Portland Out-Portlands Itself with Japanese Tourist Ad

Trends & Culture - October 4th, 2016

Another viral video making the internet rounds recently is an elaborate, quirky, confusing, and slightly unsettling animated advertisement to entice Japanese tourists to the City of Roses. Travel Portland produced the three-minute customizable video (yes, you can be the star in your own horrifying internet cartoon ad!), complete with whimsical music and poetic lyrics to attract travelers from the Far East.

On first watch, “Odnarotoop” (say it backwards, and the otherwise strange name will click), seems to be a rather elaborate down-the-rabbit-hole animated short featuring a singing creature that looks to be straight out of “Where the Wild Things Are”; viewers may not fully grasp its purpose to be a travel ad on the first go. The theme song, a haunting, almost chant-like melody, was written and sung by Portland-based group Ages and Ages. As Travel Portland states on their website, “there’s a bit of a tradition of one-off novelty songs that become touchstones … In this spirit, we have created [this video].”

It doesn’t take a professor of literature to digest and dissect the lyrics (which we’ve pasted in English below). In fact, speaking as a Portlander, this song nicely encompasses all the city has to offer, covering the donuts, coffee, beer, bikes, and art bases. “Portlandia” might want to take a few hints.

Why go to all of the trouble to produce such an ad at all? It’s no secret that Portland as a city has been trending among Tokyoites in the last decade. We have witnessed, first hand, Portland-based companies setting up camp in Tokyo, including Blue Star Donuts (perhaps sometime soon, VooDoo Donuts?), Keen, Portland Brewery (Ninkai, another Oregon IPA brand, has several ambassadors at bars scattered about the city), and even Columbia Sportswear has a regular booth at farmer’s markets. A quick hike through Harajuku will illustrate how far Portland’s “hipster” fashion has travelled, from an influx of plaid on the rise, the popularity of thrift and second-hand shops, or the smattering of birds and “Portland” name stamps on tote bags we see at boutiques.

Portland, too, sees a regular crowd of Japanese tourists flocking the city annually – the Emperor, Empress, or their daughters make trips each season. Portland has no fewer than 14 authentic (read: Japanese-owned) ramen shops; the world’s largest Japanese gardens (outside of Japan) are on the west side of the city; and Oregon has the highest number of Japanese-based sister city connections of the 50 states.

Many may also remember that, nearly 50 years ago, a Japanese media company broadcast a 10-episode drama called “With Love from Oregon” (オレゴンから愛), which may have kicked off the friendly relations, but we may never truly be able to pinpoint when or why the relationship grew like it did.

For those who are curious to check it out, share, or make their own video (just upload a picture!), check out their homepage at: odnarotoop.com.

The most bizarre thing about the video? It may just do its job.

Here’s the full set of translated lyrics, for your reading pleasure:

These are the mountains that rise in the distance

And this is the river that runs beside us

And these are the bridges that always connect us in



These are the streets where we meet up for breakfast

And maybe some ice cream or a few dozen donuts

And these are the places we drink when we’re finished in



Odnarotoop, Odnarotoop,

everyone’s open so do what you want in



And this is the music we play in our basements

and in the streets where the city can hear us

So sing right along if you’re planning to join us in



Odnarotoop, Odnarotoop

Everyone’s open, so do what you want in



This is the coffee we drink in the morning

And this is the treehouse my neighbor is building

Everyone’s open and ready to greet you in



And these are the bikes that we like to ride naked

and this is the art that we’re all busy making

Everyone’s open, so do what you want to in