In an era where media consumption shapes perceptions and influences decisions, the quaint Malaysian beach town of Kuantan stands as a prime example of this transformative power.
The catalyst for this change? A popular anime series, “Jujutsu Kaisen,” and its poignant portrayal of a character’s dream.
The story begins with “Jujutsu Kaisen,” a series that has captured the hearts of viewers worldwide. In an emotionally charged episode, Kento Nanami, a revered character, expresses his wish to retire in Kuantan. This single mention catapulted Kuantan from obscurity to a sought-after destination among anime fans, with the beach soon marked as the “Kento Nanami Memorial Shrine” on Google Maps.
The ‘Nanami effect’
This phenomenon, dubbed the “Nanami effect,” extends far beyond the realms of fandom. Recognizing the opportunity, the Malaysian government announced plans to establish an official memorial for Nanami. This decision, as reported by the New Straits Times, not only honors the character but also leverages popular culture to boost tourism significantly.
“Recently, a beach in Kuantan was mentioned in the popular Japanese anime series, ‘Jujutsu Kaisen.’ Kuantan became trending and popular among anime enthusiasts... the state government will take the opportunity to promote the beach,” State Unity, Tourism and Culture Committee chairman Leong Yu Man shared.
The Malaysian government’s potential construction of an official memorial could catalyze the biggest tourism surge Kuantan has seen in years.
The unexpected but meteoric rise of Kuantan as a burgeoning tourist hotspot offers a fascinating case study for other high-tourist areas, notably here in Cebu. The series’ touching tribute to a character’s dream of retiring in Kuantan has transformed the city into a pilgrimage site for fans, spotlighting the potent influence of pop culture in driving tourism.
For destinations like Cebu, known for its natural beauty and cultural richness, Kuantan’s story presents a blueprint for leveraging pop culture for tourism.
Here are some strategic approaches that Cebu can explore:
Identify and capitalize on pop culture references: Cebu could scan for any mentions or features in popular media — movies, TV shows, books or even social media influencers. These references can be transformed into tours, events or themed attractions.
A prime example is Mactan, Cebu, which has already made its mark in popular culture. It was referenced in Marvel Comics involving Pearl Pangan, a.k.a. Wave, a Filipino superhero. This connection opens up opportunities for Cebu to develop themed attractions or events celebrating this superhero, potentially attracting Marvel fans and comic enthusiasts.
Leveraging such references can create a more engaging and unique tourist experience, connecting the fantasy world of comics with the real-world charm of Cebu.
Collaborate with creators and fans: Engaging with content creators, like how the Malaysian government reached out to the creator of “Jujutsu Kaisen,” can lead to exclusive collaborations. Engaging with fan communities for insights can also lead to authentic and appealing tourist experiences.
Create immersive experiences: Beyond just visiting the site, tourists seek experiences. Cebu could offer themed activities, exhibitions or interactive installations that bring a piece of fiction to life.
The “Jujutsu Kaisen” phenomenon in Kuantan exemplifies a new era of tourism where narratives and emotional connections play a pivotal role. For Cebu, embracing this trend could mean not only increased tourist numbers but also deeper, more meaningful engagements with visitors. The key lies in recognizing and thoughtfully leveraging these pop culture moments to create unforgettable experiences.