Sadaharu, a character from the “Gin Tama” manga and anime series, becomes a mascot to promote the charms of Saga Prefecture under the name of Sagaharu. (Nami Sugiura)

SAGA--A “life-size” statue of a local mascot modeled after Sadaharu, a dog-like character from the popular “Gin Tama” anime, has sent fans in a tizzy in front of JR Saga Station.

Standing 2.5 meters, including its base, the statue, named Sagaharu, is part of the prefectural government’s collaborative project with the anime to promote the charms of Saga Prefecture.

Crowds gathered to take pictures of the statue after it was unveiled on Aug. 10.

To emphasize that Sagaharu represents the prefecture, the statue is adorned with items inspired by local specialties, such as mudskipper-shaped headgear, a collar with a strawberry, a rice ball with a sheet of “nori” dry laver, and an Arita-yaki porcelain bowl in which it sits.

The anime is based on a manga of the same name that has been running in the Weekly Shonen Jump manga anthology since 2003.

The story takes place in an alternate world of Edo, or old Tokyo, that came under attack from space aliens in the late Edo Period (1603-1867). The title has also spawned live-action movies.

The prefectural government is currently hosting the Hizen Saga Bakumatsu-Meiji Restoration Expo to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the political revolution in 1868 that brought down the Tokugawa Shogunate and restored imperial rule.

The official website of the promotional campaign (https://sagaprise.jp/sagaharu/) shows Saga Governor Yoshinori Yamaguchi and anime protagonist Gintoki Sakata discussing the campaign and how Gintoki created the mascot, Sagaharu.

Accepting the governor’s offer for collaboration, Gintoki, aka Gin-chan, who runs his Yorozu-ya shop to do any odd job, says: “When it comes to promoting a local area, all I need to do is make a mascot, right?”

The prefectural government spent about 29.5 million yen ($268,000) for the project, which runs until Sept. 17.