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'One Piece' statue in SW Japan boosted local economy by $24 mil.: research

The statue of "One Piece" protagonist Luffy is seen outside the Kumamoto Prefectural Government office in Kumamoto's Chuo Ward on Aug. 27, 2020. (Mainichi/Kohei Shimizu)

KUMAMOTO -- A statue of the main character from the popular anime and manga series "One Piece" in front of the Kumamoto Prefectural Government office has created an annual 2.6-billion-yen (roughly $24 million) boon for the local economy, student researchers at a nearby university and others announced on Aug. 27.

    One Piece creator Eiichiro Oda, who hails from the prefectural capital of Kumamoto, has provided a variety of support to help the southwest Japan prefecture recover from the 2016 Kumamoto Earthquake. In an act of appreciation, the prefectural government used 13 million yen (approx. $121,567) to install the statue of Luffy in November 2018.

    Statues of eight other characters from the One Piece series are set to be put up in various locations across Kumamoto Prefecture. Of these, statues of Sanji and Usopp have already been unveiled in the town of Mashiki and the city of Aso, respectively.

    People take a photo with the statue of "One Piece" protagonist Luffy installed outside the Kumamoto Prefectural Government office in Kumamoto's Chuo Ward on Nov. 30, 2019. Students of Shokei University found that many tourists visited the statue at a time when nearby ginkgo trees are illuminated. (Mainichi/Kohei Shimizu)

    Sixty-six individuals including students at Shokei University's Faculty of Contemporary Culture conducted research in four phases between October 2019 and January 2020, including surveys of tourists who visited the Luffy statue. They asked visitors about their consumption behavior during their visit, such as what they ate and where they were staying.

    The research group estimated that the statue gets 55,211 tourist visits a year, and adds around 2.67 billion yen to the local economy. It also became known that a certain number of people start off by visiting the statue and then travel to other sightseeing spots in the prefecture, such as Kumamoto Castle, and that 8% of visitors to the statue were from overseas.

    Kumamoto Gov. Ikuo Kabashima, who was notified of the survey results, said, "As the prefecture suffers from the coronavirus and the torrential rain that struck the Kyushu region, it gives courage to the municipalities that will install statues of (Luffy's) crew."

    A survey report is handed over to Kumamoto Gov. Ikuo Kabashima, third from left, by Shokei University students at the Kumamoto Prefectural Government office in Kumamoto's Chuo Ward, on Aug. 27, 2020. The prefecture's official bear mascot Kumamon, right, is seen cosplaying as "One Piece" series protagonist Luffy. (Mainichi/Kohei Shimizu)

    Maki Iwata, 22, a third-year student who participated in the research, commented, "It surprised me that Luffy's statue alone creates an economic effect of about 2.6 billion yen." Ruka Kajiwara, 21, another third-year student, explained, "I think that when the remaining six statues are erected, they will create an even greater economic effect."

    (Japanese original by Kohei Shimizu, Kumamoto Bureau)

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