OSAKA--The Osaka Convention and Tourism Bureau (OCTB) is hoping to use the lure of "screen tourism" to draw Indian tourists into Japan's second largest city and its surrounding areas.
As India is one of the world’s leading film producers, the silver screen has a major influence over the country's enormous population.
The popularity of Spain among Indian tourists skyrocketed after the 2011 release of the Indian film "Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara" ("You Don't Live Twice"), which was partly shot there. The number of Indian tourists to Spain reportedly increased twofold in the following year.
Hoping to mimic that success, the OCTB is wooing the Indian film industry in the hopes that audiences will be inspired to visit real-life locations featured in Indian cinema and TV.
According to a survey conducted by the Japan National Tourism Organization, about 19,000 people visited Japan from India in 2012. The figure lags far behind the top three, with 1.569 million visitors coming from South Korea, 1.329 million from Taiwan and 829,000 from mainland China.
The OCTB, which was established by the Osaka prefectural and city governments, as well as local economic organizations, aims to increase the number of foreign tourists to Osaka from 1.58 million in 2011 to 6.5 million by 2020. With a population of 1.2 billion, India is seen as key to achieving that target.
According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, India produced 1,255 films in 2011, making more films than the United States, which produced 819 movies, excluding documentaries, in the same year.
Mumbai, one of India's major film production hubs, is informally referred to as Bollywood, taking its name after Hollywood.
Members of the Osaka Film Council, which is affiliated with the OCTB and supports location shootings in Osaka, visited film production sites in Mumbai in February 2013 to promote the Tombori Riverwalk promenade in the Dotonbori area and other tourist destinations.
In mid-August, the council succeeded in luring an Indian film production for the first time and welcomed a 23-member film crew from the southern Indian city of Chennai. The film council helped them prepare film shoots at various sites, including the Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan in Minato Ward and the Nakanoshima business district in Kita Ward, and apply for shooting permission.
In November, a 30-member film crew from India used Osaka Castle Koen park in the city's Chuo Ward as the setting for a film scene. They were shooting a movie about a young Indian man who works in Japan and goes on to become the prime minister in his native country. The crew spent a total of 10 days in Tokyo, Osaka and Kobe.
Leading actor Jackky Bhagnani, 29, said he loved Osaka's vibe of historical structures standing among high-rise buildings and the cleanliness of the city.
"We'd like to continue to support shoots and promote Osaka," an OCTB senior official said.
An increasing number of local governments across Japan are making efforts to lure film and TV productions from outside Japan.
Last April, the Toyama prefectural government succeeded in luring an Indian film production to be shot in the prefecture, which stemmed from a conversation between Governor Takakazu Ishii and the Indian ambassador to Japan. The ambassador told the governor that Indians are motivated mostly by movies when they travel and shop.
An Indian film crew shot dance sequences in the Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine Route and other locations, officials said.
The Wakayama prefectural government also signed a memorandum last October with the state government of Maharashtra, whose capital city is Mumbai, on tourism and economic partnerships.
"We heard that there are many people in India who travel to visit film location sites. From now on, we want to make efforts to lure productions of Bollywood films," an official at the culture and international affairs division said.
Screen tourism became widely recognized in Japan after the number of overnight guests from China and South Korea drastically increased in Hokkaido, where the Chinese romantic-comedy "If You Are the One" was shot, and Akita Prefecture, which served as the backdrop of the South Korean spy TV drama series "Iris."
The Japan Tourism Agency set up a liaison office in fiscal 2012 with local governments and companies to share information on efforts to lure film and TV productions.
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