Light rain and falling temperatures greet everyone as we arrive at Yasudaya Ryokan (安田屋旅館) in Uchiura, a seaside village in Numazu, Shizuoka Prefecture for the 10th Butaitanbou Summit (第10回舞台探訪サミットin沼津), held on 2017 September 16. This is the annual all hands meeting for the Butaitanbou Community ( 舞台探訪者コミュニティ), or BTC, the highly engaged core of manga and anime-induced travel in Japan. Fans of Love Live! Sunshine!! will recognize Yasudaya as the model for the hot spring inn run by the family of series protagonist Takami Chika.
The weather is gloomy, a warning of approaching typhoon Talim. However spirits are anything but, as we know we’ll be safely cocooned inside the ryokan with all of our good friends for the rest of the day and, for those staying the night, late into the evening and following morning.
I’m a quiet person in general, more so when I have to switch into my third language. But even I can’t contain my excitement, unleashing my still broken Japanese as I see familiar faces waiting to receive us inside the inn’s large genkan.
After we find our rooms and stow luggage, some of us explore Yasudaya in the time before the formal meeting begins.
Before this meeting, though I was aware I had one, I didn’t know my member number. I’d never seen it in print and always forgot to ask. So there you have it, BTC No. 138 Michael Vito at your service.
BTC general manager Habusan starts the live web stream and takes to the stage to welcome everyone in person and online.
Fallen angel Yohane gives her blessing on the proceedings and we are ready to begin.
At the head of the meeting, there is a moment of silence held for a BTC member from Hokkaidō who passed away during the past year. I believe this is the first time a member of the group passed away since its organization ten years ago.
We then move into the recurring contents of the meeting, such as BTC finances and official activities held since the previous summit. This time also includes special reflection on all that has happened over the course of the group’s first decade.
Among the goodies handed out at the reception desk, I notice the dorayaki comes from confectioner Shōgetsu, which appears in Love Live! Sunshine!! and is just up the street from inn.
Awards are always the most anticipated portion of the summit.
KEIHI (@keihi49) is the recipient of this year’s rookie award. A unifying theme of the comments in support of his selection is the observation of his relentless enthusiasm and energy, engaging with the community on Twitter and creating his anime-inspired adventures out in the world. I’ve truly enjoyed getting to know him myself over the past year or so, and regret that he couldn’t join us to accept his award in person.
Yoko (横 @touyoko_com) takes this year’s grand prize. Though Ebisu’s perennially strong efforts put him at a close second behind the leader, everyone agrees that Yoko’s regimen of publishing articles covering new episodes for several shows each week, often taking him far from his Kantō base, represents superlative effort and leaves substantial and lasting contributions to the anime tourism knowledge base. I’ve been relying on Yoko’s work regularly for at least the past two years, both in writing my weekly summaries of butaitanbou activity and as guides on my own anime pilgrimages. おめでとうございます、横さん！
For the second year, recipients of the previous year’s awards are given the opportunity to recognize others’ efforts with a special award.
Ebisu chose Stealth Dāhara (ステルスだーはら @d_hara_standard) for his ongoing and long-running investigations of scenes from the regularly published Saki manga, requiring extensive investigative skills, and the energy, time and financial resources needed to travel to the diverse and far-flung locations.
Hanara chose Ashiyama Hiroko (あしやまひろこ @hiroko_TB) for his formal research, including interview with local stakeholders, the town revitalization (町おこし machi okoshi) strategy created by Numazu to capitalize on the tourism inflow resulting from Love Love! Sunshine!!
Habusan recognized the entire Numazu summit management team for their growth throughout the process of preparing for the event.
Each year, we also vote on the works themselves, to get a sense of which ones the community felt offered the best opportunities for travel and exploration. Here were the top five:
5th: (tie) Saki, Koe no Katachi
4th: Flying Witch
3rd: Kimi no Na wa.
2nd: Love Live! Sunshine!!
1st: Hibike! Euphonium 2
These results shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who follows the activity summaries in the weekly review. It should also be noted that Hibike! Euphonium, for which the first season was also ranked first the previous year by a landslide, does not appear on the Anime Tourism Association’s “Anime Tourism 88-Stop Pilgrimage” list launched this year. The Association, spearheaded by Kadokawa, has its own intentions for choosing the works they did after soliciting fan input through an extensive international survey. Having its finger on the pulse of the devoted interest group out of which this practice was born does not appear to be one of them.
In the individual awards, we’re free to recognize any BTC member for any reason and grant them an honorary title. Some people rack up quite a few of these. I always get a couple, and am always grateful. Thanks!
This year there are two candidates for the next summit. Kan’onji, Kagawa Prefecture is the setting of the Yūki Yūna wa Yūsha de Aru series. Kagawa is also known as the sacred land for udon lovers, even nicknaming itself Udon Prefecture in some tourism marketing campaigns. There are several well-known anime series set in other parts of Shikoku, where the BTC has never held a summit.
Uji, Kyoto Prefecture is the setting of Hibike! Euphonium, and offers easy access to a wealth of popular pilgrimage locations in the Kansai area, a perennial favorite anime tourism destination and home location of a large number of butaitanbou practitioners.
Time to vote.
It’s downhill from here. We wrap up with self-introductions for new members, review the schedule of optional late night sessions, then take a group picture before breaking for the afternoon.
In the time before dinner, I hunt around Yasudaya for the scenes from Love Live! Sunshine!! that I want to collect.
I’m so intently eyeing up our meal as the first course arrives that I don’t realize Inish, who I interact with often on Twitter but had never met in person, has sat down next to me.
The votes are in, and the venue for the 2018 Butaitanbou Summit will be—
—Udon Prefecture! Lidges, the prolific and authoritative butaitanbou practitioner who comes from Kagawa and proposed the Kan’onji venue, has been campaigning for years for BTC members to spend more time in the region. It is a bit out of the way for people who don’t live somewhere between Hiroshima and Kōbe, as it’s not on a shinkansen line, but there are many valuable places worth exploring. Lidges has asked me, on more than one occasion, when I was ever going to get around to seeing him in Shikoku. I had already decided months earlier that I would make my first trip in 2017 October, between the two weekends of the Kyoto Animation fan event, but I’m really happy that his years of entreaties have led up to this success. I look forward to seeing him next month and again a year from now.
Before we adjourn the banquet, Seki hands out copies of his Uji 88-Stop Pilgrimage map covering both seasons of Hibike! Euphonium. He had previously made the same for all Kyoto Prefecture locations used in K-On! I’m not a Buddhist, so unlikely to make the Shikoku 88 temple pilgrimage anytime soon, and I have my doubts, which I’ve written about earlier, on the 88-stop anime pilgrimage from Kadokawa and company, but this is a collection of 88 things I can wholeheartedly endorse. If you want to take a close look you can download the original file here.
With that, I go through the now familiar process of bidding farewell to friends who are returning home in the evening, preparing for the late night sessions with those who remain, and eventually passing out when the last bit of energy is spent. As always, I’m grateful that this group has allowed me into its inner world and gracefully continues to tolerate the inevitable friction introduced by someone from a different culture, with a language handicap and sometimes divergent views. Tentative dates for the Udon Summit are already in my calendar.