Welcome to this week’s review of notable instances of public transit use and urban design, as well as discussion of place identity and culture, through anime currently broadcast or screening in Japan and simulcast internationally via the web. This review also documents seichijunrei (聖地巡礼 sacred site pilgrimage) and butaitanbou (舞台探訪 scene hunting)—on this website referred to collectively as anime pilgrimage—which are forms of place-based engagement induced by the use of real locations in show settings.
I’m not quite sure how this happened, but somehow I’ve made it through 200 of these weekly reviews. Some of those combined multiple weeks into one post, so it’s actually been a little over four years and three months since the beginning. The first 100 reviews were a steep learning curve. Between anime production, pop culture tourism, fan studies, and trying to teach myself Japanese, I was learning so many things for the first time and trying hard to make sense of it all. Since then, I’ve more or less settled into a groove with regard to how I collect information and put together the reviews, but how I interpret that information and try to connect it with other disciplines continues to evolve. This is due in large part to the people I’ve met along the way.
Review #100 was published in 2014 July. At the time, I had been communicating with butaitanbou practitioners online, and had made my own pilgrimages to locations for two works, but for the most part was still an outsider watching from a distance.
In 2014 October, I met some of these acquaintances face-to-face for the first time, first a few friends in Tokyo, then a small welcoming party organized just for me in Kyoto. The amount of learning from the input I received at that time was enormous. Everyone I met in those first meetings continues to be among my closest friends. Translation help from Endos and Tachikichi was unanticipated and immensely helpful, especially in that early time. It was also then that, quite by accident, I met Moriwaki Kiyotaka in person. Moriwaki works for The Museum of Kyoto as the Senior Curator of the Kyoto Film Archive, but he also assists Kyoto Animation staff when the studio does location hunting in Kyoto Prefecture. From him, I’ve learned how and why so many real locations are used as settings for anime. Moriwaki and his wife Motoko help me understand how animation fits into the greater arts scene and Japanese culture in general. They also listen to all of my ideas about where I would like to go with these studies, and don’t hesitate to tell me when some of them are just a little too crazy to be workable. I’m very thankful for their guidance.
By 2015 July, I had visited several more pilgrimage locations, and attended my first big meeting of the butaitanbou community, the 2015 summit in Kagoshima. It was both wonderful and overwhelming. Most people there knew who I was at that point, whether I had encountered them online or not, so I had to do my best to get through a stream of first-time introductions with my pretty terrible Japanese over the course of two days. I’ve made only slow, incremental progress in my minimal language self-study, but as I’ve gotten to know many of these people I feel less self-conscious about trying to use it. Sometimes things still don’t go smoothly, but comrades can overcome many barriers when they share a common passion.
In February of 2015 and again in 2016, I combined personal vacations with a bit of anime pilgrimage, taking my young daughter to several locations from her favorite shows and meeting a few practitioners and the Moriwakis while we were there. I define someone as having crossed the line to good friend when they’re willing to help you keep your four-year-old entertained for eight hours.
In 2015 October, I was in Japan for two weeks of concentrated study. I visited more pilgrimage locations and met with more practitioners. I found one-on-one or small groups tended to be good arrangements for me to make deeper connections and get closer to the core of questions. There was also a big but casual butaitanbou community meeting in Kyoto, concurrent with a special Kyoto Animation exhibition, both of which were loads of fun. Near the end of that trip I spent some time with Dr Okamoto Takeshi at Nara Prefectural University. Okamoto is a preeminent researcher of pop culture/media-induced tourism, what academics in Japan refer to as contents tourism (コンテンツツーリズム). The material published by Okamoto and his colleagues at other universities vastly exceeds anything I do in depth, rigor and structure, so it is critical that I familiarize myself with their work.
In 2016 September, I again participated in the butaitanbou community summit, this time in Chichibu, before setting off on an endurance circuit of anime pilgrimage from Tokyo through Hokuriku and Kansai. I was able to make visits to pilgrimage locations for brand new works and some of my favorite old series, spending time with many friends along the journey. I also was able to get into conversations with local business operators and begin to understand pop culture tourism from their perspective. Machi okoshi (town revitalization) through pop culture media is a topic I’ve only recently begun to look into, and something I need to learn much more about. My last stop on the way back through Tokyo was with Christian Dimmer and his wife Wada Yu, who I’ve known since I began following this beat. Christian is a professor of urban design at Waseda University and Yu is a media producer and master problem solver. They’ve watched me struggle with trying to draw out and explain to others this thread linking contents tourism, urbanism, place identity and civic engagement that I’m convinced exists. They both understand the need for an interdisciplinary approach to analyzing complex phenomena, and have helped me think through paths I could take.
I wish I had a neat and tidy unifying theory for you after four years of this, but I actually have just as many new questions as I do answers for old ones. I’ve also considered for some time how I could extend this study beyond the weekly post. All of the people I’ve mentioned above and quite a few more continue to help me work on these. I can see some of the puzzle pieces now, and I have a good feeling many more will fall into place this year. Stay tuned to this channel.
Media and General Interest
Uji stamp rally
Kyoto Shimbun published an article about a stamp rally Uji will organize at the end of October that will include scenes from the Hibike! Euphonium setting along with traditional locations such as Byōdō-in and places associated with The Tale of Genji.
Hida Kimi no Na wa. screening
Chubu-Nippon Broadcasting aired a news segment about the line to purchase advance tickets for a special screening of Kimi no Na wa. at the Hida Cultural Exchange Center. Locations in Hida feature in the film setting, but the city no longer has an operating movie theater.
Shinkai background art exhibition
Asahi Shimbun published an article about an exhibition of Shinkai Makoto film background art at the Koumi Kōgen Museum of Art in Koumi, Nagano Prefecture. Observers, including Shinkai’s father, have noted elements of the backgrounds that are inspired by scenes in Koumi, where the creator spent time as a child.
Caron Cooper and Kinmoza
Otaku News published an article about cooking classes Fosse Farmhouse owner Caron Cooper is scheduled to teach in Japan in 2016 November. The bed and breakfast and nearby locations in England were featured in Kin’iro Mosaic. Cooper will talk about working with the production company during location hunting for the series.
Nishinomiya Haruhi location
Nifty News published an article about the end stages of the demolition of Shukugawa Gakuin in Nishinomiya, Hyōgo Prefecture. The school was used in the film Suzumiya Haruhi no Shōshitsu.
(響け！ユーフォニアム2 Hibike! Yūfoniamu 2)
Fan Pilgrimage Update
This week, the entire episode is set at Actpal Uji (アクトパル宇治).
From an urbanism perspective, there isn’t a whole lot to say about an isolated event space, but as this is Kyoto Animation, gosh darn it if those backgrounds aren’t just gorgeous.
(3月のライオン Sangatsu no Raion)
Fan Pilgrimage Update
View looking south from Shinkawa (新川), Chūō Ward, Tokyo Metropolis
Rei has a fairly stable routine journey from his apartment to the shōgi hall and back, so we often cycle through the same settings. However, the background art is different each time we see them. New angles, focal lengths and lighting give them greater depth and natural feeling, despite the very far from photorealistic art style.
Chūō Bridge (中央大橋)
Rooftop amusement park at the Tōkyū Plaza Kamata (東急プラザ蒲田) department store, part of Kamata Station (蒲田駅) in Ōta Ward. The station is jointed operated by JR East and Tōkyū, and features rail integrated retail development from each.
Chūō Line (Rapid) (中央線快速)
In previous episodes we saw the sotobori (外濠) from the train. Now we see the Chūō Line pass from the opposite bank.
Chūō-Sōbu Line (中央・総武緩行線)
Sendagaya Station (千駄ケ谷駅)
Hatanomori Hachiman Jinja (鳩森八幡神社)
Japan Shōgi Association (日本将棋連盟)
Viewed through car windows, the city becomes blurred streaks of light. In a private vehicle, characters become isolated from the greater environment.
Back out of the car, buildings and light sources again have definition.
Tsukishima Station (月島駅)
Tsukuda (small) Bridge (佃小橋)
Namiyoke 於咲 Inari Daimyōjin (波除於咲稲荷大明神)
Akari delivers the more complete explanation of mukaebi (迎え火 welcoming fire) and okuribi (送り火 sending off fire) during obon (お盆) that we didn’t get in the previous episode.
(舟を編む Fune o Amu)
Jinbōchō (神保町), Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo Metropolis. This is the main intersection above the subway station, the closest thing the neighborhood has to a focal point. When I lived in Jinbōchō, I would pass through here almost on a daily basis, whether to get shampoo from the drug store, pickup groceries from the Fujiya supermarket (off frame on the left side), or just head into the subway. It’s a lot of fun to see it come back to life in animated form.
Yōsukō Saikan (揚子江菜館) in the Kanda Suzuran-dōri Shōtengai (神田すずらん通り商店街). Hey, I ate there once! The Chinese restaurant appears to have been recently remodeled. The interior images on the Tabelog page look a bit soulless, while the artwork in the show is close to how I remember it.
Majime describes his unusual interest, observing crowds queue into neat lines at subway stations. My hunch is that we’re all cognizant of norms like this, if only subconsciously, and this shapes our experiences of public spaces, but it’s a special kind of nerdiness that compels someone to observe them deliberately. I swear I don’t know anyone like that.
Jinbōchō Station (神保町駅)
Toei Mita Line (都営地下鉄三田線) platform
Smaller, underground stations like this tend to look similar, but the use of a real recording of the Toei platform jingle and arriving train announcement make it feel familiar. I’ve probably heard those destination stations a few hundred times. I was kind of bouncing out of my chair on the first viewing.
(うどんの国の金色毛鞠 Udon no Kuni no Kin’iro Kemari)
Fan Pilgrimage Update
No new pilgrimage articles this week, but the official Twitter account for the series shared materials from the location hunt for Episode 3.
Shinobu coerces Sōta and Poco into pier fishing in the middle of the night.
Takamatsu Port Tamamo Breakwater Lighthouse (高松港玉藻防波堤灯台)
Shinobu still can’t get over hearing Sōta speak in standard Japanese. In the show, most of the “local” characters speak in Sanuki dialect (讃岐弁).
As with Kotoden in the previous episode, fishing with Shinobu at the lighthouse evokes Sōta’s memories of growing up in Takamatsu.
(ユーリ!!! on ICE Yūri on Aisu)
Fan Pilgrimage Update
Kyōmachi Shōtengai (京町商店街)
The keisaku (警策) is a flat wooden stick used to strike meditators during long periods of seated meditation. It is not meant as a punishment, but as an aid against sleepiness or loss of concentration.
Takigyō (滝行) is a special meditation practice that involves prolonged standing under a waterfall in an effort to clear the mind of thought.
Victor orders ramen at a yatai (屋台).
Fan Pilgrimage Update
Hokkaidō Jingū (北海道神宮) in Miyagaoka (宮ヶ丘), Chūō Ward, Sapporo, Hokkaidō Prefecture
Other Current Season Pilgrimage
Past Season Pilgrimage
@fragments_sue made significant updates to his comprehensive pilgrimage to non-Tokyo locations for Hida for Kimi no Na wa. This update includes new photography in Hida, and new locations in Suka and Koumi, Nagano Prefecture.