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Japanese city's promotion video featuring giant sea monster viewed over 350 million times

This screenshot taken from a tourism promotion video shows the giant monster Kaisendon appearing in the Kanmon Straits. (Provided by YouTube channel Kitakyushu-shi Kanko Joho Gururicchi)

FUKUOKA -- A tourism promotion video for the Kanmon Straits between the southwest Japan city of Kitakyushu and the Yamaguchi Prefecture city of Shimonoseki co-produced by the two municipal governments may be the most watched video of its kind, with over 350 million accumulated views.

    The unique video "COME ON! Kanmon! Kaikyo Kaiju," featuring the "kaiju" (giant monster) Kaisendon, who is based on the local specialties blowfish, heikegani crab and octopus, was uploaded to YouTube in March 2017. The monster, which suddenly appeared in the Kanmon Straits, throws the tourist-filled Mojiko Retro district in Kitakyushu's Moji Ward and the Karato Market in Shimonoseki into panic.

    Kaisendon growls and approaches people trying to run away, and the rest can be seen at: The message, "The flow is fast. Everything is amazing. COME ON! Kanmon!" appears at the end of the 2-minute, 37-second video.

    Kenji Hibitani is seen at Kitakyushu City Hall on Sept. 9, 2021. (Mainichi/Shotaro Asano)

    Despite the video's success, one city executive was initially confused by the idea. "Kitakyushu hardly appears in it. Does this really promote (the area)?" they said. But 54-year-old city official Kenji Hibitani, who was involved in the video production, recalled that "that was what we aimed for."

    At the time of production, local governments in Japan were eager to attract inbound foreign tourists. The Kanmon Straits isn't as well known among foreigners as Kyoto or Hokkaido, so it was "important to get people to remember it in the first place," said Hibitani of the video production plan.

    The dialogue in the video is in English to facilitate inbound tourism, and versions with Japanese, Chinese, South Korean and Thai subtitles were released at the same time. It became a huge hit, and there were many views from overseas.

    Hibitani was able to make good use of his experience at the Kitakyushu Film Commission, in which he served as the secretary general, in the making of the video. Local extras performed brilliantly thanks to various large-scale film-making that has taken place in the area. Hibitani proudly explained, "I think the quality is good enough to make people say, 'As expected from Kitakyushu, a city famous for films.'"

    But just as the video attracted attention, and those involved could feel good things were happening from it, the coronavirus pandemic hit. Yet that's not stopping Hibitani's passion. Looking ahead to the end of the pandemic, Hibitani said, "One day I want to make a video of a kaiju flying over Kitakyushu."

    (Japanese original by Shotaro Asano, Kyushu News Department)

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