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One Piece character statues to drop anchor in Kumamoto for earthquake recovery

Local residents admire the statue of One Piece series hero Luffy outside the Kumamoto Prefectural Government office. (Mainichi/Ken Nakazato)

KUMAMOTO -- Eight statues of characters from the popular anime and manga "One Piece" will be installed in eight towns across Kumamoto Prefecture, southwest Japan, to support the area's recovery from the 2016 earthquakes, the prefectural government announced on April 17.

Municipalities like Mashiki and Minamiaso, which were badly hit by the quakes in April 2016, are set to receive a statue each. The money for them has been allocated from a Kumamoto renewal fund of 800 million yen (about 7.1 million dollars) donated by Eiichiro Oda, One Piece's creator. Oda was born and raised in the prefectural capital Kumamoto and maintains strong ties with his hometown. Four statues will installed in fiscal 2019, with a further four set for 2020.

The eight characters are all members of the Straw Hat Pirates, a group who join the series protagonist, Monkey D. Luffy, on his adventures. The statues even come with a backstory. Upon arriving on Kumamoto's shores and learning of the people's hardship after the quake, the crew members resolve to help in the recovery. Ahead of his crew's arrival, a 1.74-meter statue of Luffy was erected in front of the Kumamoto Prefectural Government office in November 2018.

Oda's philanthropic efforts haven't stopped with the recovery fund. Oda donated One Piece wrapping designs for gifts given as thanks for contributions to the town of Mashiki, where the earthquake badly damaged 60% of homes, through a government scheme to revitalize rural areas by allowing urban residents to redirect their local tax payments, as well as for a local train in Minamiaso.

Competition to receive the statues was fierce. When the prefectural canvassed municipal governments to see which areas wished to receive one of the eight statues, requests came back from 31 municipalities.

The statues, which have been designed under Oda's supervision, each cost around 10 million yen (about 89,000 dollars) to make. An event to announce which four will be unveiled this fiscal year is set for April 19.

(Japanese original by Ken Nakazato, Kyushu News Department)

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