In 2016 February, I was in Japan on holiday with my daughter Mei. We spent one day on a trip down to Kamakura and Fujisawa, Kanagawa Prefecture to meet up with friends and explore some of the real locations used as reference models for the setting of currently airing Kyoto Animation series Musaigen no Phantom World (無彩限のファントム・ワールド). This practice of visiting locations that are incorporated into popular media is broadly referred to as pop culture tourism, media-induced tourism or (among academics in Japan) contents tourism (コンテンツツーリズム).
Ethnographers use a variety of tools and methods to observe communities, but one unifying characteristic is that he or she will ultimately participate with the target group as part of the study. The inevitability of affecting the behavior of the subjects is traded for learning through doing, as well as the exchange of relatively intimate personal thoughts that many subjects will only share after a substantial relationship and trust have been built. I have made several anime pilgrimages—referred to by the community as seichijunrei (聖地巡礼 sacred site pilgrimage)—on my own, in which I was able to get more familiar with technical aspects of the activity. However, my goal is not so much to master the behaviors as to learn how others employ them, and ultimately draw out their underlying motivations for undertaking them.
When I first began looking at location use in anime, I noticed Kamakura seemed to appear an awful lot as the model for beach scenes, regardless of how far away the main location model might be. Having made the trip down a few times now, I realize the transit network is such that it’s not really difficult to get there from just about anywhere in Greater Tokyo. On this day, it was about a 50 minute trip from Ikebukuro, starting on the Shōnan-Shinjuku Line and changing to the Yokosuka Line at Yokohama Station.
Assistant is ready to go.
We arrive a little ahead of our lunch meeting, so we use the time to walk a bit and do some trainspotting with the Enoshima Electric Railway (Enoden).
Near Kamakura Station, we meet up with my friend Gromit (グルミット @gromit1446) and his friend Konasan (こなさん @konasan_s) for okonomiyaki and yakisoba. Gromit was the first person from the seichijunrei community I met face-to-face, and has been a wonderful guide to the subculture and Japanese customs in general. I knew of Konasan from Twitter, but this is our first meeting in person. The two of them had been up early, scouring Kamakura and Yokohama for new locations that had appeared in Phantom episode 5, broadcast just a day earlier. Within seichijunrei, those who engage in location finding without aid of an existing reference, making the pioneering visits and reporting back to the community, refer to this as butaitanbou (舞台探訪 scene hunting).
Gromit and Konasan give us a sneak peek at the photos from their morning outings, but for the most part this meeting is about catching up on news and filling our tummies.
Mei has decided both of our lunch companions are above board. Actually, she refuses to let me hold her hand, instead attaching herself to Gromit as we wander around to digest our lunch, watch for more Enoden trains and stop in some of the shops.
Jizō is a protector of, among other things, travelers and children. Perfect! From here we take our leave of Gromit and Konasan, who have a heavy schedule of additional butaitanbou to track down the remaining new locations from Kamakura. But our day is just getting started.
We head back up to Kamakura Station to pick up Kobaya (こばや @ts_kobaya) and Tachikichi (たちきち @tachikichi), who have been two of my gateways into the seichijunrei-butaitanbou community. Kobaya was my first exposure to the subculture and continues to make me think hard about why I follow it. Tachikichi is my tunnel through the language barrier, jumping into service as an impromptu translator on several occasions, translating one of my articles in its entirety, and initiating my invitation into the inner circle of anime tourism pioneers, the Butaitanbou Community (舞台探訪者コミュニティ), or BTC.
Kobaya was one of the earliest explorers in Kamakura and Fujisawa after the broadcast of the first episode of Phantom, and published one of his trademark videos from the adventure:
Kobaya is leading the rest of us on this walk, in which we will hit just the highlights out of the known locations from the first four episodes. He and Tachikichi knew Mei would be along with us, so our plans are squarely in the casual seichijunrei end of the spectrum.
Before we head out along the coast we hop off Enoden at Hase Station, as Mei had been promised a visit to the Daibutsu at Kōtoku-in. She had seen a photo of it as a toddler and mistook it for her Chinese grandfather. I tried to take her once in 2014 Summer, but didn’t make it back in time from Enoshima to catch it before the evening closing. I knew there was restoration work underway at the time of this visit, but had hoped we’d at least be able to see something through scaffolding. With an enclosure completely enveloping the bronze statue, we had to make do with a live broadcast on a monitor.
I guess we’ll have to see if our luck improves on a third visit. In this case, it wasn’t really a loss because we needed to be around Hase for our first seichijunrei stop anyway.
The shot of Minase at the Hoshinoi-dōri intersection comes from the official preview.
Down on the shore, around the western extent of what’s considered the Yuigahama beach, we find a few of the locations from the opening credits.
We hop back on Enoden and take it to Koshigoe Station for the second and much longer leg of the trip.
The two shots of the canal are from opposite sides of the Kōbe-bashi intersection. These are also from the opening credits.
Kobaya pulls up the butaitanbou post by Anitabi to help us line up our shots. For seichijunrei, using an existing reference like this is perfectly acceptable and encouraged. But were we on a butaitanbou hunt like Gromit and Konasan, we would need a deck of printed slides or image files on a phone/tablet, maps and other research we’d compiled to help find new locations.
A short walk brings us across the line from Kamakura into Fujisawa, arriving at Ryūkō-ji, where Haruhiko encounters Reina in the first episode.
The inner parts of the temple are not used in Phantom but, since we’re just here to have a good time, we use the chance to take a look around.
We continue a bit southwest until we reach Enoshima Station, the next stop on Enoden.
This shot of Minase from the opening credits is somewhere behind the train stopped at the platform. If this were butaitanbou, we would wait for the train to leave, get into the correct position, figure out the correct focal length and settle in to wait for a clear shot. But this is seichijunrei, so a quick snapshot will do just fine!
Enoden souvenir coin get
Shōnan-Enoshima Station, the southern terminus of the Shōnan Monorail, is just up the street. This intersection is used extensively in episodes 2, 3, 4 and 6.
However, there is no bus stop in front of the station, as depicted in Phantom.
Our last leg is a short trip to Nishi-Kamakura Station, so we climb up through the station and board the suspended monorail, the first of this type to be built in Japan (1970) and one of only three currently in operation.
Kobaya records our shenanigans for posterity—
—at least, until someone turns the camera on him.
The orthodox butaitanbou format is a blog post with side-by-side comparisons of screen captures with photographs of the real locations. Kobaya is unique among seichijunrei-butaitanbou practitioners in his exclusive use of video. He told me once that there was no particularly deep reason for the medium choice, other than just wanting to be different. My observation has been that, while butaitanbou image posts are better suited as references for casual seichijunrei, Kobaya’s videos are more shareable among a general audience. They make the rounds on social media, are embedded in news sites, and extend awareness of the phenomena much farther beyond the subculture.
We disembark at Nishi-Kamakura Station, back across the border into Kamakura. With two exceptions (below), Nishi-Kamakura Station is, as of the time of writing, only used for one scene in the first episode.
Imagery from the underside of the station platform is used as a key visual and the background of the official website.
The shot of Haruhiko’s run down the slope toward the station is captured from the pedestrian footbridge that connects the station island with the sidewalk on the south side of Prefectural Route 304.
My 35mm prime wasn’t enough to get the wide shot of the station.
I stitched together a few shots into a panorama, but shoehorning it into a 16:9 crop turned out to be a bridge too far.
This shot of Albrecht and Ruru appears in the opening credits. The monorail station is in the background of a shot taken from the bottom of the slope that appears in episode 1.
All of us are headed to points north for the night. With our seichijunrei wrapped up, we continue on the Shōnan Monorail to its northern terminus, Ōfuna Station. From Ōfuna, we can choose from many train options to get back up into Yokohama and Tokyo, but we first scout around the station for a ramen dinner and some dessert, comfort foods for a hard day’s work and job well done.
My daughter tends to make snap judgements about a person’s character in the first few moments she meets them. Someone she thinks understands her at her level will be embraced immediately, while fawning 20-something office ladies or well-intentioned but too aggressive aunties and uncles will get a cold shoulder. It can be a little jarring, but I ultimately find her assessments to be pretty much on the mark. I’m completely tickled that she had four new big brothers she pulled into her circle on our day out, but then, I already knew my friends were great people.
In Musaigen no Phantom World, Ruru-chan is a blue haired, flying phantom that, while diminutive in stature, is by no means small of heart. Since she is Mei’s favorite character from the show, we occasionally mentioned we were “looking for Ruru” to keep her from getting bored during some of the less than exciting parts of our expedition. We must have overdid it, as she seemed to get the idea we really might find Ruru, or at least a poster of Ruru somewhere, and was upset that, for all the good time we had, we came up empty on that account.
Ruru is an original character created for the anime adaption, not from the light novel source material. But just out of curiosity I asked the author, Hatano Sōichirō, if he had any thoughts about how we could handle the situation. Five minutes later, he sent back the most charming reply:
Please tell her, “Because Ruru-chan likes making mischief, she was probably hiding right behind you. But you might be able to meet her in a dream.”
Fortunately, we ultimately didn’t need to wait too long to finally meet Ruru. At the KyoAni shop in Uji the following week, we were able to procure a Ruru pin with only two draws from the special gashapon machine. All’s well that ends well.