I had the opportunity to see Shinkai Makoto’s latest work Kimi no Na wa. in 2016 September, a few weeks after its original premiere in Japan, as well as visit many of the real locations that provided the basis for settings in the film. This article covers locations in Tokyo, a relatively compact swath of places between Shinjuku, Yotsuya, Roppongi and Shibuya. A second article covers locations in Hida, Gifu Prefecture.
At the time of writing, Kimi no Na wa. is about to be released as Your Name. in selected theaters in North America, but it has already surpassed Miyazaki’s Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi (Spirited Away) to become the highest-grossing anime film globally. It is currently the fourth highest-grossing film in Japan, behind Spirited Away, Titanic and Frozen. It is also the eighth highest-grossing traditionally animated film globally, and the highest-grossing Japanese film and 2D animated film in China. The magnitude and reach of the film’s commercial success make it Shinkai’s undisputed first blockbuster, but among anime watching circles he has long been a cherished creator. I remember how floored I was the first time I saw Hoshi no Koe (Voices of a Distant Star) and Byōsoku Go Senchimētoru (5 Centimeters Per Second), and was equally amazed by Shinkai’s humbleness and thoughtfulness when I saw him in person at a talk he gave at New York Comic Con 2011.
The lush background art and immersive environments Shinkai creates, many of which are modeled on real locations, also make his works favorites among the butaitanbou (scene hunting) community and seichijunrei (holy land pilgrimage) fans. The mainstream success of Kimi no Na wa. has raised awareness of anime-induced tourism in Japan and drawn many new participants into the mix. Both the film’s title and the term seichijunrei were among the candidates on the list of buzzwords annually selected by publishing house Jiyukokuminsha.
My own pilgrimage to the Tokyo locations was also special in that it was my first opportunity to meet fellow butaitanbou enthusiast Mike Hattsu (@mikehattsu) in person. Mike—his net handle is a play on Hatsune Miku—is from Norway, but has opportunities for extended stays in Japan a few times each year. He regularly publishes detailed butaitanbou reports in English of current and past anime works on his blog Anime Journeys, featuring side-by-side comparisons of screen captures and location photos.
Mike and I planned our walking route using what we knew from the official trailers and maps created by Yoko (横 @touyoko_com) and Fūko (風子 @mo_om921), who spearheaded scene hunting for the film. Astral (アストラル @fragments_sue), who has also explored Kimi no Na wa. locations, graciously provided me with a handful of film scenes scanned from printed material that I was missing for these articles.
Mike and I originally wanted to meet at Toho Cinemas Roppongi Hills for the first showing of a weekday morning, which would allow us to first see the film, then step out of the theater and right into our walk. To our surprise, though we waited outside for the theater to open, the last few tickets for the show we wanted were already sold by the time we got to the machine. Almost a month after the opening day, we hadn’t anticipated demand would still be so high that we couldn’t get tickets at the door.
With a light rain beginning to fall and threatening to become heavier later in the day, we decide it makes the most sense to just begin our walk early with our existing information. In hindsight, this may have been a good thing, as the film is such a visual feast that we might have found it difficult to complete our route within the day had we also been searching for all of the new scenes we’d just watched. It means that we have to pass by our first planned stop at The National Art Center, which is not yet open at 8:30 in the morning, but our day is otherwise unaffected.
We walk north along an arterial road from Roppongi, past the museum, until we arrive at and cross over this pedestrian footbridge.
The footbridge is loosely used in this scene with Okudera and Taki, but as we anticipated from reports by those who had already investigated, it doesn’t quite match with what’s actually here.
With the orientation of the bridge to the curve of the road you can’t actually get the Roppongi Hills Mori Tower and the traffic signal in the shot together.
The blue traffic sign isn’t on the bridge itself, but hangs over the road about 300 meters to the north.
We wander over to Meiji Jingū Gaien for this shot of Taki and friends with the Meiji Memorial Picture Gallery in the far background. As we take a route through the park on our continuation north, we notice many temporary barriers and scaffolding. This area, now a public park and sports facility, was the primary venue for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, and is again undergoing extensive redevelopment in preparation for the 2020 games.
As we head northwest toward Sendagaya, the NTT Docomo Yoyogi Building comes into view. The tower is an important landmark for Shinkai, appearing in several of his films, including a breathtaking helicopter fly-by pan shot in Kotonoha no Niwa.
When we reach Sendagaya Station, we first encounter its brand new entrance. But this is not the one we’re looking for.
We actually want the old entrance, which was permanently closed just days before our visit. Renovation at Sendagaya and other stations is also part of preparations for the 2020 Olympics.
As if to tease us, we find a Fun!Tokyo! poster nearby depicting the old entrance as it appeared in Kimi no Na wa. Fun!Tokyo! is a marketing campaign of rail operator JR East. It promotes interesting neighborhoods, events and tourism spots that are reachable via the lines the railway operates in the city. At the time of the Kimi no Na wa. release, a promotional collaboration is in full swing. Over the course of the day, we come across Fun!Tokyo! posters featuring art from the film at all of the JR stations we pass through.
We enter at Sendagaya and take the Chūō-Sobu Line one stop to Yoyogi Station for this shot of Mitsuha wating for a train. Note the cross-promotion here, there are Fun!Tokyo! posters in the film background.
We head back in the direction from which we came and get off at Shinanomachi, passing more Fun!Tokyo! posters on our way out of the station. These feature the film’s key visual from nearby Sugachō, as well a vista of the Shinjuku skyscrapers. We’ll reach both of these places later in the day.
There are several shots just outside Shinanomachi Station.
NTT Docomo Yoyogi Building
Looking west over the Chūō Line tracks
We walk east along the south side of the tracks for a bit before crossing over again.
Taki’s apartment building, from which he observes the meteor shower, is located in a quiet residential neighborhood in this area.
If you seek out and travel to this location on your own pilgrimage, bear in mind that this is a private property. Please be considerate of the people who live here and refrain from trespassing.
If my memory is right, there is a cut of the trains traveling through this tunnel in the film.
There are some scenes along the sotobori to the east of Akasaka Palace, which we skip due to time and not having reference images, but we do swing by the palace gate on our way to Yotsuya. I think I remember parts of the palace appearing in the background during one scene.
From the station we head west and down into Sugachō. Because the key visual—the work’s primary marketing background image and artwork—comes from this neighborhood, this location has received the lion’s share of visitors curious about the film’s setting, but there are many interesting details here beyond the now infamous stairs.
A pedestrian unwittingly becomes a stand-in for Mitsuha.
The steps lead up to Suga Jinja, though the shrine itself never appears in the film.
The full canvas from which the various crops of the key visual are taken reveals some interesting differences between Shinkai’s vision of the world in the film and what’s actually on the ground. There are obvious parts, like the large concrete wall that in real life blocks much of the vista to the east, and that the elevation of the top of the stairs is depicted in the film as much higher than it actually is. But if you comb through a high-resolution version of the art, you’ll find interesting details like the Mori Tower in the far background, which in reality is in the opposite direction and not visible from this location.
Mike gets his stair photos. We’ve been lucky in that there has been intermittent light rain throughout the morning, but nothing heavy enough to slow our progress.
We head back up into Yotsuya and west toward Shinjuku, stopping for the Yotsuya 4-chōme intersection en route.
We had planned to replace our lunch at The National Art Center with one at the Cafe La Bohéme Shinjuku Gyoen shop, another location used in the film. When we arrive, there is a long line out the door and around the block. We apparently aren’t the only ones with this idea. Though we’re hungry already, we decide we’ll power through the rest of the scenes in Shinjuku and loop back for a late meal. While we’re here, I duck into the Shinjuku Piccadilly cinema to buy tickets to see Kimi no Na wa. and Koe no Katachi the following day.
Everyone has his or her own image of a place or neighborhood that stands in for Tokyo. Shinkai has commented in interviews that, for him, it’s Shinjuku. The world’s busiest train station, the commercial hub surrounding it, and notable locations around the periphery of Shinjuku have played significant parts in the setting and story in Byōsoku Go Senchimētoru, Kotonoha no Niwa, and now Kimi no Na wa.
Songai Hoken Japan Head Office Building
In the film, there are a number of cuts featuring this spider-like pedestrian footbridge that sprawls across the Shintoshin intersection.
The unique traffic signal at the Shinjuku Keisatsusho-ura intersection has also appeared in the Monogatari series.
The perspective in this shot is challenging to recreate. You’d have to put the camera down at ground level and stand almost under the signal in the traffic lane. You might be able to get away with this early in the morning, but at midday Mike and I are not looking to test our luck.
We come around the west side of Shinjuku Station and climb up to the pedestrian footbridge spanning the Kōshū Kaidō for the wide shot facing east. Everything on the south side of the street, the Kōshū Kaidō gate, New South gate and retail development above the station have only recently opened after many years of extensive construction.
Shinjuku Southern Terrace
In the film, there are many cuts that use the ticket gate and concourse at the Shinjuku Station south entrance.
MdN Design & Graphic magazine featured some of the film art from this location on its 2016 October cover.
Cafe La Bohéme
We eventually make our way back to La Bohéme only to find that the line hasn’t shortened much since we were here earlier, and it’s already 2:30 in the afternoon. I overhear passers-by, who seem to be office workers from nearby blocks, incredulous that there had suddenly developed such intense interest in their regular afternoon break spot, a nice but not particularly remarkable chain Italian restaurant. Everyone in line with us is talking about Kimi no Na wa. Word travels quickly.
In the film, the restaurant is called “Il Giardino delle Parole”, which is a little inside joke, as this is the Italian title of Shinkai’s previous film Kotonoha no Niwa. That film made extensive use of the gardens at Shinjuku Gyoen, which is across the street.
Finally inside, we have the chance for much needed rest and replenishment, as well as to turn away from the task at hand to talk about how we each came to discover butaitanbou and seichijunrei. The extent of Mike’s anime-related travels and the body of work he has put out is really remarkable. I would very much like to put together a detailed review of his accomplishments once I’ve had a chance to go through the years of material.
At the time of our visit, restaurant staff are very accommodating to anime pilgrims, allowing photography that doesn’t capture other patrons and reserving this open table at the front of the restaurant so that you can take a shot of the gardens through the window.
A Fun!Tokyo! poster featuring Shinjuku Station, in Shinjuku Station
Our final stop of the day comes just in time, as the heavy rain begins to arrive.
The shot of the Starbucks in the Q-Front Building is likely taken from the Shibuya Ekimae Building, right up on the scramble crossing. For us, a telephoto shot from the enclosed flyover walkway connecting Shibuya Station and Shibuya Mark City is close enough and keeps us nice and dry.
We’re able to stay mostly under cover as we work our way through a concourse on the west side of Shibuya Station down to the large pedestrian footbridge spanning Tamagawa-dōri.
When I see the film the next day it becomes clear that, for all the walking we did, we had really only scratched the surface. But it was a great way to get to know Mike. Working together through an intense shared experience is a good way to quickly become friends. Of all the elements of pop culture tourism that I study, I enjoy this one the most.