Photo/IllutrationJewelry ice shines in the morning sunlight in January in Toyokoro, Hokkaido. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

TOYOKORO, Hokkaido--The town government here has trademarked “jewelry ice,” the beautiful frozen lumps found on the coast in winter, to prevent companies from monopolizing the increasingly popular tourist attraction for their own purposes.

The Japan Patent Office approved the Toyokoro town’s application, and the “jewelry ice” trademark was registered on Nov. 16.

“I feel relieved that the name of the town’s tourist resource will not be used exclusively by certain businesses, allowing anyone to use it freely,” a Toyokoro official said.

The municipality on the eastern coast of Hokkaido intends to use the trademark for a wide variety of activities to draw more visitors.

According to the town’s commerce, industry and tourism division, jewelry ice is produced when water in the Tokachigawa river freezes during the winter chill and is carried to the river’s mouth in the Otsu coastal area, where the pieces of ice are shaped by waves.

The lumps are highly transparent and shine like gems in the morning sunlight.

The area had been well-known among photographers.

But photos and information about the jewelry ice spread online, and 400 to 500 sightseers visited the site on weekends last winter, according to town officials.

The town submitted its initial patent application in April 2017, along with three private companies. All four applications were rejected by autumn that year.

However, Toyokoro continued to pursue the patent, explaining that the town had been using the name in its tourism promotion pamphlets and other materials.

“We expect the name to be used freely for various objectives, although we would like those who want to use it as a product name to contact us for permission,” an official of the commerce, industry and tourism division said.

Hisashi Urashima, 66, who runs an English-language school in nearby Obihiro, was the one who came up with the name “jewelry ice.”

“It will fill me with joy if the trademark registration leads more people to learn about jewelry ice in various ways and feel closer to it,” he said.