SAPPORO -- Hokkaido's Tokachigawa Onsen hot spring is hoping tickling tourists' funny bones will tempt them back in the wake of an earthquake and blanket blackout that hit Japan's northernmost prefecture on Sept. 6.
The laugh campaign was launched in the town of Otofuke in central Hokkaido on Oct. 18 with the unveiling of humorous tourism posters, which began going up the same day.
Hotels at the Tokachigawa Onsen have been hit with about 10,000 reservation cancellations since the Sept. 6 temblor, which measured a full 7 on Japan's 7-point seismic intensity scale in parts of Hokkaido's southwest. The town estimates it lost more than 100 million yen (about 889,400 U.S. dollars) in tourism-related commerce in the month after the disaster.
The posters created by the Tokachigawa Onsen Tourism Association and Tokachigawa Onsen hotel cooperative association play on the hot spring community's tough times, featuring self-deprecating catch phrases and photos of hotel staff with too much time on their hands.
The catchphrases include, "We, Tokachigawa Onsen hot spring, just can't cheer up," and, "We have way too much time to work on our customer service." Others proclaim "We've begun studying English in one of our many empty rooms," and, "We're taking baths ourselves during our duties around the hotel."
The Hokkaido prefectural government has already launched a campaign titled "Welcome! Hokkaido, Japan" to restore visitor numbers after the quake and blackout. The Tokachigawa associations decided to create a poster on their own to make people giggle. The move was made after a hotel cooperative member suggested that it would be meaningless to use similar catchphrases to the prefectural tourism campaign.
(Japanese original by Motomi Kusakabe, Hokkaido News Department)