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Four prefectures in Japan team up with Pokémon GO developer Niantic to speed up their recovery.

A press conference on August 10th in Tokyo revealed a surprising collaboration between the developer of the hit game and four areas of Japan badly damaged by earthquakes in recent years.

As part of a unique initiative to boost tourism and encourage the recovery of economies badly hit by a series of natural calamities, officials from Kumamoto, Miyagi, Iwate, and Fukushima Prefectures teamed up with Niantic to harness the power of something nearly as great as nature itself: Pokémon! The officials hope to use the game to attract visitors to areas struggling with lower numbers of tourists recently.

▼ Kumamoto mascot Kumamon looms idly behind the president of Niantic Japan.

In a 45 minute news conference, the government officials, awkwardly flanked by yuru-kyara (cute mascots) representing their prefectures, outlined how Niantic will help support tourism by increasing the number of item-dispensing PokeStops and gyms. Other aspects of the plan include exclusive game-related events designed to attract players of the game, many of whom are younger people, to visit those regions.

While many people in Japan have already contributed generously to the recovery process in these four prefectures, tourists have been somewhat reluctant to visit areas still grappling with the lingering consequences of the natural disasters that struck them. As a result, many residents of the afflicted prefectures who depend on tourism for their livelihoods continue to struggle, months and years after the initial damage of the earthquake was wrought.

Kumamoto Prefecture was hit with a massive earthquake earlier this year that inflicted widespread damage, including building collapses and landslides. Fukushima, Iwate, and Miyagi are all still on the slow path to recovery after enduring widspread damage five years ago in the devastatingly powerful March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

During the conference, Miyagi Governor Yoshihiro Murai said that he “especially wants [tourists] to come to coastal areas” badly damaged by the disaster, describing efforts to improve transportation to these areas and offer easy access for intrepid Pokémon GO players.

Other participants struck a positive note about the potential for future tourism as a result of this strategy in their presentations. Throughout the press event, each of the representatives repeatedly implored people to visit, and expressed hope that the game’s well-documented power to bring people out into the world would give them the chance to learn what these regions have to offer.

Top image: Pokémon GO Official Website