Travel Frog game fuels travel craze for Japan
Travel Frog gamers are straining at the leash to visit Japan after seeing photos and snacks their virtual baby frog brought back from the country.
China's biggest online travel agency, Ctrip, reports a 150 percent growth in the number of searches for Japan on its website since the craze swept the mainland.
Individual travel bookings through Ctrip to Nagoya have more than doubled month-on-month. Bookings to Kyoto, Osaka and Kobe surged by 80 percent, while those to Kagoshima and Fukuoka grew by 50 percent.
The game by Japanese company Hit-Point has unexpectedly hit the sweet spot of the gaming industry in China, and is especially popular among young working adults, who want to relax while having fun.
At the moment, Travel Frog has tracked approximately 20 million downloads at the Apple Store, the company claims.
Chinese contributed to about 96 percent of all downloads.
Players get to prepare their frog for travel by purchasing food and camping supplies, and in return, the animal will come back with travel photos featuring authentic natural scenery and tourism hot spots in Japan, as well as local specialties.
The virtual frog has made its way to Kusatsu Onsen, one of Japan's three most well-known hot spring resorts, and Zenkoji Temple, which is the country's third biggest wooden structures dating back to 1,400 ago. Nagoya, rebuilt after World War II, offers magnificent buildings and rich museum collections, which appeal to potential travelers.
Other highlights include the natural monument, Oirase Mountain Stream; a top 50 lighthouse in Japan, at Kagoshima; and Amanohashidate, which boasts one of the best natural views in Kyoto.
Travel Frog now offers photos featuring 10 places in Japan, and plans to cover more sites across the country soon, according to the game developer Hit-Point.
The idea of travel on a whim, a travel philosophy shown on the frog, appeals to young people between 10 and 30. It somehow acted out this desire in the younger generation, some of whom have been buried in work, Japanese media reports.
Osaka turned out to be the most popular frog destination among Chinese travelers, followed by Tokyo, Nagoya, Hokkaido, Fukuoka, Kyoto, Aomori, Kumamoto, Kobe and Kansai, according to Ctrip.
The Chinese have been the biggest force in Japan's tourism market for three consecutive years.
Last year, Chinese mainlanders paid 7.36 million visits to Japan, up 15.4 percent over the previous year, the Japanese Kyodo News reports.
They spent 1.69 trillion yen (S$20.25 billion).
At the moment, Japan has been the second most popular outbound destination among the Chinese during the upcoming Spring Festival, right behind Thailand, according to Ctrip.