During my recent stay in South Korea's Gangwon-do province, the site of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, a good number of middle-aged and older locals told me they would like to visit the Hokkaido city of Otaru some day.

They fell in love with the town after watching the 1995 Japanese film "Love Letter," which is set there.

The Shunji Iwai-directed movie was released in South Korea in 1999, attracting a bigger audience there than in Japan. That was because South Korea had just lifted its ban on Japanese films, and the style of Japanese cinematography proved refreshingly appealing to South Korean filmgoers at the time.

"Otaru's snow scenes were magical," gushed a 36-year-old woman, a movie buff. "Gangwon-do is also a region with heavy snowfall, but here, the snow just comes down with a vengeance--utterly different from Otaru's snow in the movie."

She added that she will never forget the voice of the heroine, played by Miho Nakayama, shouting "Ogenki desuka" (How are you?) to the snowy mountain. This line became a fashionable expression in South Korea.

When I asked younger South Koreans which Japanese city is on their bucket list, many named the Gifu Prefecture city of Hida. This obviously owes to the Japanese anime film "Kimi no Na wa" (Your Name.), directed by Makoto Shinkai, which is set there.

"I want to go to the spot where the meteor struck (in the movie) and see if there is a crater," said a student, adding, "But I don't know which prefecture that's in."

It has been about 15 years since the South Korean pop culture boom erupted in Japan. There was the soccer World Cup co-hosted by Japan and South Korea. And then, there was the explosively popular South Korean TV serial drama "Fuyu no Sonata" (Winter Sonata), which mesmerized Japanese viewers with its fast-paced plot revolving around romance and death. Many of the scenes in this drama were shot in Gangwon-do.

In recent years, the traffic of people between Japan and South Korea is hardly balanced. About 2.3 million Japanese visit South Korea every year, while more than 7 million South Koreans come to Japan.

I imagine the strained bilateral diplomatic relations have had little or no effect on South Koreans wishing to visit Japan.

As for myself, I fall in love with the charms of remote mountain hamlets and fishing villages in South Korea every time I visit the country. I would also like to explore my yet-to-be-discovered "Otaru of South Korea" and "Hida of South Korea."

--The Asahi Shimbun, Feb. 16

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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.