This is the second of two articles about my visits to real locations that provided the basis for settings in Shinkai Makoto film Kimi no Na wa. This article explores parts of Hida, Gifu Prefecture, while the first covered locations in Tokyo.
My day began early, with a 7:02 shinkansen out of Kyoto to catch the first limited express Wide View Hida of the morning from Nagoya Station. My first stop wasn’t Hida but Takayama. In fact, the original plan for this day had only been a visit to Takayama for a Hyōka pilgrimage. News of Hida scenes in Kimi no Na wa. emerged as I was finalizing my plans for a two week pop culture tourism field study, so I decided to divert part of the afternoon for this second stop.
Like Taki and his companions, I change to the limited express leaving from Platform 11 at Nagoya Station.
The purpose-built Kiha 85 trains used for the Wide View Hida service have multiple configurations, depending on where they start from and time of day. Trains have a coupling at one end and a large bay window at the other. They can be coupled together to double the capacity. I end up with the window end facing this direction, instead of the door end that appears in the film.
Getting to Takayama, a major stop on the Takayama Main Line, isn’t difficult, as there are frequent trains throughout the day. Stopping in the middle of Hida requires a little more planning, and the final stop on its outskirts and return trip even more so. I’m running late at the end of my Takayama exploration on account of compressing the Hyōka walk into a much shorter day, but I manage to sprint the last few minutes and make it back to catch the Takayama Line local train I need just as it’s about to leave.
Hida-Furukawa Station is at the center of the developed part of Hida. There’s no Hida beef kigurumi greeting you inside the station building, but there is a stand-up panel. Parts of the waiting area are used in the film art, but some elements are synthesized. At the time of writing, there is a recent theory that the vending kiosk is actually inspired by the one in the waiting room at Takayama Station.
Hida-Furukawa Station bus and taxi rotary
Capturing the signature visual from this location requires a climb up to the crossover that spans the tracks.
It’s September 27, only one month since the film premiere, but Hida is already on top of the beginning wave of tourism induced by the film. Inside the crossover, the city has put signage confirming that this is indeed the location that appears in Kimi no Na wa., and even includes a list of the times the Wide View Hida stops at Platform 1, in case you have the time and interest to wait around to capture the perfect shot.
Be careful not to drop your things out the window while you’re taking photos!
Hida’s tourism department produced an advertisement for the film that includes images of scenes in the city. The irony is that Hida has not had an operating cinema for many years, though a special showing at the Hida Cultural Exchange Center gave local residents an opportunity to see the film.
Hida City Library
The library is especially accommodating to anime pilgrims, allowing photography inside the premises at certain times of day. You just have to stop by the front desk to let them know you’re there.
I don’t want to disturb the students working at the table where Taki was engrossed in research, so I stay behind the pillar.
There is an exchange corner featuring materials from the film and places for fans to leave records of their visits.
The bulletin board for index cards is something the library thought up.
One of the pilgrimage exchange notebooks in Hida is also hosted here.
There are other locations reachable from Hida-Furukawa with some extra legwork, both near the station and further out. You can even sit down for a kumihimo braiding lesson. I’m only able to round up the station and library in the hour I have, but if in the future I’m able to spend a whole day in Hida and rent a bicycle, I would love to see it all.
The reason for the tight schedule is that, after traveling all this way, I really want to find the Ochiai bus stop on the city outskirts as my last site of the day. The route that serviced the stop had been cancelled the previous autumn, so you can’t get there by bus. You can spend a little money and have a taxi take you out and back, but I like a good challenge. It’s reachable via Tsunogawa Station, however only a few Takayama Line local trains stop here each day. I had worked out a sequence that would minimize the time I had to wait around for the return trip, but get me back to Takayama Station in time to catch the last limited express of the evening back to Nagoya.
Most of my field studies take me to urban and suburban areas. Though it’s only a few stops from the center of Hida, coming to a place like this feels like I’ve journeyed to the end of the Earth. I’m surprised to find that, not only am I not alone, there is a group of about 15 of us all getting off at Tsunogawa and heading through the one road village along the Miyagawa.
The majestic view is an unexpected reward for making it out here. It’s also so quiet that you can have a conversation with someone from the opposite side of the river.
As I near the desitnation, I realize fellow Butaitanbou Community member Yoimachitsuki (宵待月 @yoiyoi14) is also here. She had arrived by car at just the same moment. Small world.
We all take turns carefully lining up our shots of the bus shelter. Some people have their friends pose as Okudera, Taki and Tsukasa inside the shelter.
— 宵待月@「夏目友人帳 陸」4/4特番放送 (@yoiyoi14) September 27, 2016
Neither of us realize while we’re here, but Yoimachitsuki later sends me a note that the mayor of Hida had arranged for an unused bus stop sign to be reinstalled at Ochiai so that it would once again appear close to the way it is depicted in the film, installed in the morning just before our arrival. Lucky for us.
With all of the materials in the shelter, it certainly doesn’t look like an abandoned bus stop.
There’s no particular rush, but I leave my entry in the exchange notebook and head back in the direction from which I came.
As I wander slowly back toward the station, in a meandering manner that makes it pretty clear I’ve really got nothing else to do, a man working on his flower bed calls me over. We end up having a delightful conversation standing in the middle of the road for maybe half an hour. I ask him about what life is like in this little valley, such as where they buy food (There’s a supermarket in the next town, you have to drive.), where is his family (Kids all moved away to big cities, but they come back to visit once in a while.), do he and his wife feel lonely out here (No! It’s like a honeymoon everyday!). I tell him about my urban studies and anime tourism. I talk about differences between urbanization in the US, Japan and China. He tells me about places he has visited in the US. We talk about Kimi no Na wa. and all of the visitors that have been trickling out here. I ask him if the people passing from the train station to the the bus stop have been noisy or otherwise caused a nuisance (Not at all. They come quietly, and leave the same way.). Eventually I let him get back to his work, but what a great way to wrap up the day.
I still have some time before the train arrives, so I explore around the station.
There is a grade level railroad crossing, though this was early on ruled out as a model for the one in the film.
Crossing to the other side, I find a community garden on the terraced hillside.
There is also a shrine here, though as with the crossing, it did not become part of the rural setting in the film.
A limited express train passes through at full speed, leaving an echo of its rattling bouncing back and forth across the valley for a few moments after it disappears, then silence resumes.
Now it really feels like the edge of the world.
I have just a few minutes at Takayama Station to grab a sandwich for dinner and change to the last southbound Wide View Hida of the day.
In Kimi no Na wa. the locations in Tokyo and Hida are used more or less as they are, in many cases identified explicitly in the work. Locating and traveling to these places is relatively straightforward. The film’s Itomori village is not a real location, however it weaves together buildings and pieces of rural landscape found in Akita, Chiba, Gifu, Wakayama and Kagoshima prefectures and, most notably, Nagano Prefecture, where Shinkai was raised. Though I may get around to some of these someday if I happen to be passing through the area, rounding these up is advanced level butaitanbou that, for now, I am happy to leave to an expert.