Sadly with Japan’s many recent economic woes, visitation to the remote stations of Kofuku and Aikoku has been low. So in an effort to drum up some visitors, the local communities did what anyone would do in this situation. They made some gods.
Nestled in the heart of Hokkaido lie two train stations. One was called Aikoku (Love Country) Station, its name being based on the word for “patriotic”. Down the line was Kofuku (Happiness) Station whose name was a lucky corruption of an old aboriginal name for the area.
During the 70’s there was a cute fad centered on these two rural stations, where tourists flocked to buy a train ticket which read “from Love Country bound for Happiness”. Like all fads, this one eventually petered out and the train line running between these two stations closed down in 1987. However, both stations remained as landmarks for the area. On the outside of Kofuku’s station house, visitors often post their wishes for happiness.
However, with tourism down recently the community has rallied for a new PR campaign by creating what has got to be Japan’s first ever moe station goddesses. In a nutshell, moe (pronounced mo-eh) is a style of drawing adolescent girls, sometimes used to humanize an abstract concept.
It’s kind of like the paperclip that used to talk to you on Microsoft Office that represented the software itself. If that paperclip were a 13 year-old girl with a really complicated outfit and pigtails it would be so moe it would explode.
And so we have Miyuki and Megumi; two plucky young girls out to represent Kofuku and Aikoku stations respectively. Miyuki is the strong silent type, but her quiet demeanor runs deep. Visitors to Kofuku station will find that her songs and comforting power will lead their way to happiness. She also recently started her own blog on the station’s website.
Megumi, on the other hand, is more the precocious type. Her forte is making love predictions for lucky visitors and generally spreading the love where ever she goes like a cupid. Both girls were designed by an illustrator native to Hokkaido.
It may seem odd to create deities in order to attract sightseeing revenue, but in Japan religion and tourism are strange yet very close bedfellows. Many domestic tourists in Japan go for the temples and to pray to the various gods but stay for the food, hotels, and shopping.
This is likely the first time anyone in Japan has made a defunct train station the home to a god rather than a temple or shrine. It’s also an illustration to how the word god (kami in Japanese) doesn’t have the same narrow focus as the concept does in other countries and religions.
▼Miyuki: Goddess of Kofuku Station
▼Megumi: Goddess of Aikoku Station
▼A souvenir ticket which reads “From Aikoku to Kofuku” or “From Love Country to Happiness”