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
Lucky Star mikoshi at Yasaka Festival
The Lucky Star mikoshi (らき☆すた神輿) will participate in the Yasakasai (八坂祭) for the second time, following its first appearance in 2018. This year’s festival will be held July 28 in Washinomiya, Kuki, Saitama Prefecture and volunteers are invited to carry the mikoshi, though you have to register in advance: 日本語 / English.
A mikoshi is a portable shrine that frequently appears during festivals. Since 2008, the Lucky Star mikoshi, a collaboration between anime fans and local craftsmen, had participated in the Hajisai (土師祭), also in Washinomiya. In 2018 July, the mikoshi appeared at Yasakasai for the first time, but the Hajisai scheduled for 2018 September, what would have been its 36th year, was cancelled. I’m not clear on the circumstances of the cancellation and whether the move of the mikoshi to Yasakasai was planned in anticipation, but the mikoshi and its fans have fortunately been able to continue this tradition without interruption through the arrangement.
Switzerland seichijunrei origin
Contents tourism researcher Kawashima Tarō (河嶌太郎) published an article for Yahoo News Japan about the use of Maienfeld, Switzerland as the setting of 1881 Johanna Spyri novel Heidi, the adaptation of the novel and use of the same setting in 1974 Takahata Isao television anime series Heidi, Girl of the Alps (アルプスの少女ハイジ Arupusu no Shōjo Haiji), the latter leading to the first known example of anime seichijunrei, creating international recognition of and tourism interest for both works. When Japanese anime pilgrims first traveled to Maienfeld in the years after the broadcast, there was little awareness of either work among locals. There are now many facilities and installations that highlight the original novel, and as of 2012, the Japanese portion of in-car announcements on a local train feature special messages by the anime voice actors.
This article was written in 2018 May and I’m just coming across it now, but Maienfeld pilgrimage is an important and often overlooked event in discussions about the origin of seichijunrei, which often focus on the first series with real location settings in Japan during the mid-1980s and early 1990s.
Washinomiya and Lucky Star retrospective
Spice published final installment part 6 of a series by Seichikaigi representative director/“seichijunrei producer” Kakizaki Shundō (柿崎俊道) about the history of anime tourism and continued fan engagement in Washinomiya, Kuki, Saitama Prefecture for Lucky Star. In this section, Kakizaki continues from previous discussion about creation of the Saitama Prefecture Tourism Division in 2009, which operated on the idea that yurukyara (local mascots) and anime pilgrimage could be used to stimulate interest in areas that had no tourism assets. He traces the birth of Lucky Star fan engagement from the first fans to visit the area, independent creation of a fan guidebook—he doesn’t mention a name, but this was the work of Izuki (いづき @bluetwintail)—to official events organized by the local Chamber of Commerce and Industry with cooperation of Kadokawa. Saitama went on to parlay its successes with Lucky Star, Anohana, Kamisama Hajimemashita, Yama no Susume and other series into annual comprehensive anime and manga event Anitamasai (アニ玉祭), and a hosted a large conference devoted to anime tourism in 2015.
Kakizaki concludes the series pondering the meaning of anime fans ascribing meaning and value to a place that, by popular opinion, is considered one of the most boring areas in Japan, often referred to as “Dasaitama”. In the mind of anime pilgrims, the name Dasaitama doesn’t exist, though ironically local residents don’t hesitate to use it. Bridging this perception gap is the final opportunity for further development of the relationship between fans and residents. For anime fans, their own relationship to the land is all that matters, and it is this phenomenon that gives rise to butaitanbou, seichijunrei, contents tourism, anime tourism, or whatever you choose to call it. As such, Kakizaki stresses, from the perspective of the location wishing to engage pilgrims, any successful instance of seichijunrei must begin with awareness and acceptance of the feelings of fans. (part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5)
Numazu fan engagement strategies
Contents tourism researcher Kawashima Tarō (河嶌太郎) published an article for ITmedia about strategies used in Numazu, Shizuoka Prefecture to encourage anime pilgrims to interact with locations beyond those that appear in the setting of Love Live! Sunshine!!, particularly the shōtengai in the commercial center surrounding Numazu Station. These include unique stamps installed in restaurants, retail shops, lodging and other businesses for visitors to collect (81 locations as of 2019 May), unique character badges sold at some locations, hanging banners featuring characters displayed in shōtengai, and installation of manhole covers featuring characters. From the time of the original broadcast, the Tsuji Photo Studio independently promoted itself as a meeting place for fans to interact with each other and local residents, and is considered an important touch point by pilgrims, despite having never appeared in the series.
Japan Tourism Agency
The Japan Tourism Agency (観光庁) has for the third consecutive year selected anime tourism as one of the thematic areas within its scope. The extra-ministerial bureau, part of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (国土交通省), has studied theme-based tourism since 2016, including anime tourism in the list of thematic areas in 2017 and 2018. Media coverage: Kankō Keizai Shimbun, Travel Voice
Seichijunrei prefecture ranking
Jalan News published a ranking of prefecture popularity for anime pilgrimage travelers based on an online survey of users of hotel booking platform Jalan.net, conducted from 2019 April 20 to May 6. The top five rankings went to Hokkaidō (28.6%), Okinawa (12.6%), Kyoto (8.6%), Tokyo (5.6%) and Kagoshima (4.8%). Media coverage: Nijimen, Travel Voice
Ten years of Tachikawa anime promotion
Mainichi Shimbun published an article noting ten years of marketing collaborations in Tachikawa, Tokyo Metropolis related to the city’s use as a setting in anime series, beginning in 2010 with Toaru Majutsu no Index. The reporter focuses on a few examples of tie-in products made by local businesses, though promotional campaigns in Tachikawa have encompassed much more than goods sales.
Karatsu bicycle pilgrimage
Riverside Hotel Karatsu Castle in Karatsu, Saga Prefecture began offering rental bicycles in response to guest comments that low density of trains and buses make it difficult to visit far-flung pilgrimage locations for Yūri!!! on Ice and Zombie Land Saga. Media coverage: Nishi Nippon Shimbun
Tōhoku trilogy finale
Upcoming Yamamoto Yutaka film Hakubo (薄暮) will feature Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture as its setting. This will be the final installment in what Yamamoto calls his “Tōhoko trilogy” (東北３部作), a group of anime projects set in areas affected by the 2011 March earthquake and tsunami. An advance screening was held in Iwaki on June 6 and the film will be released nationwide on June 21. Media coverage: Fukushima Minyū Shimbun, Kahoku Shimpō, Anime Anime
Goofy reporter seichijunrei
J-Town Net sends a reporter, at his request, on a pilgrimage to Hiroshima for Kono Sekai no Katasumi ni. The article introduces a few of the main locations used, though makes no attempt to probe the film director’s public statements ordering fans to not explore certain neighborhoods, and is ultimately hamstrung by the reporter’s repeated jokes about his propensity to tear up during the film and troubles with his contact lenses.
Anime Tourism Association survey
The Anime Tourism Association internet survey of fan favorite anime locations that will inform the 2020 edition of its Japanese Anime 88-Spots list is now open. The survey is available in English, 日本語 and nine other languages. As with first two editions in 2018 and 2019, while fan voting is a data input for the Association decision making process, the final list is ultimately constrained by rights-holder permissions and other considerations not revealed publicly, thus does not reflect a straight popular vote.
Future Season Pilgrimage
@tianlangxing made a pilgrimage to Fujisawa, Kamakura, Yokosuka, Hayama and Chigasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture; Atami, Shizuoka Prefecture for Gekijōban Seishun Buta Yarō wa Yume Miru Shōjo no Yume o Minai PV.