Akita Prefecture’s former town Higashiyuri-machi was incorporated into the city of Yurihonjo in early 2005. Higashiyuri-machi’s estimated population at the time was approximately 4,500 people, a figure which probably isn’t any higher today due to declining birthrates and the migration of younger people to urban centers.
Like many other rural towns in Japan, the aging population is now facing a dire problem regarding the future of the region’s agricultural industry. Therefore, the townspeople needed a new idea to draw people to a land filled not with the latest technological innovations, but with breathtaking natural scenery and an abundance of locally cultivated crops.
After throwing some ideas around, the people decided to try a new plan of attack. What better way to entice young people than with the prospect of a moe mascot character to call their very own?
And so was born Sui Kizakura, the adorable blue-haired, flower staff-wielding mascot of Higashiyuri-machi that you see gracing the top of this post. The character’s first name, Sui, is derived from an alternate reading of the kanji 水 [“water”], as her back story reveals that she was given special powers by a water goddess to protect the local environment and to help aging farmers with their work. Her last name, Kizakura, is composed of two characters which mean “yellow cherry blossom,” and actually refers to a cultivated variety of pale yellow cherry blossom (hence the yellow flowers incorporated into her design). Also known as "ukonzakura," this variety’s name derives from the yellow color of textiles dyed using the "ukon" (turmeric) plant. Supposedly, in the local Akita language of flowers, Kizakura’s meaning can also be interpreted as “infinite grace.”
Sui Kizakura’s profile states that the 16-year-old is 158 centimeters tall and likes the Akita Komachi variety of rice, soft serve ice cream, and cats. She’s truly a girl after our own hearts.
Sui’s illustrator, Mina Tojo, stated in a recent tweet that the town is engaging in crowdfunding in order to produce Sui Kizakura merchandise (and even a music video) with all proceeds going to benefit local Higashiyuri-machi industries and revitalize the area. As of this writing, 69% of the targeted 1.2 million yen has already been raised.
Regarding the planned music video, Akita-born rapper Rakan will be composing Sui’s theme song, with voice actress Yukiko Aiba providing a recurring chorus in Sui’s voice. Furthermore, the music video will be filmed entirely on location in the Higashiyuri-machi area. Lastly, Tojo will even cosplay as Sui in the video if the crowdfunding goal is reached.
It might seem like an unusual choice to enlist a rapper for the creation of a moe mascot character’s theme song, but we can see Rakan’s unwavering dedication to his home prefecture and home city of Yurihonjo in the following message and video clip he posted over social media:
“I’m neither a star nor famous. I don’t work for a big company, and I don’t have a family. Even as my savings dwindle, I continue to make music. Some people may laugh. But to me, having my music sought out for the sake of Akita Prefecture, where I was born and raised, is the greatest happiness. I’m glad I’ve continued to rap. I’ll make sure that the town revitalization project is a success. Never give up.”
Rakan ends the introduction by saying, “I really want to make a song.”
In addition to her official homepage, you can follow the latest news concerning Sui Kizakura on both Twitter and Facebook. If all goes well, hopefully we’ll be sharing her new music video here in a matter of months!
Source: ITmedia Inc.
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