By Yoshiyuki Osada
TOKYO, Jan 24 (Reuters) - Japanese shares linked to the city of Nagasaki got an unlikely boost on Thursday after Pope Francis unveiled a plan to visit Japan, with media reporting Nagasaki, for centuries a centre of Christianity in Japan, would be on his itinerary.
Stock traders said the first Papal visit to Japan in almost four decades would be a big publicity boost and help attract tourists to the city, associated in the minds of many foreigners with a second U.S. atomic bomb attack in 1945.
The Pope told reporters on Wednesday he would visit Japan in November. While his travel plan has not been announced, Japanese media said the visit would include Nagasaki, Hiroshima, where the first atomic bomb was dropped, as well as Tokyo.
"If the Pope visits various places in Japan, they will be reported around the world. Possibly that could increase the number of visitors," said Ryuta Otsuka, strategist at Toyo Securities.
Investors believe the business boost from a papal visit would be most palpable in Nagasaki, the smallest city on his itinerary, with a population of 430,000, and were piling into shares linked to it.
H.I.S., a travel company that operates a theme park in Nagasaki, rose 2.1 percent, while the Nikkei average saw a 0.1 percent fall.
Kyushu Railways, which operates trains in the region, rose 0.3 percent before ending flat. Even Ringer Hut , which operates a restaurant chain specialising in Nagasaki-style noodle dishes called "champon", rose 0.4 percent.
Foreign tourists have provided a major boost for the Japanese economy, helping to offset a declining population, with arrivals more than doubling over the past five years.
More than 600,000 people visit the atomic bomb museum in Nagasaki every year. The 82-year-old pontiff said this month he was afraid about the danger of nuclear war.
The southern port city has ancient links to the Christian world and one of Japan's largest Catholic communities.
The first Christians to arrive in Japan - Portuguese Catholics in the 16th century - came ashore in the Nagasaki area.
Nagasaki was home to "secret Christians" who kept their faith underground for more than 200 years despite an official ban that began in the early seventeenth century. (Reporting by Yoshiyuki Osada Writing by Hideyuki Sano Editng by Robert Birsel)
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