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
Designer and seichijunrei consultant Kitayama “less” Tomoyuki (北山友之) will present a seminar on negotiating with anime production committees for use of intellectual property, at the Ichibanchō Incubation Center in Tokyo on November 16.
Comic Natalie published an article about a Yurucamp music performance held at the former Shimobe Elementary School in Minobu, Yamanashi Prefecture on November 3. The former school was used as the model for Motosu High School in the series.
Anime Tourism Association Japanese Anime 88-Stop Pilgrimage 2019 Edition List
I wrote about what the Association does, my hopes for what it could become, and criticisms of its problems when the inaugural list was released in 2017 August. To summarize, the Association aims to raise awareness of anime pilgrimage sites among domestic and inbound tourists, and facilitate communication between regional entities (primarily local governments and promotional organizations), businesses (generally the tourism industry) and intellectual property rights holders, so that they may more actively collaborate and respond to the phenomenon. The Association conducts online surveys in multiple languages to collect fan input on desired series and locations. The open public vote is highlighted in almost all communications from the Association, and the characterization of the list as fan chosen is both implied and, in many cases, explicitly stated. However, it is ultimately internal deliberation—which includes discussions with local entities, permission from rights holders, and possibly other considerations not revealed publicly—which determines whether or not a title appears on the list. Despite concerns, primarily a lack of transparency about the selection process, I hoped the Association would contribute multi-language resources to help more people get involved in anime pilgrimage, and would enrich the dialog about seichijunrei subculture in mainstream media.
The 2019 edition, the first update to the original list, includes 22 new series, mostly anime released during the past year but also several older works. Most notable among the recent series are Sora Yorimo Tōi Basho (Tatebayashi, Gunma Prefecture), Tsuki ga Kirei (Kawagoe, Saitama Prefecture) and Yurucamp (Minobu, Yamanashi Prefecture). Among the classics added this year, Suzumiya Haruhi series (Nishinomiya, Hyōgo Prefecture) and Hanasaku Iroha (Yuwaku Onsen, Ishikawa Prefecture) were two works many were surprised did not appear in the list in 2018, given their prominence in the seichijunrei landscape and their rankings of 12 and 13, respectively, in the final tally of fan voting. Kim Morrissy has the complete list of new series, as well other details about the new edition, in a comprehensive report on the announcement event.
At the event, Kadokawa Tsuguhiko, chairperson of the Association as well as chairperson and CEO of Kadokawa Corporation, noted there were difficulties getting permission from rights holders for the previous list, due to a short time frame, but claimed this had been resolved for the new list. This acknowledgement is significant for two reasons. One is that this is the most specific information about the internal selection process that has been made public to date. Its reveal now highlights how little has been shared about the process despite the time that has passed since the Association was established in 2016. Nonetheless, it is helpful information as, prior to the statement, it was unclear what factor rights holders played in the selection process. Now we know being unable to obtain permission is a hard stop for a series.
To understand the implications of this, it’s helpful to consider a few rights holder scenarios. I’ve been told that when a series based on source material published by Kadokawa is planned, in many cases the company requires a minimum 51% controlling stake of the production committee for itself. This gives Kadokawa significant power to dictate what happens with series’ intellectual property. In the case of anime that are based on source material published by other companies, I don’t know how common it is to have a member with a controlling stake. But it will either be the case that there’s one majority stakeholder who isn’t Kadokawa that needs to allow the usage, or else multiple stakeholders that have to agree jointly. Almost all Kyoto Animation works through Hyōka are based on source material controlled by Kadokawa, but from Chūnibyō forward the studio has been drawing on works from its own publishing company KA Esuma Bunko and taking larger shares of its production committees as part of its overarching business strategy. P.A.Works has always created original series. No matter the players involved, each series will have a unique mix of content source, production committee members and contractual agreements among them. What the Association is trying to do, obtaining permission to bring all of these different series under one roof, is extraordinarily difficult. I don’t think it gets enough credit for that.
Coming back to the Association and its board, Kadokawa officers sit in the roles of chairperson and director, but no other publishing companies or content creators are represented. Because permission from rights holders is required for selection to the list, and it’s unlikely for there to be resistance from anime series where Kadokawa controls the production committee, it’s inevitable that the list is going to skew Kadokawa. In my opinion, the absence of Kōdansha and Hōbunsha on the board limits the Association’s negotiating ability. Given their significant contributions to seichijunrei subculture, P.A.Works and Kyoto Animation should be here too. This wouldn’t necessarily resolve permissions issues in all cases, but might help with balance.
On the matter of transparency, not only do the same problems persist, but the situation has become more opaque. Unlike last year, the Association did not release either the fan voted top 30 ranked nor 150 unranked lists. Three series declined selection to the 2019 edition, including Kimi no Na wa., and the Association offered only the hand wave of “[due to the] circumstances of individual works” (個々の作品の事情). I think this approach is wrong. The complete results of online voting should be published. A specific explanation should be included for any series that was a candidate for the final list based on the raw vote but is excluded. If there are barriers that prevent a work from being named to the list, fans should know what they are. Touting the democratic nature of the program but then obscuring the process risks damage to the credibility of the Association. It is in the Association’s interest to be forthcoming about what it does.
Though voting results for this year are not available, we can still get a rough sense for unexplained gaps by comparing the top 30 ranking from last year with the 2019 edition final list. K-On! (Toyosato, Shiga Prefecture), Free! (Iwami, Tottori Prefecture), Hibike! Euphonium (Uji, Kyoto Prefecture), Slam Dunk (Kamakura), Kyōkai no Kanata (Nara and Kashihara, Nara Prefecture), Flying Witch (Hirosaki, Aomori Prefecture), Fate series (Kōbe, Hyōgo Prefecture), Haikyū!! (Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture), Koto no Ha no Niwa (Tokyo), K (Tokyo) and Natsume Yūjin-chō (Hitoyoshi, Kumamoto Prefecture) are all works among the top 30 that did not appear on either the 2018 or 2019 editions of the final list. Prolific butaitanbou-sha Lidges (tweet) and Butaitanbou-sha Community General Manager Habusan (tweet) both noted the exclusion of non-Kadokawa associated Kyoto Animation series from the 2019 edition.
The Association should address the disconnect between how it characterizes the role of fan voting and the reality of its internal selection process. If you visit any of the spots on the lists, you’ll find a plaque from the Association with the inscription, in bold font English, ‘Anime fans around the world have chosen “88 Japanese Anime Spots” they’d like to visit and this place is among them.’ The headline on the press release announcing the 2018 edition included the phrase “fan selected” (ファンが選んだ). In that release, the phrase is repeated twice before the true nature “selected based on comprehensive judgement” (総合的に判断し選定) finally appears. The release for the 2019 edition replaces the “fan selected” language in the body with “based on fan voting” (ファンからの投票に基づき) and “based on results” (結果をもとに), however the headline is unchanged from the previous one. Clarifying sotto voce that decisions are actually made by a committee while continuing to sing the catchphrase “fan chosen” is not received well by people at the core of the subculture (here, here).
The question of whether there is a central clearinghouse of detailed information about anime pilgrimages in English is the top request I receive from readers and reporters. The Association website features a searchable directory of the locations on the list in Japanese, English, Simplified Chinese and Traditional Chinese. Clicking through to a series page pulls up a general description, its location and some links to local government and tourism promotion organizations. This is a great start. It could be much better. The linked sites are mostly Japanese only. Even if you can read Japanese, most of these resources don’t have detailed guidance on anime pilgrimage locations. For navigation once you’re there, you’ll still need to search for online or print references, or do you own research and scene hunting.
When the Association is mentioned in mainstream media, it is generally connected to announcements of marketing campaigns, events and goods sales. Contributing to discourse on seichijunrei subculture isn’t something it promises in its mission, though I continue to hope, given the scale of its efforts, it can spare some resources for that.
Ultimately, as someone who cares deeply about seichijunrei subculture, I want the Association to succeed. Given the leaps in awareness and popularity over the past decade, I think increasing commercialization of seichijunrei is inevitable. I would rather that commercialization come from a consortium of companies best positioned to provide access to all of the works fans request, and execute activities with the highest levels of professionalism, rather than a haphazard arrangement cobbled together just to seize on a trend. I’m frustrated when I see the Association make decisions that limit its opportunities for fulfilling its goals. I remain hopeful that it will make needed changes to its approach.
(ツルネ ―風舞高校弓道部― Tsurune: Kazemai Kōkō Kyūdō-bu)
Kyūdōba (弓道場) at Nagano Prefectural Nagano High School (長野県長野高等学校) in Uematsu (上松), Nagano City, Nagano Prefecture
Shari Jinja (伺去神社) in Shari (伺去), Nagano City
Kenroku-en Kyūdōba (兼六園弓道場) at the Ishikawa Prefectural Budōkan (石川県立武道館) in Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture
(色づく世界の明日から Irozuku Sekai no Ashita kara)
Fan Pilgrimage Update
When Astral (アストラル, @fragments_sue) said he had prepared about 100 screen captures to hunt for this episode, I just assumed, as the lead butaitanbou-sha for this series, he was being thorough. I made an effort to avoid redundant and nonessential cuts, and still ended up with almost as many myself. There’s an extended scene inside Glover Garden, but the episode is very place-dense throughout.
Update 2018/11/20: The notes for this episode have been updated with additional details from Astral’s post, published November 16.
All locations are in Nagasaki City, Nagasaki Prefecture.
Small sloped street on the north side of of Nagasaki Minami High School (長崎南高等学校) in Kamikoshima (上小島)
Sakurao Park (桜尾公園) in Kamikoshima
Ishibashi tram stop (石橋停留場) in Ōuramachi (大浦町)
Mori no Majo Cafe (森の魔女カフェ) in Nishiumimachi (西海町)
Kinenzaka (祈念坂) in Minami-Yamatemachi (南山手町)
Ōura Church (大浦天主堂)
Glover Garden entrance gate
The former home of a Nagasaki District Court Director General (旧長崎地方裁判所長官舎) is used as a retro photo studio. As in the episode, period costumes are available.
This area is the garden at the former home of Thomas Blake Glover (旧グラバー住宅).
Fountain of History (歴史の泉)
There are three different heart shaped stones in Glover Garden. It’s said to be auspicious if you can find at least two.
These are the other two.
You can eat this ice cream when you visit!
Slope in front of the retro photo studio
Jiyū-tei Tearoom (自由亭喫茶室)
Entrance area for the the retro photo studio
Former Walker House (旧ウォーカー邸)
Former Mitsubishi Dockhouse No. 2 viewed from the plaza around the Fountain of History
The bench area is adjacent to the same plaza
Former Walker House
Small road adjacent to Nagasaki City Ōura Elementary School (長崎市立大浦小学校) in Uedamachi (上田町)
Utility pole on north side of Nagasaki Minami High School
Observation platform near the former Glover House
Nishihamanomachi tram stop (西浜町停留場) in Dōzamachi (銅座町)
Though it seems as if there is a lot of movement, all of the scenes in this sequence beginning just before the gallery and ending with the tram departing are close together in a cluster around the Nigiwaimachi intersection (賑町交差点), near Meganebashi.
Not sure about this path.
There’s no building that looks like this at this location in Street View images from 2014 or 2018.
Meganebashi tram stop (めがね橋停留場)
This is a telephoto shot taken from Shinchibashi square (新地橋広場), in front of the Nagasaki Chinatown gate, facing northwest toward the tram line.
Medical Center tram stop (メディカルセンター停留場) in Shinchimachi (新地町)
Top end of Kinenzaka