SAGA – At first glance, Saga Prefecture’s decision to employ a well-known figure in order to boost tourism and souvenir sales appears to be line with many other Japanese cities and prefectures who have implemented similar projects. Yet, unlike other cases, Saga has forgone a famous person in favor for someone or something perhaps closer to the heart of Japanese youth: Sagat, a character from the “Street Fighter” video game series.
The prefecture recently conferred the honor of tourism ambassador upon the Muay Thai fighter, whose name when spoken in Japanese sounds similar to the prefecture name. The Saga Prefectural Government is partnering with Capcom Co., the creator of the game series, which marked its 30th anniversary last year, in order to create a number of limited-edition Saga Prefecture souvenirs adorned with characters from the game.
Destinations off the beaten path have relied increasingly on unique ideas to ameliorate the effects of an aging population and youth flight to larger cities. As of 2017, over 28 percent of the population in Saga was 65 or older, according to prefectural statistics.
Yet the results of public relations projects remains mixed. Japan grabbed international headlines in 2014 after the Finance Ministry warned local governments to avoid wasting resources on the creation of mascots. While the current Saga project is still relatively small compared to other government campaigns, the expected related expenses are expected to cost around ¥30 million.
The prefectural government and Capcom are sponsoring an event to be held from Jan. 22 to Jan. 28 in the Ginza district of Tokyo that will feature an appearance of the character Sagat, along with sales of locally produced porcelain, sake and toasted seaweed sheets bearing the video game’s characters.
Since 2013, the prefecture has been relying on famous video games and anime to promote the region, especially among younger generations.