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
Higashiji Kazuki exhibition Earth Colors
Huffington Post Japan published a long interview with art director Higashiji Kazuki, conducted at the site of Earth Colors, a special exhibition of background art he created for various series produced by P.A.Works in 2017 March. Higashiji talks about his career path, describes the work of an art director, discusses his artistic thought process, and mentions use of his hometown in Mie Prefecture as the basis for the setting in Nagi no Asukara and resultant anime pilgrimage.
Anime News Network published a report on the Earth Colors exhibition, including many large photos.
Nishinomiya Cafe Dream relocation
@keyboar published a report on the upcoming move of Cafe Dream in Nishinomiya, Hyōgo Prefecture to a new location nearby, and a report from the 2016 December Suzumiya Haruhi 10th anniversary fan gathering at the cafe.
nippon.com published an English translation of an article originally published in Japanese on April 6, tracing broadly the arc of seichijunrei as it grew out of increasingly complex settings created for animation targeting adults in Japan. The article discusses many key examples of popular works that have spurred intense and sustained anime-induced travel and outlines common pilgrim practices.
Uji Eupho seichijunrei
Kyoto Shimbun published an article about seichijunrei to Uji, Kyoto Prefecture for Hibike! Euphonium.
(サクラクエスト Sakura Kuesuto)
Fan Pilgrimage Update
@kai881 has a very sharp eye for background art and noticed something peculiar that sent him on an extensive sleuthing mission. The first point of interest is a free standing residence in Katsuragi, Wakayama Prefecture (Street View). It is now adjacent to a recently built onsen resort called Amanosato (天野の里), though the Street View image is from 2012 and doesn’t reflect this. The building is interesting because it appears in Non Non Biyori in three forms: One as it is, one flipped around its vertical axis, and a third variant still flipped and then compressed laterally. This same building in its original form also appears in Sakura Quest. Kai went on to find three additional structure groupings, seven buildings in total, all of unknown origin, which are also shared between the two works. I’ve screencapped the relevant scene when it appeared in Episode 4, included below. If this were just a case of a studio reusing saved assets, it wouldn’t be such a shock. But the remarkable part is that there does not appear to be any obvious link between these two works. The directors, art directors, producing studios and background art studios are all different.
@inoue1024 created a video in 2015 of the woodcarving district in Inami, Nanto on which the Sakura Quest setting is based:
Inoue also found woodcarvings of characters from The Idolmaster Cinderella Girls. Perhaps some the artisans working in Inami aren’t quite as hellbent on protecting their tradition from pollution as some of the characters in Sakura Quest.
— inoue1024 (@inoue1024) May 2, 2017
With Yoshino committed to her role as local spokesperson, as well as acknowledging the failed attempts to build marketing strategies around unpopular mascots, Sakura Quest turns to unearthing intrinsic features of Manoyama. The show continues to draw on locations and features of Nanto (南砺), Toyama Prefecture to create this fictional town.
Yoshino notices a ranma (欄間) in the house Sanae had rented. In Japanese architecture, ranma is the decorative lattice, usually made from wood, that covers the open space on top of a transom beam. Inami (井波), one of the former towns that were combined to create the city of Nanto, is a production center for an ornate hand-carved variant of this craft.
Shiori leads Yoshino and the others on a tour of Manoyama’s woodcarving district, called Monzenmachi (門前町 district in front of the gate), modeled on Yōkamachi-dōri (八日町通り) in Inami.
As in the shōtengai elsewhere in the city, there are many shops with closed shutters.
At one end of Yōkamachi-dōri lies Inami Betsuin Zuisen-ji (井波別院瑞泉寺), though the real one differs somewhat from the temple depicted in the work. There are steps, but no outer gate. The doors and ranma of the gate in the work appear to be inspired by the sanmon (山門) at Zuisen-ji, the temple’s main gate, which is further into the grounds.
As they stand at the front steps to the temple, Shiori’s explanation of the origin of the woodcarving district parallels that for Inami. The first version of Zuisen-ji, completed in 1390, as well as the subsequent rebuilds after it burned down several times, all relied heavily on the labor of carpenters in Inami. Out of this emerged a center of expertise for shrine building and woodcarving techniques that survives to this day, passed down from each generation of artisans to the next.
In fictional Manoyama, the backstory is that the city has tried but failed to attract tourism through promoting the woodcarving district. Yoshino doesn’t know this yet, though Shiori will reveal this history in a subsequent planning meeting.
In Monzenmachi, the team meets two artisans. Tatsuo is a younger apprentice carver and is open to promotion and marketing collaboration efforts.
Kazushi is a more experienced carver and is wary of anything that he perceives will cheapen the art.
At the planning meeting, Shiori walks the team through a review of past failures. Fewer houses are being built with ranma, which has suppressed demand. Woodcarvings in general are expensive, as they are made by hand, not mass-producible. As a result, it is difficult to make a living as a woodcarver and the industry has challenges attracting and retaining talent.
At a shōtengai member meeting, Tetsuo is excited about the tourism board’s intent to again promote the woodcarving district. Shōtengai head Oribe is, as usual, suspicious of the tourism board, and wary of how it might handle the town’s traditional craft.
Yoshino and Sanae approach the artisans to discuss a collaboration idea combining woodcarving with mechanical devices made by a local inventor.
Tetsuo, fearing Kazushi’s anger, pulls them outside to discuss the idea on the Zuisen-ji front steps.
He explains that the two artisans have very different abilities and ideas about their craft. Kazushi is a traditionalist, with skills on par with those who made the woodcarvings for the temple. Tetsuo estimates his skill level at a lower level, but sees himself as open-minded to non-traditional applications.
This is the background relevant to Kai’s research above. Almost all of the buildings that appear here were also used in Non Non Biyori. With the exception of the first residence Kai found, models for these buildings have not been found in Katsuragi, Nanto or anywhere else.
Despite enthusiasm, the woodcarving clad exoskeleton turns out to be impractical.
The team reflects on the failed attempt at the cafe Angelica’s, which appears to be emerging as their preferred third place.
A second attempt to combine woodcarving and technology incites the anger of Kazushi and Oribe.
When Yoshino and Sanae go to apologize to Kazushi, he points out that they have yet to learn even basic details about the craft that they are trying to promote. He and Sanae are both transplants from large cities, but he sees himself as coming to Manoyama with purpose, to pursue this craft, whereas Sanae was escaping an uncomfortable environment and could have chosen anywhere. This seems to be a recurring theme in Sakura Quest: Without communication and common understanding, there will continue to be tension between insiders like Kazushi and Oribe who care about the town but are reluctant to accept change, and outsiders like Yoshino and Sanae, who are enthusiastic about the town but rush for change before they really understand the situation.
Sanae acknowledges her outsider status and decides to retreat from her involvement with the team, but I have a feeling she’ll be back.
Sunshine 60 (サンシャイン60)
Higashi-Ikebukuro Central Park (東池袋中央公園)
(有頂天家族2 Uchōten Kazoku 2)
Fan Pilgrimage Update
Kyoto City Zoo (京都市動物園)
Shimogamo Jinja (下鴨神社)
Sanmon (山門) at Nanzen-ji
Second story of the Nanzen-ji sanmon
Kumogahata (雲ケ畑), Kita Ward, Kyoto is the source of the Kamo River (賀茂川), which becomes the Kamo River (鴨川), different kanji, after it merges with the Takano River at the delta in Demachi.
Fan Pilgrimage Update
@Surwill compiled a guide combining archive photos, Street View and other online image sources of locations in Kawagoe, Saitama Prefecture and Kyoto for Episode 3 and Episode 4. He includes much background information about many of the locations and updated his Google Map.
The school trip episode, especially a trip to Kyoto, appears so often in anime it’s almost like a trope unto itself. After you’ve watched a few dozen of them, it’s easy to start tuning them out as distractions from the main setting, but then something like this week’s episode goes to extra lengths to breathe unusual details into the script, snapping you back to attention. Many of the places they visit are stock-standard, both for Kyoto tourism in anime and Kyoto tourism in real life, but there are a few exceptions as well.
I didn’t realize the long plaza that connects the Imperial Palace with Tokyo Station has a name, Gyōkō-dōri (行幸通り).
Tokyo Station, Yaesu Central Gate (東京駅八重洲中央口) concourse inside ticket wicket
Tokyo Station, Marunouchi Underground South Entrance (東京駅丸の内地下南口)
Tokyo Station, Yaesu side outer concourse, just south of the Yaesu Central Gate
Marunouchi Underground South Entrance
Tōkaidō Shinkansen (東海道新幹線)
Kyoto Station (京都駅)
Kyoto Tower (京都タワー)
Jishu Jinja (地主神社)
Shōgoin Gotensō (聖護院御殿荘)
Omiyage shop in the Gion Shōtengai, close to Hanami-koji
Yasaka Jinja (八坂神社)
@ssslocation noticed that the Akane’s run is actually several loops of the same few shopfronts:
— sgoｱﾛﾌｧ C調 (@ssslocation) April 27, 2017
The merchants along this part of Shijō-dōri, beween the Kamo River and Karasuma-dōri, belong to the Shijō Han’eikai Shōtengai (四条繁栄会商店街). The unusual sculpted overhangs that run the length of the shōtengai, which are lit at night, are a distinctive visual feature of downtown Kyoto. The current appearance of the street, with reduced vehicle lanes, wider sidewalks, and terraced bus stops that don’t block the pedestrian lane, is the result of a substantial redevelopment project on Shijō conducted between 2014 November and 2015 October.
Intersection of Takakura-dōri (高倉通) and Nishiki-koji-dōri (錦小路通)
Nishiki-koji-dōri, just west of the entrance to Nishiki Ichiba
Nishiki-koji, looking at Nishiki Ichiba
Nishiki Ichiba (錦市場)
Honnō-ji (本能寺), a quiet temple tucked in the middle of a block near Sanjō-dōri and Karasuma-dōri, is the farthest we get from the beaten tourism path in this episode.
Small alley in Kinencho (金園町), very close to Ninen-zaka and Matsubara-dōri
Hotel de la Pierre in Okazaki Hōshōjichō
(冴えない彼女の育てかた♭[フラット] Saenai Hiroin no Sodatekata Furatto)
Fan Pilgrimage Update
Sekiguchi Sanchōme Park (関口三丁目公園) in Bunkyō Ward, Tokyo Metropolis
This is the Takadobashi intersection (高戸橋交差点), technically in Nishi-Waseda, Shinjuku Ward, though just across the Kanda River from Takada, Toshima Ward, where Nozokizaka and other scenes from Tomoya’s neighborhood are located. This is a popular spot for trainspotting the Toden Arakawa Line (都電荒川線), one of only two extant streetcar lines in Tokyo. Saekano exclusively depicts the Toei 7000 series (東京都交通局7000形) cars, which are visually distinctive and often considered representative of the line, though other car types are used.
Speaking of Toden, I was caught completely off guard this week by the announcement that the line will be officially nicknamed the Tokyo Sakura Tram (東京さくらトラム), part of a strategy intended to generate more interest among foreigners. The announcement calls it a nickname (愛称), it will formally remain the Arakawa Line, however early information about the implementation I found on Twitter shows signage in the tram stops and transfer stations being changed to show the nickname centered, in large font, with Arakawa in parentheses, smaller font, to the side. The logistics and funding required for the new signage, and more fundamentally the change to the line’s identity, seem much more substantial than a mere nickname would merit.
Toden-Zōshigaya Stop (都電雑司ヶ谷停留場)