The official site of Kumanichi announced on Saturday, Jan 22, 2022, that a bronze statue of fighter Roronoa Zoro was unveiled in creator Eiichiro Oda’s hometown, Kumamoto in Japan. The unveiling ceremony of the bronze statue was held at Ozu Central Park in Ozu Town, Kumamoto Prefecture.
The ceremony was broadcasted on Youtube, with only six people in attendance, including Mayor Hideki Kaneda, following COVID protocol.
Zoro’s statue is the 9th addition in the line up of Straw Hat statues that have been erected in Kumamoto, for the Kumamoto Earthquake Reconstruction Project, with Jinbei’s statue next in line.
The height including the sword is about 2 meters and 60 centimeters, and the pedestal is 1 meter.
As a backstory for the character, it says, Zoro, a swordfighter, rushes to Ozu Town, where kendo is popular and aims to create a town that can withstand earthquakes.
A special illustration was drawn by creator Eiichiro Oda to commemorate the occasion.
Oda, a Kumamoto native, had donated around 800 million yen ($7.1 Million) for the earthquake relief in the area. The statues are being erected in affected areas to commemorate it along with the 1000 episode celebrations.
The government erected a bronze statue of Luffy (174 centimeters high) in November 2018. This statue is outside the Kumamoto Prefectural Government Office and its inauguration celebrates Oda getting a prefectural honor for his service to recovery efforts. It was then announced that eight other statues will join Luffy; each one placed in an area particularly damaged by the earthquake.
In 2019, the first two of these statues were unveiled. A statue of Sanji, placed in the town of Mashiki. And a statue of Usopp, erected in front of Aso station.
2020 has seen the addition of three more statues with Tony Tony Chopper appearing at Kumamoto City Zoological and Botanical Gardens, Brook in Fureai Hiroba Square in Mifune Town, and then Franky at Takamori Station. In 2021, the statue unveiling started with the statue of Nami at the Tawarayama Village of Exchange Center Moe in Nishihara Village.
While statues might seem a bit sketchy to spend relief money, the idea here is to attract tourists to the area. By making Kumamoto’s Tourist spots tourers will pay to use local facilities and buy local goods.
Researchers from Shokei University surveyed people who visited the Luffy statue in 2019 and 2020 and estimated that the statue attracts 55,211 visitors per year, putting ¥2.67 billion into the local economy.
To make this whole project more interesting, Oda also wrote a backstory to tie the statues together. According to the story, when Luffy’s crew landed in Kumamoto, they saw the damage and decided to help out. Luffy deployed his crew around the prefecture, sending each one to a place where their skill set would be useful to the local people. Each of the statues has an information board, informing visitors about the local area and the damage it sustained.
The anime adaptation of Eiichiro Oda’s One Piece manga premiered in 1999. The 100th manga volume shipped on September 3. Oda published the 1,000th chapter in this year’s combined 5th/6th issue of Weekly Shonen Jump magazine on January 4.