The Sankei Shimbun, JAPAN Forward

Tottori town turns around its economy and grows by diving into pop culture figurines and becoming a sacred place among Hinabita devotees as a model for the fictitious town of Kuronagawa.

There is a city in Tottori Prefecture with 1,000 palm-sized Nendoroid figures displayed in a classroom of a 1960’s-era circular-shaped former school building.

Traditionally, Kurayoshi City, 665 km from Tokyo, has been known for its “retro” white-walled storehouses. But now it is becoming famous for its “cool” pop culture.

Nendoroids are a brand of plastic figurines created in 2006 by the Good Smile Company. Nicknamed Gusuma, the Tokyo-headquartered company’s figurines are based on animé and video game characters and usually depicted with a large head and smaller body, giving them an appearance that endears them to fans who collect them.

The local government is planning an exhibition of contrasting pop culture characters in a bid to promote the fusion of its “retro” and “cool” images and attract younger tourists to the city, which takes its name from the traditional white-walled kura warehouses. If the effort takes off, then an association of private companies are also likely to join in creating a “town of figurines,” further establishing the small city of Kurayoshi, population less than 50,000, as a pop culture haven.

A few of the 1,000 Nendroids in the Kurayoshi museum. | © The Sankei Shimbun / © JAPAN Forward

‘1,000 Nendoroids Are Coming’

“I was struck by the power of content,” said Kazutomo Inage, a spokesperson for the city’s Commerce, Industry and Tourism Division. “Some 25,000 people came to Kurayoshi from all over Japan in a month,” he added, recalling the “Figurine Expo in Kurayoshi” held in 2015. On that occasion, 500 Nendoroids were exhibited.

This time — six years later — the number of figurines has been doubled for the “1,000 Nendoroids Are Coming” show, which has also been taken to international cities like Shanghai, Los Angeles, Taipei (Taiwan), Tokyo, and finally Kurayoshi.

Fairs are usually held in big cities which draws more crowds. However, Kurayoshi has been included in this one, thanks to the Good Smile Company which has maintained connections with the town since it was invited to Kurayoshi’s annual event in 2014.

By - grape Japan editorial staff.