Akita ranks 2nd for Japan prefecture searches abroad thanks to dog breed

JIJI

The northeastern prefecture of Akita came in second, behind Tokyo, in a ranking of Japanese prefecture names searched on the internet abroad, a survey by a digital advertising company has found.

The result was unexpected, with Akita coming ahead of such prefectures as Kyoto and Osaka, both of which are popular tourist destinations, according to the Tokyo-based firm, Info Cubic Japan.

Searches for Akita apparently increased because many people tried to obtain information on Akita Inu, or the Akita dog breed, amid the increasing popularity of the dog, an official at Info Cubic Japan said.

The breed is drawing attention overseas partly because an Akita puppy was presented to Alina Zagitova, a Russian figure skater who won gold in the women’s singles at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in February this year, the official said.

Info Cubic surveyed prefecture names searched in English on Google in 13 countries and regions for the year up to March 31, 2018, in a bid to understand any link between the number of searches and that of foreign tourists to Japan.

The survey showed that Tokyo topped the list, with 359,700 searches, followed by Akita, with 350,310. Coming third was Hiroshima, with 214,120. Osaka came fourth, with 205,400, and neighboring Kyoto seventh, with 139,100.

According to the Japan Tourism Agency, the number of foreign visitors who stayed overnight or longer in Akita in 2017 totaled about 100,000. It ranked 43rd among all Japanese prefectures.

The number of searches of “akita inu” started to increase abroad around 2010 and recently reached levels twice as high as that for Mount Fuji, said Shin Osuka, 45, an official at a local group promoting tourism on the back of the popularity of the Akita.

“I think that Akita is being actively searched by people who came to know, following the popularity of the dog species, that it is the name of a place,” Osuka said. “I want to take this opportunity to attract visitors to the prefecture.”