Aichi prefecture in central Japan is drawing on its history as the homeland of the famed samurai to attract tourists, culminating in the inaugural World Samurai Summit to be held from November 19-20.
Activities there include dressing up as samurai, a traditional battlefield demonstration and taking part in samurai performances.
This builds on the prefecture’s launch last year of a drive to promote Aichi as the ‘Home of Samurai’ to mark 400 years since the death of Tokugawa Ieyasu, a renowned shogun who originated from the region.
Organisers hope the festival, which is open for the first time this year to foreigners, will attract both international and domestic tourists.
Earlier in May, seven ninja performers were also hired by the prefecture to boost the destination’s appeal. The project has been successful, according to Keno Kano, director general of tourism in Aichi, who revealed that arrivals for 1H2016 was four per cent higher than national numbers.
The ninjas welcomed visitors at Chubu International Airport and performed at a castle in Nagoya. They also ran a ninja school, attracting participants from the US, China, Taiwan and Indonesia. Every session held was full, said Kano, pointing out that some tourists even came to watch the shows everyday of their stay.
Fumito Sasaki, CEO of tour operator Japan Wonder Travel, believes the interest is likely to stem from popular culture. “While in Japan, they want to have experiences with ninja and samurai in the same way tourists want to go to England’s Abbey Road because of The Beatles,” he said.
Jarrod Stenhouse, managing director of Destination Asia Japan, says that Aichi’s initiative is sure to appeal to younger visitors. While he says it remains to be seen whether it will attract tourists who wouldn’t have normally visited Aichi, he points out that other regions are also embracing the theme.
He said: “Matsue castle in Shimane prefecture often has a samurai greeter, which has been very popular with our cruise groups.”