Just over a year after the Great East Japan earthquake and tsunami devastated the Tohoku region, on 18th March 2012, the Destination Tohoku campaign set out to bring tourists back to the region. It runs until March 2013. The aim isn’t only to boost the region’s economy, but to show the rest of Japan and the world that Tohoku has so much more to offer than memories of that tragic day.
Manga artist Tetsuya Chiba, creator of Tomorrow’s Joe (Ashita no Joe), has thrown his weight behind the campaign with a superb cover for the free Visit Tohoku guidebook. If you can’t get to Japan to pick up your copy, you can download it in PDF form here. Chiba also created the cover for the Tohoku Passport, which can be stamped in each zone you visit to earn prizes. (It’s available for smartphone, but obviously without that satisfying thump as the rubber stamp hits paper.)
Chiba, who recently succeeded 93-year-old Takashi Anpanman Yanase as head of the Japan Cartoonists’ Association, was the logical choice to publicise this campaign. For over half a century his work has championed and celebrated the heroic qualities of ordinary people. This commitment is celebrated in an exhibition at Kobe’s Otemae University Art Center from 6-21 October. Admission is free, and the opening day has a one day symposium devoted to the heroism of the ordinary. Kazuhiko Kato, better known as Lupin III creator Monkey Punch, is the guest speaker, while the keynote speech comes from Yorkshire’s own Dr. Darren Jon Ashmore of Akita International University.
Kobe, of course, is no stranger to disaster and survival. In January 1995 the city and region were devastated by the Great Hanshin Earthquake. Manga and tourism were part of its strategy for recovery, but it also relies on the courage and persistence of its citizens. It’s an appropriate place to celebrate the work of a man with insight into the reality of everyday heroes.