Most of the setting of Kyoto Animation series Chūnibyō demo Koi ga Shitai! (中二病でも恋がしたい!)—Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions in English speaking markets—is set in the city of Ōtsu, Shiga Prefecture. However the second season, subtitled Ren (戀)—Heart Throb, includes two episodes of a school trip to Kyūshū. This article explores locations featured in Kagoshima, the final destination on that trip.
This anime pilgrimage was part of my first visit to Kyūshū, the most southwesterly of Japan’s four main islands. I had traveled to Kagoshima City to participate in the Eighth Butaitanbou Summit, held in 2015 July. This was a big step for me, as it was the first event I attended after becoming a member of the Butaitanbou Community (BTC). Butaitanbou (舞台探訪 scene hunting) is an intense form of pop culture tourism in which practitioners identify, travel to and photograph the real world locations used as the basis for settings of manga and anime. Because it was my first summit, I was asked to do a self introduction. With the help of Tachikichi (たちきち @tachikichi) translating, I was able to give everyone a chance to see and hear the mysterious foreigner who had been engaging with them over Twitter for the prior three years. It was a really joyous occasion to finally find my tribe and discover they were as curious about me as I was about them.
As is tradition at these summits, the day following the meeting offered tours to anime pilgrimage locations in the area, led by BTC members. Though a few small groups headed out across Kagoshima Prefecture, like the majority of attendees I stayed in the capital city for the Chūnibyō option. There were so many of us, we were split into several groups to make moving around easier. I ended up in the care of Seki (セキ @seki_saima), the main organizer of the tour, which I couldn’t have been happier about. Seki is a location expert for Chūnibyō specifically and Kyoto Animation works generally, the longstanding manager of the BTC Kansai branch, one of the handful of people who came to see me the first time I met butaitanbou practitioners face-to-face in Kyoto, and a good friend that I rely on for guidance.
Including the tour, I visited the Chūnibyō settings in Kagoshima on 2015 July 18-20. In addition to printed materials provided by Seki, and verbal guidance from him and other BTC members on the tour, I referred to Seki’s butaitanbou articles (Episode 6, Episode 7) for details about the location.
Onsen Hotel Nakahara Bessō
The summit space and our lodging are at the Onsen Hotel Nakahara Bessō (温泉ホテル中原別荘), where the students stayed during their trip. After the conclusion of the main meeting and again after dinner, I join others hunting around the hotel.
The back of the summit agenda is helpfully filled with screenshots, though many people brought their own references. Before everyone had smartphones and tablets, butaitanbou practitioners used to walk around with a stack of thumbnail sheets like this while searching for locations.
The people staying in Rikka and Nibutani’s room graciously let us trample over their belongings.
Though early pilgrims who visited shortly after the 2014 February broadcast saw the hotel as it had been rendered in the work, later renovations left notable changes.
The change from red to blue carpet and from dark to light trim moulding gives the hallway a different feel, though the configuration hasn’t changed.
The lobby is quite different, however.
There’s a wall in what was originally an open space behind the stairs, and the green desk is just kind of hanging out. The lighter colored marble floor, walls and moulding, as well as brighter lighting, give the whole lobby a more modern and spacious feel.
There’s a new clock in a new location, and the souvenir kiosk has been moved from the front to a back corner.
The green payphone is over here by itself.
The entrance to the onsen is still behind the stairs.
Hotel staff are wonderful throughout our stay. During the summit, the manager talked at length about the original meetings and location hunting with Kyoto Animation during the early production phase, as well as the hotel’s encounters with Chūnibyō pilgrims prior to our event. Service staff in Japan, though generally professional and courteous, tend to avoid straying too far from protocol. But the Nakahara Bessō front desk is eager to go off script and answer our nerdy questions as thoroughly as they can.
Seki is a member of a circle that creates anime pilgrimage dōjinshi, selling publications at Comiket and online. Whipping up a bespoke guide pamphlet for our tour was no stretch for him. The quick reference map is available as a free download directly from Seki’s website.
Central Kagoshima is fairly compact. We can see the Shiroyama observatory, one of our stops, from the front of the hotel, though we have a lot of ground to cover before we get there.
And we’re off!
Kagoshima Central Park
Many scenes are found in or just off the edge of the park in the city center.
Opposite the northwest corner of the park, we encounter our first Saigō Takamori (西郷 隆盛) of the day. Kagoshima was the location of Saigō’s birth and death, and where he led a group of disaffected samurai in armed resistance against the imperial government near the beginning of the Meiji period, known as the Satsuma Rebellion. You can’t throw a rock in Kagoshima without hitting something referencing Saigō.
From the same street corner, you can use a long focal length to get this shot peering back into the park.
From the northeast corner of the park, Rikka and Yūta hold back the dark forces emanating from Sakurajima looming in the distance.
Finally, we swing back to the south side of the park, which faces the Nakahara Bessō.
Mikoshi (portable shrines) staged in the park are the first clues that we’re going to encounter a surprise later in the day.
We take a shuttle bus part way up Shiroyama (城山). We’re bound for the top, but make a quick stop at the souvenir center and Saigō monument en route. It’s also the first of what will become many occasions that I end up sitting with my friend Nobu (のぶ @nobucafe) on a bus. Nobu is a very accomplished butaitanbou practitioner, particularly with regard to works set in Kansai and Hokuriku regions. We have a shared affection for tonkotsu ramen from a shop called Muteppō.
This is also my first time meeting Tesra (テスラ @tesra1141) face-to-face. Tesra is one of my earliest connections in the community, someone I chatted with often, long before either of us were members of the BTC. His energy and curiosity are so contagious that it’s hard not to be drawn into his world when you spend time with him.
Around 2013, particularly during the broadcast of Kyōkai no Kanata, a small group of butaitanbou practitioners began experimenting with extended monopods to capture the high angle shots often ignored during scene hunting. Tesra was at the center of this “Monopod Cluster”, as they called themselves. There aren’t many high angle cuts to worry about in Kagoshima, but he takes a bunch of fun shots from over our heads to record the events for posterity.
From the Shiroyama observation platform, though there are clouds and some haze, we can still see most of Sakurajima (桜島), an active volcano that is a symbol of Kagoshima and occasionally blankets the city with a layer of ash.
The original plan had been to descend via the hiking path, but it is unfortunately closed temporarily after part had been washed out during heavy rainfall. The shuttle bus driver whips around curves and drifts between lanes on the descent. We joke that this attraction is part of the Shiroyama tourism package, as people lose their grip on the straps and fall over one another.
Somehow, we make it to the memorial at the base of the mountain intact and praise the solid ground for its stability.
Shiroyama Iriguchi Intersection
From the entrance to the Shiroyama driveway, we continue back toward the city center on foot.
Never let it be said that Kyoto Animation isn’t thorough with details. Even piles of volcanic ash on the side of the road make it into the backgrounds.
Though tramcars appear in the backgrounds, one feature of Kagoshima all but left out is the grass-lined tramways. Anywhere the trams go, there’s a nice strip of green down the middle of the street.
All groups reconvene in Tenmonkan, Kagoshima’s central business district, for lunch at Tenmonkan Mujaki (天文館むじゃき), where Rikka and Yūta stop for kakigōri (shaved ice dessert).
Our large group has a special section reserved on an upper level, so we don’t have a chance to observe the dining area used in the anime, but the food is the same.
Mujaki is a full service restaurant—
—though most people know it as the supposed originator of the shirokuma, a Kagoshima variant of kakigōri that includes agar jelly, sweet beans and fresh fruit toppings. There are actually several theories as to the origin of the dessert, but Mujaki seems to be credited more often than not. I wonder if kakigōri otaku have heated debates about this sort of thing.
Rikka and Yūta also order a kurokuma, which is flavored with dark brown unrefined sugar syrup.
Of course this happens.
On the way out, we’re caught off guard as we become stuck behind a troupe of drummers and mikoshi bearers using the arcade as a staging area. The BTC summit and tour happened to end up being the same weekend as the Ogionsaa (おぎおんさぁ), a popular and raucous Kagoshima festival in which women wearing happi coats and men wearing nothing but fundoshi (loin cloths) parade through the city carrying mikoshi. Local festivals are something I really enjoy, so although I had come for an anime pilgrimage, this is a lot of fun for me too.
After finding a tunnel out of the crowd, we make our way on foot to Kagoshima Port (鹿児島本港), short walk from Tenmonkan. Parts of the original port fortifications support modern buildings, while others are left as a record of what it once looked like.
Here is a cut that, while you can get everything in the frame shooting from the ground, requires a high angle shot to get the perspective right.
Perfect for a monopod!
We head back to Tenmonkan for the last few shots of the day.
Yūta walks through the Terukuni Omotesandō (照国表参道), a covered shopping arcade that flanks either side of Terukuni-dōri (National Route 225) in the center of the city.
Ogionsaa is now in full swing. As we’re getting our shots in the arcade, Seki looks back and forth between our group and the procession of mikoshi going right through the last location we planned to capture. Eventually he shrugs his shoulders, smiles in resignation and yells out, “Matsuri!”
Newlyweds Sakamoto Ryōma (坂本 龍馬) and Narasaki Ryō (楢崎龍)—she is commonly called Oryō (お龍)—visited Kagoshima on what is said to be the first honeymoon by a Japanese couple. These statues appear in Chūnibyō, though in all the commotion we almost miss them.
We manage to get over to the Izuro Intersection (いづろ交差点), though aren’t surprised to see the festival has taken over the space. It’s time to accept the unexpected turn of events and enjoy the moment!
I’m able to return the following day to get the last two shots, as I’m staying in Kagoshima to do some shōtengai research.
But I like to think of the festival as a happy accident. On the surface, butaitanbou is about the discipline of finding and collecting the shots as they appear in the creative work. However it’s often the surprises I find along the way that I enjoy the most.