Earlier this year, Celia Koughan was approached by Tourism P.E.I.

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Tourism P.E.I. to send Island’s ‘Anne’ to Japan on promotional tour

Celia Koughan, 18, has been playing Anne Shirley and related characters for most of her young life. She will be travelling through Japan and staying in character as Anne of Green Gables for a month. Submitted photo.

They asked if she’d be interested in travelling to Japan as Anne of Green Gables, to promote the Island and the bubbly fictional redhead’s story.

The 18-year-old’s response was an enthusiastic yes.

“She’s such a fun character. Ever since I was little, I’ve always loved her. I’m going to have to embody her spirit,” she said.

Koughan said it’s exciting to have the opportunity to stay in character as Anne for so long. An Anne fan herself, she said has been involved with the redhead’s story since she was small.

“I was in Anne of Green Gables at the Confederation Centre when I was about five, I started off as a child of Avonlea.”

Most summers, she’s been involved with a related show, including “The Nine Lives of Lucy Maud Montgomery.”

“She’s definitely been in my life for a while.”

After performing as a “child of Avonlea,” she knew she was going to stay on stage for a while. Acting has been one of her life-long passions, she said.

“I love it so much.”

There’s a new television drama in Japan, about the life of Hanako Muraoka, the woman who first translated Anne of Green Gables into Japanese.

Muraoka risked her life during the Second World War to publish her translation of the fabled Island novel.

“Cradle of Anne,” a biographical novel by the translator’s granddaughter, Eri Muraoka, has been turned into a series by Japan’s NHK, which is the Japanese equivalent of CBC.

“It plays every day. They’re really getting the Anne hype going. I’ll be doing television appearances [as Anne] on NHK, and going to some department stores.”

One of her appearances will be at a garden show in one of the biggest stadiums in Tokyo. P.E.I. Tourism organized the show, which is expected to draw 25,000 attendees.

Koughan said the first time she has travelled anywhere by herself was in January.

“I went to Nicaragua. It’s not quite as far.

I’m sure it’ll be a little bit scary, but really exciting. I can just imagine it’s like a whole different world over there.”

It’s cool that they love and are fascinated by the character of Anne of Green Gables, she said.

“For me to represent that is such an awesome opportunity. And it’s nice to have that Island connection with me at all times. I just need to get my wig, now.”

Born in Charlottetown, Koughan said she is excited and grateful for this opportunity.

“It’s not something that comes up everyday, that you get to go to Japan. I’m really, really excited for this.” 

She said she’s excited to take on that challenge, but it’s going to be fun, too. 

“Since ‘Hanako and Anne’ was announced, we’ve been looking at ways to maximize opportunities for the province’s tourism product in one of our key international markets,” said minister of tourism and culture Robert Henderson.

As a result, Tourism P.E.I. has entered into partnerships with NHK, Air Canada, event organizers in Japan and the Canadian Tourism Commission, he said.

“Those partnerships have allowed the province to greatly enhance its marketing in Japan, and the timing couldn’t be better.”

Media and trade events are planned to help promote the Island in Japan, including a rose and garden show, with an estimated attendance of 25,000, and a major gallery exhibition tour with an estimated attendance of five to six hundred thousand people.

On March 31, Japan’s NHK debuted its biographical drama “Hanako and Anne,” based on the biographical novel by Eri Muraoka.

The opening sequence and many short segments of each 15-minute episode features scenery from P.E.I., and the series is expected to run until September, with 156 episodes in total.

Yuka Takahashi, Tourism P.E.I.’s Japanese representative, said the response to the series in Japan has been absolutely overwhelming.

“Many tour operators have already sold out their usual vacation packages and are looking to book more.”

They’re seeing three to four times as many media and promotional inquiries, as well as interest regarding educational exchange organizations and student tour companies.

“It’s safe to say the impact of this series will be felt for years to come.”

 According to Tourism P.E.I., hits to their website originating from Japan are up by 47 per cent compared to this time last year.

Organizations: Confederation Centre, CBC, Air Canada Canadian Tourism Commission

Geographic location: Japan, Green Gables, Avonlea Tokyo Nicaragua Charlottetown

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