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Attention 'aliens'! Hotels in Japan's Oita Prefecture offering deals to 'space guests'

Mikuma Hotel manager Setsuko Isayama gives an alien mascot a welcoming hug in Hita, Oita Prefecture, on Dec. 16, 2021. (Maianichi/Fumito Tsushima)

HITA, Oita -- Forty-five accommodation facilities in the southwest Japan prefecture of Oita are offering special benefits to guests who tell participating hotels that they are "aliens" from outer space until February 2022 as part of a campaign to promote tourism.

    The Oita Prefectural Government has started the campaign themed on space to promote the region to people in and outside the prefecture because it plans to make Oita Airport a "space port" hub to launch horizontal-takeoff rockets in cooperation with a U.S. company.

    During a promotional event revealed to the media on Dec. 16, a sign that reads "Welcome Aliens" was placed at the entrance of Mikuma Hotel in the Oita Prefecture city of Hita. An alien mascot with large, long eyes and an egg-shaped head appeared at the hotel, and walked fast toward the restroom. After making sure the pictogram beside the door indicated the toilet is for male aliens, he entered with a relieved look. In the setting, the alien supposedly stopped by Oita Prefecture while touring around the stars.

    An alien mascot enters a restroom after checking the pictogram beside it indicates a male alien at Mikuma Hotel in Hita, Oita Prefecture, on Dec. 16, 2021. (Mainichi/Fumito Tsushima)

    The promotion poster ads come in two languages: one in Japanese and the other in the language of aliens.

    As of Dec. 16., a total of 45 hotels and Japanese "ryokan" inns in the prefecture were taking part in the new program. They are offering benefits to guests who declare themselves "aliens" until February. Such guests can receive snacks, sparkling water and "space drinks" when staying at the accommodation facilities, some of which are even offering discounted lodging fees.

    The public affairs division of the Oita Prefectural Government, which publicizes it as an "onsen" hot spring prefecture, has also released videos of alien sightings, including one at a bathing facility. The videos can be seen at the division's website at: https://uchunooita.pref.oita.jp/ (in Japanese).

    A sign that reads "Welcome Aliens," center, is seen at Mikuma Hotel in Hita, Oita Prefecture, on Dec. 16, 2021. (Mainichi/Fumito Tsushima)

    Mikuma Hotel's manager Setsuko Isayama, 71, welcomed the alien mascot with a hug, and she said with a smile, "I'm thinking hard how to entertain the alien."

    The Oita Prefectural Government signed a partnership agreement with U.S firm Virgin Orbit LLC in April 2020. The company aims to establish the infrastructure to horizontally launch rockets loaded with small artificial satellites midair from large aircraft and to start such flights from Oita Airport in 2022 or later.

    Promotion ad posters in the language of aliens, center, and Japanese are seen at Mikuma Hotel in Hita, Oita Prefecture, on Dec. 16, 2021. (Mainichi/Fumito Tsushima)

    The prefectural government said that the campaign aims to revitalize accommodation facilities hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic and torrential rain disasters in recent years, as well as to promote the space project in the prefecture.

    (Japanese original by Fumito Tsushima, Oita Bureau)

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