Okami Cards hope to encourage people to put Ibaraki Prefecture on their itinerary.

It’s not unusual for Japanese restaurants and snack makers to drum up a little extra interest in their wares by including some sort of appealing collectibles with your food. For example, you can get Final Fantasy stickers at KFC, or Pokémon trinkets at cafe chain Pronto.

Likewise, as of the start of this month Frito Lay Japan is including collectible cards in specially marked bags of its Mike brand popcorn. The cards don’t feature drawings of anime or video game characters, though, but pictures of women. These aren’t swimsuit model or idol singer cards, though, but okami cards.

Okami is a Japanese word that refers to a female hotel proprietor, especially one who runs a ryokan, or traditional Japanese-style inn. Each of the cards has a picture of an okami managing an inn in Ibaraki Prefecture on its front, and on the back a photo of the inn, its address and phone number, and info about a local sightseeing attracton.

▼ The cards also have self-evaluated “stats” for the okami in areas such as linguistic skills, physical strength, and customer service.

As you might have guessed, the Okami Cards are the brainchild of Ibaraki’s tourism organizations including the Ibaraki Okami Association. Many Japanese travelers consider the elegant, personal hospitality provided by okami, who traditionally greet their guests upon check-in and see them off at the front gate when their stay is over, to be a big part of the appeal of staying at a locally run inn or hotel rather than a faceless hotel chain, and the cards are meant as food for thought as you munch on the Mike popcorn (which is butter and soy sauce-flavored, by the way), with the intent to convince you that Ibaraki is a place worth spending the night in on your next trip.

▼ Okami Card preview video

A total of 27 okami are part of the promotion, but there are actually 28 cards in the set. The 28th card, which is rarer than the others, has a group photo of all 27 okami, and you’re especially lucky if you find one, because the rare card is also a coupon, good for 1,000 yen (US$6.70) off your next stay at one of the 27 featured inns.

This is actually the second year for the Okami Cards, following a positive response for the debut set in 2022. Somewhat contradictorily, though, you’ll have to make the decision to go to Ibaraki before you can get the cards, since the Okami Card-inclusive Mike packs, which sell for 200 yen (US$1.45) are only being sold inside Ibaraki Prefecture. They can be purchased at branches of New Days, the convenience store chain operated by Japan Railway and attached to JR stations, as well as at select souvenir shops and the participating inns.

Okami Card popcorn went on sale October 1 and will be available until December 31, so you’ll be able to grab a bag if you’re headed to Ibaraki to see it’s surreally beautiful crimson kochia this fall.

Source: PR Times, Tokyo Shimbun
Top image: YouTube/茨城県いばらき観光キャンペーン推進協議会
Insert images: Ibaraki Destination Campaign, PR Times, YouTube/茨城県いばらき観光キャンペーン推進協議会, Ibaraki Okami no Kai
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