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 holy land pilgrimage) and butaitanbou (舞台探訪 scene hunting), which are pop culture tourism and place-based engagement induced by the use of real locations in show settings.
Media and General Interest
Tokyo Shimbun published an article about pop culture tourism to Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture for High School Fleet.
Izu Shimbun published an article about the inclusion of the Itō, Shizuoka Prefecture setting of Amanchu! on the Anime Tourism 88-Stop Pilgrimage list.
(サクラクエスト Sakura Kuesuto)
Mysterious men in suits begin touring the town. We find out their purpose at the end of the episode.
That’s Toyama Station in the background to the right. It’s curious that Sakura Quest earlier referred to Toyama Prefecture by name, but changes the city to “Tomikura”.
A Manoyama native that moved away and now operates a successful chainlet of bakeries approaches the tourism board with his intention to open a new shop in Manoyama. It’s notable that he contacts the tourism board first, inspired by its recent efforts to revitalize the city, rather than the shōtengai.
This means the team has to bring the proposal before Chitose who, despite a stone-faced moment of hesitation for drama’s sake, agrees that welcoming a new business is in the interest of the shōtengai, even if it competes with her own shop.
However, the same issue Noge and Yoshino discussed in a previous episode resurfaces—owners living above their vacant units are unwilling to rent them out.
Cafe used as third place
First Chitose, then later the tourism board, try to persuade Akiyama, an owner of one of the shuttered shops, to rent his space. Though he no longer lives above the shop, he is still unwilling to do so. The reason is revealed later in the episode.
Noge prepares his bookstore cafe at the re-purposed school building. He’s creating a new third place, but it’s a missed opportunity that he didn’t (couldn’t?) do this in the shōtengai, the historical center of town, where it is most needed.
Cafe used as third place
Chitose’s handling of the issue of finding a vacancy is deft and unexpected. She frames the problem of finding a location for the new bakery in the broader picture of existential threats to the shōtengai. She goes so far as to raise the possibility of disbanding the shōtengai if it continues on its current trajectory toward irrelevance. It’s extreme, but it has the effect of forcing hesitant members to understand that their refusal to turn over vacant spaces is a large part of the problem. Akiyama had an unfortunate case where he did rent out his property only to have the tenant abandon it and leave him with an outstanding debt. But everyone begins to understand that the shutter shōtengai will have to be addressed one way or another, and one property owner finally volunteers a space.
Chitose also volunteers the shōtengai’s official support, the first time she has done so unprompted, for the tourism board’s planned festival.
We find out the men touring the town are government officials and Manoyama is on course to be absorbed into much larger Tomikura. The news hasn’t been foreshadowed during previous episodes and comes as a shock to the characters, but it’s not particularly unusual in the context of rural communities in Japan. Smaller cities and towns experiencing depopulation, and villages that never had many people to begin with, are often combined into new administrative regions to consolidate governance and services. Sometimes the original town names survive as administrative subdivisions. The Jōhana, Inami and Fukumitsu areas which comprise most of the setting in Sakura Quest were all separate towns that were combined, along with several others, to create the city of Nanto in 2004.
(ニューゲーム!! Nyū Gēmu!!)
Fan Pilgrimage Update
Ōme-kaidō (青梅街道) in Asagaya Minami (阿佐谷南), Suginami Ward, Tokyo Metropolis
Though it is the end of the work day, Aoba and Nene are walking east along the south side of the arterial road, passing the Eagle Jump office, instead of the usual route back to Asagaya Station.