Japan Railway Reinvents Image With Anime - Designed Trains, Sumo Goods

Japan railway reinvents image with anime-designed trains, sumo goodsHoping to attract more visitors to Noto Peninsula on the Sea of Japan coast, a local railway has been reinventing its image by decorating its trains with pictures of Japanese animation heroines and selling goods related to a popular local sumo wrestler.

Since railway operator Noto Tetsudo in 2012 introduced trains with pictures of female characters in popular Japanese animation series "Hanasaku iroha," fans have flocked to the countryside station in Ishikawa Prefecture to take photos of the train.

The animation, set in Ishikawa, tells the story of a 16-year-old high school girl who starts to live in and work at an "onsen" hot spring inn operated by her grandmother.

Yunosagi Station in the series was modeled after Nishigishi Station on the Noto Tetsudo line after the animation production staff fell in love with the station's Showa era (1926-1989) charm.

Kazuyuki Hachisuka, a director of the railway operator, was initially doubtful that the trains would become popular but he was eventually proven wrong.

Visitors to the station have increased since the anime was aired on TV in spring 2011. When the operator decided to put up a signboard for "Yunosagi Station" there, more than 300 people came on the first day.

Taking its cue from the popularity of the "Hanasaku iroha" train, the railway operator will introduce from Friday new trains with illustrations from two more TV anime series -- "Glasslip," whose story is set in Fukui Prefecture, and "True Tears," set in Toyama Prefecture, both neighboring Ishikawa Prefecture.

Noto Tetsudo has also tapped into the crowd-drawing appeal of popular sumo wrestler Endo, who hails from Ishikawa's Anamizu town. Anamizu Station, the last stop on the Noto Tetsudo line, began this month selling goods related to Endo such as a teacup with his portrait.