SEPTEMBER ... kugatsu 九月


.............. September 1, 2009

Sketches of pretty girls draw visitors
to Akita town

By Yoshinori Hashida
Illustrations of pretty girls adorning packages of locally grown specialty rice and other products in a small snowy town in northeastern Japan are taking the rest of the country by storm.
Visitors from various parts of the country, including young people, come to the town of Ugo, Akita Prefecture, to buy bottles of ''shochu'' distilled spirits, the Akita Komachi brand of rice, strawberries or curries containing local beef.
CLICK for more photos Popular illustrator Aoi Nishimata 西又葵 helped increase the number of visitors with her sketches of pretty girls for specialty rice Akita Komachi あきたこまち (the belle of Akita) and shochu named ''Hanayome Dochu'' (A bride's journey). Shochu is an alcoholic beverage made usually from rice, barley, corn or sweet potatoes depending on where it is distilled.
She visited Ugo, where up to 2 meters of snow can fall in winter, for the first time in June last year to serve as a special judge at a contest for drawings of pretty girls -- the kind of illustrations well-received by computer geeks and animation freaks in such popular places as Tokyo's Akihabara district.
. . . CLICK here for Photos : 夢あきた ! Watermelon, dream of Akita

The landscape of the inland farm community with a population of 18,000 caught the eye of the illustrator, who said, ''I come from Tokyo and I haven't seen such beautiful scenery.''
Takanori Yamauchi, a native of Ugo who is an employee of a Tokyo publishing company, mapped out the plan for the contest, which provided the town with a chance to trigger a boom in the sale of rice and shochu featuring Nishimata's drawings.
Japan Agricultural Cooperative Ugo put Akita Komachi on the market last fall and sold almost 40 tons in three months, about three times the amount purchased during the normal period. Shochu also sold like hotcakes and packages of strawberries, and beef in curries carrying sketches of pretty girls also made their debut.
. . . CLICK here for Photos :羽後牛カレー ! Curry with beef from Ugo
A JA official in charge of selling the rice said, ''I didn't think young people would be receptive to rice.''
''My image of freaks was that they were gloomy,'' he said. ''But when I met them they were very kind and cheerful.''
In preparing for the contest, Yamauchi asked budding illustrators to sketch a private house, shrine, traditional summer ''bon'' festival dance in the town and a winter event called ''Nana Magari'' (Seven Curves) in which a woman in a bridal dress makes a 12-kilometer journey on a sleigh drawn by horse to cross over a mountain pass.
Akira Sasaki thought some of the drawings could be utilized for the town's revitalization. The illustrations sketched by Nishimata were chosen for Akita Komachi rice and shochu.
. . . CLICK here for more Photos !
Sasaki, a former local bank manager, and Yamauchi called on JA and liquor stores to adopt the sketches to promote the sale of the local products.
Yamauchi has mixed feelings about the boom created by the illustrations.
''I wanted to convey the lure of the town through the illustrations I like but the mass media only emphasize the 'charming' parts of the sketches,'' he said.
JAの美少女パッケージ / 美少女イラスト
Nevertheless, he remains unchanged in his desire to see the northeastern Japan town regain vigor. He meets with young people in and out of town in order to work out a scheme to find new regional charms.
Town Mayor Naoyuki Ohe said youth groups and residents have been active in organizing events for a long time.
Liquor store owner Hirosuke Sugawara,
who successfully led Akita Komachi to a big hit in sales, was the chairman of the executive committee when the bridal journey event first took place in 1986.
Sugawara, 58, returned home from Tokyo at the age of 26 and restored the event that unfolded the old wedding scene. He recalled, ''I found out what I really wanted to do.''
When he is in town, Yamauchi uses the cram school run by Hisao Abe as the base of his activities. Abe, 60, was a member of the Ugo town youths who took tractors to Tokyo's fashionable Harajuku district in 1988 in a bid to look for brides for single men in their community in Akita.
Yamauchi calls Abe his mentor and the two are working on a campaign to preserve thatched-roof houses in the town.
source : home.kyodo.co.jp

Dishes from Akita

Related words

JANUARY ... ichigatsu 一月

FEBRUARY ... nigatsu 二月

MARCH ... sangatsu 三月

APRIL ... shigatsu 四月

MAY ... gogatsu 五月

JUNE ... rokugatsu 六月

JULY ... shichigatsu 七月

AUGUST ... hachigatsu 八月

SEPTEMBER ... kugatsu 九月

NOVEMBER ... juuichigatsu 十一月  

DECEMBER ... juunigatsu 十二月  





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