Recently many “gotouchi idol” groups have formed to play an active role in promoting various regions of Japan. Gotouchi is a Japanese term used by tourists to respectfully refer to a local area. Gotouchi idols are based in a particular area so their area of activity is limited, but this new type of advertising is becoming popular as a way to promote sightseeing destinations and regional produce.
Because they liven up the local area, many gotouchi idols are supported by their local governments and local shopping streets. The activities of some idol groups have even had a hugely positive effect on local economies. For example, one of the first gotouchi idol groups, the Nagoya Omotenashi Busho-Tai (Nagoya Hospitality Lords), is thought to have generated 2.7 billion yen for the city of Nagoya.
The Nagoya Omotenashi Busho-Tai, established in 2009 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Nagoya, is a mixed gender group of ten members. Dressed in the armor typically worn during the warring states period, they mainly work as guides to Nagoya’s castle grounds. They became popular with women interested in Japanese history, and in 2010 increased the annual number of visitors to the Castle by 270 thousand people compared to the previous year. Now various goods including a book dedicated to the unit are on sale.
Nagoya Omotenashi Busho-Tai performs weekends and on national holidays in Nagoya Castle grounds. A member who plays the part of feudal lord TOYOTOMI Hideyoshi says with some satisfaction, “I am happy that some people refer to me as ‘Hideyoshi!’ even outside Nagoya Castle grounds.” Another member who plays the feudal lord MAEDA Keiji says, “We struggle with language the most because the samurai language is sometimes difficult even for Japanese, much less non-Japanese people. Also, the Nagoyan dialect is very unique, so it is hard for people outside of Nagoya to understand.”
Many people say “AKB 48” is the most popular Japanese idol group of today. While they are based in Tokyo and perform all over Japan, the job of the gotouchi idols is to promote their local regions from their own area to the nation. These gotouchi idols, with their mission of promoting their local area and of energizing their respective regions, are sure to increase in number in the near future.
Text: ITO Koichi