A total of 50,000 bicycles bearing images of Kumamoto's black bear mascot Kumamon will be available for a month in a bike-sharing service in China to promote the quake-hit prefecture in southwestern Japan.
The plan was unveiled Thursday by the Kumamoto prefectural government and Cyber Sourcing, a company that partners with the local government in selling Kumamon merchandise in China, ahead of the scheduled launch on Tuesday of the Kumamon bikes by the "ofo" bike-sharing service.
Steve Chang, president of Kumamoto-based Cyber Sourcing, visited Kumamoto Gov. Ikuo Kabashima at the prefectural government building and promised to help raise the profile of the prefecture in China by benefiting from the popularity of Kumamon. He said the character is popular in China but Kumamoto Prefecture remains less known in the country.
By teaming up with the ofo service, which offers more than 10 million shared bikes in Beijing, Shanghai and other locations, Kumamoto hopes bikes bearing the red-cheeked black bear character's image will be used around 100 million times during the one-month period.
The bear mascot will be also featured in a smartphone app for the sharing service during the period, while a video will be available on the internet showing Kumamon touring several sightseeing spots in Kumamoto by bicycle, including Kumamoto Castle and the Kurokawa hot spring area.
Kumamoto was hit hard by a series of huge earthquakes in April 2016, which claimed the lives of 50 people and destroyed thousands of houses. As of Nov. 30, more than 40,000 people were still living in temporary housing.