• Kyodo

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Theme parks in Japan have recently become key drivers of the country’s tourism boom as they attract visitors from around the globe by letting them experience the worlds of popular Japanese anime, comics and games.

While Japan saw a record number of foreign visitors last year, their interest has been shifting from spending on things to spending on experiences.

Universal Studios Japan in Osaka has been holding events themed after anime every year since 2015, and one of its attractions this year is themed after a manga-turned-anime known as “Case Closed” or “Meitantei Konan” in Japanese.

Visitors will take part in solving a theft case with the main character Conan and others using multilingual tablet devices.

“I came here for Conan, and it is very amazing,” said James Sin, a 30-year-old Hong Kong hotel worker, who was on his second visit to the theme park.

Sin said he watches the animation as it is broadcast in Hong Kong as well. “I like the story,” he said.

“We want to come in the future and try another Cool Japan series,” said 29-year-old Kakami Chan, who accompanied Sin, referring to Japanese anime and other cultural contents the country has been promoting overseas under a campaign dubbed Cool Japan.

Overseas promotion of such pop culture is a key pillar of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s growth strategy.

With the Japan National Tourism Organization reporting a record-high 28.69 million foreign visitors to Japan in 2017, those to Universal Studios Japan surpassed the 2 million mark for the first time, with many of them coming from China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea.

Legoland Japan in Nagoya, which is celebrating its first anniversary since opening last April, is also holding a special show featuring the popular Lego Ninjago blocks series, which has evolved into a TV series, a film and a game overseas.

The Fuji-Q Highland amusement park in Fujiyoshida, Yamanashi Prefecture, is drawing visitors with a limited-time attraction themed after “Attack on Titan,” a popular comic book series depicting the battle between humans and giants who prey on them.

Visitors can immerse themselves in the world of the comic by sitting on seats that move in response to the movements of giants that appear on the half-sphere screen.