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Demon statue cards promote shrines, food, souvenirs in north Japan cities

This photo provided by the Aomori Prefectural Government's Chunan regional administration bureau shows "Kotsugaru's Oniko" demon sculpture cards.

AOMORI -- The Aomori Prefectural Government's Chunan regional administration bureau has created cards introducing various demon statues adorning traditional torii gates at Shinto shrines in the cities of Hirosaki and Hirakawa in its jurisdiction.

    The "Kotsugaru's Oniko" cards have been distributed to those who ask for them at eateries and souvenir shops in the two cities and the prefectural towns of Itayanagi, Tsuruta and Owani since Nov. 17.

    The project aims to revitalize local tourism in winter and offer a chance for people to rediscover the charms of the region. An official of the bureau said, "We hope many people will be inspired to visit the Chunan region by collecting these cards."

    In the bureau's jurisdiction, there are nine torii gates in Hirosaki and Hirakawa with demon statues decorating them. Each card shows a photo of a sculpture and its myths, and a QR code for a website with a map of souvenir shops and eateries near the shrine.

    For the past three years, the bureau has been working with tourism associations and other organizations in various places to promote areas including the five cities and towns they began calling "Kotsugaru." Some tourists apparently visited such shrines after hearing about the myths of demons, and their numbers have reportedly increased recently thanks in part to the popular Japanese manga and anime series "Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba."

    The bureau came up with the idea of handing out the cards so that people who come to visit the shrines can also enjoy local food and souvenirs.

    The bureau official explained, "Especially in these times when it is difficult to travel far due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, we would like people including children to visit nearby areas and realize their charms."

    Visitors can ask for the demon statue cards at 25 facilities listed on the bureau's official website at: https://www.pref.aomori.lg.jp/soshiki/kenmin/ch-renkei/onikocard.html (in Japanese).

    (Japanese original by Yushi Ezawa, Aomori Bureau)

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