Welcome to this week’s review of notable instances of transit, place and culture as rendered in anime currently broadcast in Japan and simulcast internationally via the web. For a detailed outline of the approach, please refer to the explanation in the inaugural issue. Links to streaming sources are included when available, though not all may have current episode available at the time this column is published.
Special Note: The weekly review will be on break for three weeks while I’m traveling in Japan. First, I’ll be attending the 2015 Butaitanbou Community annual summit, being held this year in Kagoshima, one of the main location models for the second season of Chūnibyō demo Koi ga Shitai! This group is the core of the pop culture tourism community that I observe and catalog in these weekly posts. After that, I’ll make a loop up through Kyūshū and over to Hiroshima for more anime pilgrimage on my own, as well as my usual street photography and urbanism field study of transit-oriented development and civic spaces like shōtengai. Quite pleased that Typhoon Nangka has decided to veer off to the east and away from my route!
Fan Pilgrimage Update
@ts_kobaya made a video pilgrimage to Kunitachi, along the Tama River and Shibuya ekimae for Episode 1:
We see both the opening and ending sequences for the first time with Episode 2. While there are some familiar looking Tokyo area street scenes, there are also some unusual vistas and city skylines. There may be more to the setting than it seems at a first glance.
Train station platform
The satellite image is of Tama (多摩), Tokyo Metropolis, however it is flipped over its west-east axis, so what was north becomes south, relative to the real world map.
Hoshinoumi Academy may be a high tech, high security facility for unusual individuals, but the students still walk to school on the morning commute.
The student council’s next target is determined to be in Mitaka (三鷹), Tokyo Metropolis, about equidistant between Mitaka Station and the Ghibli Museum.
Pedestrian overcrossing (横断歩道橋 ōdan hodōkyō)
Waiting at a bus stop for the return trip
Machida Station (町田駅) in Machida, Tokyo Metropolis
The beef tongue ekiben (牛たん駅弁) Tomori purchases is a real item, generally available at major train station kiosks in the Tōhoku region. It includes a chemical heating element built into the box for warming up your meal.
Odakyū Odawara Line (小田急小田原線)
Other than shinkansen and some long distance, limited express trains, eating on board is generally against train operator policies.
Beyond the explicit rules, it’s also a well-established social norm, so should you be brave enough to pull out something like this ekiben on a commuter rail line, steel yourself from some angry salarymen glares.
Transfer to bus
Fan Pilgrimage Update
As with the first season, there is a deeper story going on below the surface of Non Non Biyori, a bittersweet laugh at the challenges of growing up far from the big city, while knowing that we’re seeing Japan’s all but intractable rural depopulation in motion. At current rates of demographic change, hundreds of towns like this fictional one will disappear across the country.
The pop culture tourism response has also had something of a twist. Unfortunately I don’t have the source handy, but when asked about seichijunrei-butaitanbou activity related to the show, the creator responded that the setting is definitely not intended to model one specific place, but just the general idea of a rural agricultural town with a hollowed out population. Nonetheless, there are many real places that are used in the artwork to create the composite town, which fans began identifying during the original broadcast and continued to search in the interim. Identifiable structures like the school were found relatively quickly, while other places only came to light after extensive investigation. Most come from less developed areas of Saitama and Chiba prefectures, but elements from other locations also appear.
Kakinoki Station (柿ノ木駅) in Uonuma, Niigata Prefecture
The markings on the single-car train are believed to be modeled on the now defunct Miki Line (三木線) between Yukujin and Miki, Hyōgo Prefecture, the only line operated by the Miki Railway Company.
Renge is the youngest sibling of the Miyauchi family and, as of the time period in the story, the only first grader left in the town. She is at the tipping point where she perceives the protective treatment by others as the youngest remaining child, and often strives to make it clear she is capable of more adult thought and independence.
So how does it feel to be told you’re finally too old to ride the bus for free?
Pretty much awesome.
Former Ogawa Elementary School, Shimosato Branch School (旧小川小学校下里分校) in Ogawa (小川), Saitama Prefecture
The middle Miyauchi sister Hikage is leaving the town to attend high school in Tokyo. In addition to entire families moving to larger cities for work and education, this also contributes to the hollowing out of small towns. Renge and Kazuho deliver Hikage to the train plaform, modeled on Kakinoki Station, to see her off.
Renge’s next rite-of-passage is her very first transit commuter pass.
The opening ceremony for the all level school is touching, but there is a subtle undertone of sadness. Though enrollment has been reduced to just four students, the Koshigaya siblings and Kazuho (Renge’s older sister and the teacher) want Renge to experience the pomp and circumstance associated with this important event all the same.
The Non Non Biyori end cards are one final item of interest. If my memory is correct, the photographs are taken in locations that, while they resemble the kind of place depicted in the show, aren’t actually used in the artwork. This one is taken from grade level railroad crossing in front of Tagawa High School in Tagawa, Fukuoka Prefecture. The Tagawa Line (田川線) runs beween Tagawa and Yukuhashi.
(ガッチャマン クラウズ インサイト Gatchaman Kurauzu Insaito)
Tachikawa Station (立川駅). As with the first season, if you look past the fantasy elements, Gatchaman Crowds does some really thoughtful exploration of civic engagement. It looks at physical civic space, such as the train station and central commercial district in Tachikawa, virtual civic space through mobile app Galax, and the continually blurring boundary between the two. For many years, researchers have pointed to online communities as taking on the role of traditional third places, like cafes and privately owned public spaces. The screenshots of Galax users show avatars interacting in an actual space, not just a chat room stream. While the idea of Crowds (having your consciousness physically manifest as energy in another location through the internet) is part of the fiction of Gatchaman, many of the ways users employ communications tools and augmented reality apps through their phones to connect with and collaborate with others on real world problems are not really that far removed from how we use these devices already.
In the second episode, smartphones are being passed out at Tachikawa Station for the first online local election.
Gatchaman also looks at the role of media in society, how it influences public opinion, and the various channels by which it is consumed.
Media can be broadcast widely in public spaces.
Media is consumed on traditional broadcast television in homes or private businesses.
But for younger generations, it is increasingly being consumed directly through the web, which also offers the ability to record and time shift.
A Galax chat room
As before, Rui looks out over the city from his perch in a tower above Toyosu (豊洲), Kōtō Ward, Tokyo Metropolis. Toyosu, Ariake and Harumi are some of the only remaining space near central Tokyo that have yet to be fully developed, though that is changing rapidly. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government has proposed a new subway line to address the resultant infrastructure need.
Nagaoka (長岡), Niigata Prefecture
Shibuya ekimae and scramble crossing
Shinjuku Station (新宿駅)
Tsubasa takes in her last sunset over Nagaoka as the shinkansen whisking past points toward Tokyo. As in Non Non Biyori, it highlights the now constant drain of talent and resources to the main cities, Tokyo chief among them.
Nagaoka Station (長岡駅)
Jōetsu Shinkansen (上越新幹線)
Fan Pilgrimage Update
Ikebukuro (池袋), Toshima Ward, Tokyo Metropolis
(長門有希ちゃんの消失 Nagato Yuki-chan no Shōshitsu)
Fan Pilgrimage Update
Kabutoyamabashi bus stop (甲山橋バス停)
Kabutoyama Nakayoshi Pond (甲山なかよし池), in Kabutoyama Shinrin Park (甲山森林公園)
Like preceding seasons, the newest installment of Working!! features occasional appearances of recognizable locations in Hokkaidō, primarily in the Sapporo area. However, location is almost irrelevant to the focus of the work, the antics of its lovable cast of misfit part-timers at the Wagnaria famiresu. For the most part, it’s best just to sit back and enjoy it!
The bridge is part of a cycling road on the campus of Hokusei Gakuen University (北星学園大学) in Sapporo, Hokkaidō Prefecture.
Yomiuri Shimbun published an article about pop culture tourism to Fuchū, Tokyo Metropolis for Chihayafuru.
Jōnan Shinpō published an article about pop culture tourism to Uji, Kyoto Prefecture for Hibike! Euphonium.
@ts_kobaya made a video pilgrimage to Uji and Kyoto covering later episodes of Hibike! Euphonium (I forgot to include at publishing time last week):
@tianlangxing made significant updates to a previous pilgrimage to Shibuya, Tokyo for the PV to Hosoda Mamoru film Bakemono no Ko, released in theaters in Japan on 2015 July 11. The updates include more scenes from the Shibuya central commercial district, Yoyogi and Hatagaya (all Shibuya Ward, Tokyo Metropolis). With exception of trailer images, the scenes are identified and reproduced by memory.
@touyoko_com is a recent arrival to the butaitanbou blogging community, publishing a flurry of content over the past several months. Posts from the past week, in addition to Charlotte (above), include pilgrimages to Nagasaki for Sola; Kyoto for Tamako Market and Inari, Konkon, Koi Iroha (post 1, post 2); and Ichikawa, Chiba Prefecture for White Album 2.