As one way to attract young people, a central Japan city facing the Sea of Japan is aiming to become a mecca for esports by attracting related businesses and helping youth to work in the industry.

Although Japan is home to famous game titles and a large gaming market, it lags behind South Korea, the United States and Europe in promoting esports, or competitive video gaming often held in large arenas in front of thousands of spectators.

The idea of attracting esports came up after senior Kanazawa city officials met their counterparts in South Korea’s Busan in May last year and talked about enthusiasm of young participants in the gaming events, according to the city government.

Like other regional cities, Kanazawa in central Japan is facing an outflow of young people to Tokyo and other metropolises. Deeming the project as one of the municipality’s top priorities, the city government allotted 4.5 million yen ($41,200) for this fiscal year starting in April.

With an idea that esports may help young people live and stay in the area, the city government set up an expert panel including game creators last August to map out specific plans to attract the esports-related industry.

The panel compiled an action plan in February to promote esports through collaboration of universities, firms and local residents, given that the city is home to many information technology companies as well as art and technology colleges.

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The action plan titled “Esports culture’s mecca Kanazawa” says the city aims to host esports events that will draw participants and spectators from across Japan, featuring such titles as puzzle game “Puyo Puyo” and soccer game “Winning Eleven” in this fiscal year.

The city also said it plans to help students attending local schools such as Kanazawa College of Art and Kanazawa Institute of Technology to intern at game-related companies.

“We’d like to create an environment where young people can join new businesses through esports,” a city official said.

At an event held in late April in Kanazawa, hosted by an esports association in Ishikawa Prefecture, game fans from Ishikawa and nearby areas competed in and watched the event featuring “Puyo Puyo.”

Critics say esports cannot be categorized as a sport, but some point to an advantage that they are accessible to handicapped people. It was included as a demonstration sport at last year’s Asian Games in Indonesia.

“We’d like to expand esports from Kanazawa as a communication tool that can be enjoyed by everyone including handicapped people,” said Yuichi Yoshida, secretary general of the Ishikawa esports association.