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.
Media and General Interest
Akita Nairiku Jūkan Railway Kimi no Na wa. promotion
Asahi Shimbun published an article about efforts by the Akita Nairiku Jūkan Railway to capitalize on pop culture tourism induced by Kimi no Na wa. Maeda-Minami Station in Kita-Akita, Akita Prefecture is suspected to have inspired a location in the film setting. Though it is an unmanned local station, the railway has issued commemorative tickets and arranged for express trains to temporarily stop at the platform in response to fan interest. The railway plans to sell customized name plates that will be installed in the station for one year before being delivered to the purchaser.
Shimoda Natsuiro Kiseki Harris’ Footbath
Izu Shimbun published an article about the Shimoda, Shizuoka Prefecture city council vote against an ordinance that would have restored operation of a public hot spring footbath, which will be dismantled as planned by the end of 2017. Harris’ Footbath appeared in Natsuiro Kiseki and was popular among anime pilgrimage fans.
(3月のライオン Sangatsu no Raion)
Fan Pilgrimage Update
@Roan_Inish made a pilgrimage to Tsukuda, Chūō Ward and Ueno, Taitō Ward (Tokyo Metropolis); and Tendō, Yamagata Prefecture (including human shōgi) for Episode 21. Prior to the anime adaptation, Inish made pilgrimages for the manga version, which is one reason he’s able to publish articles so quickly after each episode. He says that there is a high degree of faithfulness to scenes as they were drawn in the manga, so in some cases he has been able to reuse images taken on previous investigations. For instance, photos of the human shogi event at the Tendō cherry blossom festival were taken in 2015.
Tendō Station (天童駅)
Tendō (天童), Yamagata Prefecture produces the vast majority of shōgi pieces made in Japan, and promotes this craft as its primary tourism attraction. Motifs of game pieces are found throughout the city, even some before you leave the train platform.
The melody echoing through the empty station is “Tōryanse” (通りゃんせ), a children’s song about passing through a checkpoint, which has often been used in street crossing signals, though recently has begun to be phased out and replaced with standardized bird calls. Among theories on the meaning of its cryptic lyrics is an association with infant mortality. The eerie feeling conjured by the song is likely the reason for Kiriyama’s strong reaction.
The Japan Times has an interesting article on the soundscape of Japanese cities, including crossing signals.
Tendō Civic Cultural Hall (天童市市民文化会館)
The backstory isn’t revealed until later in the episode, but these are foodstuffs made from local agricultural products, by seniors in the rural village where Shimada had been raised.
Human shōgi (人間将棋) is normally held at an outdoor venue every year in April as part of the Tendō Sakura Matsuri (天童桜まつり), though here moved to an auditorium due to rain. The “pieces” are people dressed in full armor and period clothing, and move around the board according to instructions from the players.
The backstory about Shimada’s efforts to organize transport, social support and an income source for the elders in his village comes straight out of real life. As Japan’s birthrate declines and rural areas depopulate, it faces the challenge of how to support this demographic. In the face of seemingly inexorable concentration of resources in Tokyo and other big cities, some towns and regions have demonstrated successes with strategies of this nature, which leverage unique local resources and encourage community engagement.
A shuttle bus service takes people from their homes to a community center.
Groceries and necessities are arranged for pickup.
Products made by the seniors are sold at local train stations by an official agreement.
Tendō Civic Cultural Hall
At Mikazuki-dō, the Kawamotos deliberate the conflict between innovation and respect for traditional practices as they brainstorm new wagashi. The same issue was at the heart of the playful disagreements between the two mochi makers in Tamako Market.
Hinata and Akari push for incorporation of the kinds of fresh fruit and cream toppings they find at a favorite dessert shop. In the work, the location they are shown visiting is modeled on the Anmitsu Mihashi (あんみつ みはし) original shop in Ueno (上野), Taitō Ward.
However, the streetscape used immediately after they leave the shop comes from the Tsukishima Nishi-Naka-dōri Shōtengai (月島西仲通り商店街).
Azuma Bridge (吾妻橋) viewed from Komagata Bridge (駒形橋). Super Dry Hall (スーパードライホール) with the Asahi Flame sculpture appears in the background art for the first time in the series. We know we’ve at least passed 1989 at this point.
Adjacent to Asakusa Nakamise Shōtengai (浅草仲見世商店街), to the west of the shopping street about halfway between the Kaminarimon and Hōzōmon at Sensō-ji.
Asakusa Station (浅草駅) exit 4
Yotarō and Higuchi debate the merits of writing new rakugo while riding the subway.
Shinnosuke walks home from school through a lively neighborhood shōtengai.
(小林さんちのメイドラゴン Kobayashi-san Chi no Meidoragon)
Higashi-Koshigaya 7-chōme Shīnoki Park (東越谷七丁目しいの木公園)