.”

In the video, a Frenchman talks about a number of strange things he encountered during a visit to Kobayashi, such as people selling bottled water when tap water is safe to drink, or enjoying sturgeon sushi despite caviar often being eaten as gourmet food in France.

The video also features scenes of nature, including star-studded skies above the city, as well as the kindness of the city’s people.

The man’s appearance tricked thousands into believing he was speaking in French when he wasn’t.

The idea of making the video was born after a city staff member’s experience in Tokyo. Someone said their dialect sounded more like French and that not a single word spoken by the person from Kobayashi could be understood, according to Yukiwaki.

The project team worked together with locals, including a staff member from advertising giant Dentsu, who is a former Kobayashi resident, and completed everything, from planning to filming, within two weeks at the end of July and early August.

“Although the promotion video seems to attract nonresidents, it aims to capture the heart of current and former residents,” Yukiwaki said. He noted that many comments posted online were from both current and former residents who were happy about their city becoming more widely known in Tokyo or hoping to return to their hometown again one day.

“We believe that attractive cities are where the citizens are attached to their cities,” Yukiwaki said. He said he hoped the video will motivate residents to spread the word about Kobayashi, and that this approach will attract more people to live there.


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