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
Butaitanbou-sha Ebisu media appearances
Butaitanbou-sha Ebisu (夷 @ye_bi_su) was interviewed for the December 19 print edition of the Asahi Shimbun. Ebisu’s Hibike! Euphonium themed dōjinshi delve deeply into Uji culture through interviews with local artisans, and include discussion of Kyoto Animation location hunting and production process. He is planning a third and final volume in which he would like to focus on Uji local festivals.
— 夷（ゑびす）@聖地移住本制作中 (@ye_bi_su) December 18, 2019
Hannō Times Mart relocation
The Times Mart franchise shop in Hannō, Saitama Prefecture has long been a touch point for Yama no Susume fans. It appears as a setting in the work and its location at the foot of Tenranzan has made it a natural point-of-interest for manga and anime pilgrims visiting the area. The manager of the shop wholeheartedly embraced the attention by stocking an entire corner with series paraphernalia, some of it for sale, some part of a permanent installation, all intended to make it clear fans were welcome to frequent the shop and consider it as a base of activity for seichijunrei.
The manager recently announced the shop would be moving to a new location in Hannō in early 2020, but that he hoped to continue to fill this supporting role for fans, and asked for volunteer help with the relocation between December 21 and the end of the year. Yama no Susume fans have lent their time over the past few days, focusing on cleanup of the stockroom.
— ヤマノススメ全力応援タイムズマート (@yamasusume) December 22, 2019
— yasuyuki arai (@yassspark) December 25, 2019
Uji Jinja torii
In 2018 September, the torii at Uji Jinja, a photogenic and frequently used setting in Hibike! Euphonium, was destroyed by heavy winds as Typhoon Jebi passed through, the most intense tropical cyclone to make landfall in Japan since 1993. Construction of a new torii began in early 2019 December. The completed gate was unveiled in a small ceremony in the morning on December 25.
— みか探〜みかん探訪記〜 (@mikantanbouki) December 25, 2019
— みか探〜みかん探訪記〜 (@mikantanbouki) December 25, 2019
Toyosato Keion Kōshien
NHK produced a TV news segment about the 9th Keiongaku Kōshien (軽音楽甲子園 Light Music Tournament), held November 16 at the former Toyosato Elementary School in Toyosato, Shiga Prefecture. It has been adapted as a print article and included in NHK special site “Kyoani Connecting Thoughts” (京アニつなぐ思い). The school is a location model for Kyoto Animation series K-On! This was the first tournament held since the arson attack on Kyoto Animation. The NHK story explores the role the anime series has played in reviving interest in light music club participation, and prompted the establishment of the tournament in Toyosato. It goes on to interview multiple participants, many of whom express memories of and gratitude toward Kyoto Animation.
Seichijunrei cultural anthropology
Each year in the fall, the National Museum of Ethnology (国立民族学博物館), also known as Minpaku, and Nihon Keizai Shimbun (日本経済新聞) co-host a public lecture in Tokyo. This theme of this year’s talk, held November 15, was Anime Seichijunrei: Subculture Heritage at Present (アニメ『聖地』巡礼～サブカルチャー遺産の現在). Researchers discussed ways to analyze the phenomenon from a cultural anthropological perspective and shared examples from their fieldwork.
Iida Taku (飯田卓) from the museum contrasted traditional cultural anthropology, which defines culture as lifestyles rooted in climate and history, with seichijunrei subculture, which is based on values created by online communication, which may be separate from the former. Iida noted a recent trend of using diverse values as the basis of deciding what qualifies as cultural heritage.
Kawamura Kiyoshi (川村清志准) from the National Museum of Japanese History (国立歴史民俗博物館) noted that a defining feature of seichijunrei is that the phenomenon is fan-initiated, leveraging content creation and social media platforms to disseminate information. He used the case study of seichijunrei in Shichigahama, Miyagi Prefecture for Kannagi, noting that through participation in local events such as shrine festivals, and organizing events such as cosplay, anime fans were able to aid in recovery after the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and deepen mutual understanding with residents.
Kawai Hironao (河合洋尚), also from Minpaku, discussed the use of animation and comics by Hakka, a subgroup within Han Chinese in southern China and Southeast Asia, to transmit cultural heritage to younger generations. He contrasts Japan, where the attachment of fans plays a role in revitalizing landscapes and protecting cultural heritage, with China, where such measures are tied to political intentions.
The three researchers discussed the relationship between subculture and the traditional definition of cultural heritage. Kawamura points out many people tend to take an orthodox approach to cultural heritage, thinking it should be preserved in a notional “original state”, when in reality traditions are dynamic, changing elements and adding new ones with the flow of time. He stressed the need to reevaluate cultural heritage from various perspectives. Iida notes that people tend to take cues from government and international organizations as to what is considered cultural heritage, but argues people should decide for themselves what they value.
Daiwa Next Bank tourism survey
Daiwa Next Bank (大和ネクスト銀行) conducted an internet-based survey on domestic travel preferences in Japan, using 1,000 responses extracted from the total to have equal numbers of men and women. Respondents were between 20 and 69 years of age. The survey included questions about media-induced travel based on live-action drama and anime. The top responses for most desired anime seichijunrei were:  Kimi no Na wa. (Hida, Gifu Prefecture),  Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi (Dōgo Onsen in Matsuyama, Ehime Prefecture),  Tonari no Totoro,  K-On!,  Tenki no Ko. Media coverage: Jiji.com, Cinema Today, Anime Anime, Kawacolle Media, Kankō Keizai Shimbun
Travel platform Airtrip (エアトリ) conducted an internet-based survey on seichijunrei experiences and preferences, collecting responses from 489 men and 360 women from teenagers to septuagenarians. The survey considered both live-action drama and anime based seichijunrei. 29.9% of men and 50.3% of women had previously made pilgrimages. 32.2% of men and 32.0% of women had done so 10 or more times. Among respondents who had not yet been on a pilgrimage, 38.3% of men and 52.0% of women indicated they would like to do so in the case that their favorite work contained a real-location setting. Among respondents who had been on pilgrimages, the top rated seichijunrei experiences were:  Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi (Taiwan),  Roman Holiday (Rome, Italy),  Kimi no Na wa. (Hida-Furukawa Station, Suga Jinja, Lake Suwa). The same three works were also the top desired seichijunrei works among respondents who had not yet been on a pilgrimage. Media coverage: @Press, &M, Anime Anime, Numan
Current Season Pilgrimage
Past Season Pilgrimage
@kimamanidance made a pilgrimage (post 2, post 3, post 4, post 5, post 6) to Denenchōfu, Ōta Ward; Okusawa, Setagaya Ward (preceeding Tokyo Metropolis); and (post 7) Musashikosugi, Kawasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture for Fruits Basket (2019).
…and have a very Merry Christmas!