Osaka Prefecture's Sakai "signed" a sister city agreement earlier this month with The Shire, a fictional village inhabited by hobbits in the "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy and its prequel, "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey."
The films were directed by Peter Jackson and produced by Weta Digital Ltd., a digital visual effects company based in Wellington. The imaginary friendship stems from the fact that Sakai and the New Zealand capital have been sister cities since 1994.
Sakai officials approached distributor Warner Bros. with the proposal.
"Wellington (offcials) said it was an interesting idea," Sakai Mayor Osami Takeyama said at a Nov. 13 new conference. "They also told me we should plan future projects together."
The Wellington city government will also mention Takeyama's comments at the world premiere of "The Hobbit" in the capital on Nov. 28.
“I understand that Sakai played an important role as one of the key ports in Japan back in the 16th century," Jackson said in a statement read at the news conference. "They developed many traditional items that were introduced later, not only to other parts of Japan, but also to the world.
“I think it is an exciting opportunity for The Shire from the film to tie in with a place of such rich history, and hope the people of Sakai can relate to the world of the hobbits."
To celebrate the imaginary sister city agreement, a special exhibition, "The Hobbit," will be held Dec. 8-20 at the city hall and at the city's traditional crafts museum. Photo panels of the film and the characters will be on display.
"The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" will open in Japanese theaters on Dec. 8.
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