Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out! 宇崎ちゃんは遊びたい!

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

Hitoyoshi flooding
Amidst widespread damage to communities in the Kyūshū region impacted by flooding and mudslides in early July, the city of Hitoyoshi, Kumamoto Prefecture was hit especially hard. Kyūshū Sanko Bus lost its entire fleet of 23 buses stationed at its Hitoyoshi depot. Damage to rails has left the Hisatsu Line out of service. The Kumagawa Railroad suffered not only damage to its rail lines but inundation of its entire rolling stock as well. The rapid flow and force of the overflowing Kumagawa (球磨川) destroyed large sections of truss bridges Tengubashi (天狗橋) and Nishizebashi (西瀬橋), and nearby Bishamondō (毘沙門堂) which, along with many other Hitoyoshi locations, feature prominently in the setting of Natsume Yūjin-chō. Since 2013, each year the Kumagawa Railroad has run Natsume marketing collaborations that include commemorative tickets featuring characters from the series.

Eighty-six year old Hitoyoshi Ryokan (人吉旅館) was a popular lodging choice for seichijunrei travelers. The ryokan hosted a pilgrimage exchange notebook among the many items of series paraphernalia donated by guests in a dedicated Natsume corner. In the flooding, the first floor of the inn was completely submerged and sustained heavy damage. One small bit of good news to surface in the aftermath was that two handmade stained glass pictures depicting Natsume and Nyanko-sensei were retrieved completely intact. In fact, the glass panels were the only items recovered that were free of damage. Hitoyoshi Ryokan intends to make extensive repairs and reopen, launching a crowdfunding campaign to help with restoration. As of the time of writing, the campaign has raised 11,736,500 yen, more than double the 5,000,000 yen target, with 24 days remaining.

Anyone wishing to make donations to aid recovery in the region has multiple options for doing so. Kumamoto Prefecture posted bank account information for heavy rain assistance direct donations to the prefectural government, Japan Red Cross Society Kumamoto branch, and Kumamoto Community Chest Society. Hitoyoshi City is accepting direct donations via furusato nozei (ふるさと納税 hometown tax), a nationwide program that allows people to divert part of their local tax payments to smaller, less funded municipalities. The Furusato Choice website, a widely used portal for furusato nozei campaigns, allows searching for local options with filters for region, city and specific events, such as natural disasters. As of the time of writing, the tally of all donations made through the website specific to the heavy rains in July had reached 550,104,927 yen.

Tenrōsei (天狼星 @tianlangxing), one of the leading butaitanbou-sha for Natsume, placed an exhaustive list of information resources and additional options for making donations to local organizations at the top of each of his butaitanbou articles.

Media coverage: NHK, Sponichi Annex, Kyoto Shimbun, Tabiris, Asahi Shimbun, Mainichi Shimbun, With News, Kumamoto Nichinichi Shimbun

Butaitanbou Summit cancelled
With uncertainty surrounding Covid-19 secondary and tertiary waves around the world, it has long since ceased to be a surprise to hear of event postponements and cancellations. Still, it is disappointing to finally get the official decision of postponement of the Butaitanbou Summit, not so much for myself (with travel still heavily restricted, I couldn’t have gone this year anyway), but because of how much work Minky (@Minky_j), Astral (アストラル @fragments_sue) and other organizers have put into preparations. The annual gathering, which was to be held in September in Ureshino, Saga Prefecture, will be pushed out to 2021.

Lucky Star Mikoshi in Radio Washinomiya
In lieu of the Lucky Star mikoshi involvement at Yasakasai (八坂祭), which was cancelled this year as part of Covid-19 mitigation measures, fans who would normally participate and volunteer during the event hosted Lucky Star Mikoshi in Radio Washinomiya (らき☆すた神輿 in ラジオ鷲宮), an internet panel discussion, on July 26. Though called a “radio” show, the Nico Nico live stream also included video. The panel first took a look back at the 2019 event, before presenting a history of the portable shrine and its participation over the years, first at Hajisai and later at Yasakasai, both in Washinomiya, and ending with a discussion on the future of the mikoshi.

Shirakawa-gō Higurashi fan event
A resident of Shirakawa-gō in Gifu Prefecture organized an exchange event on June 21 for fans of Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, including group seichijunrei around the historic village and a reenactment of the watanagashi (綿流し cotton drifting) scene from the series. Media coverage: Gifu Shimbun

Hannō crowdfunding
Hannō Location Service LLP (飯能ロケーションサービスLLP) is an organization that supports revitalization in Hannō, Saitama Prefecture through promotion of natural resources and man-made tourism assets, and specifically seichijunrei for Yama no Susume. In response to the widespread cancellation of events and sharp decline of visitors due to Covid-19, the group launched crowdfunding campaign Let’s Go to Hannō’s Tenranzan (飯能の天覧山へ行こう!), offering tickets that can be redeemed for travel bottles with Yama no Susume character designs at participating shops in Hannō, as well as attendance at events planned for later this year, pending compliance with epidemic control measures. The campaign ran from June 31 to July 31, collecting a total of 647,000 yen, exceeding its 500,000 yen target. Media coverage: Anikatsu

True Tears local goods
Butaitanbou-sha, photographer and Toyama Prefecture resident Inoue (@inoue1024) provided images of local landscapes that were used to create the backgrounds for True Tears official goods now offered in the shop at the Nanto City Creator Plaza (南砺市クリエイタープラザ), called Sakura Crea (桜クリエ) for short, near P.A.Works studio. Mail order sales are also available through the online shop.

A free exhibition of Inoue’s photos is on display in the Atelier Room at Sakura Crea from July 22 to September 20.

Yuwaku Onsen Recovery Campaign
Although the Yuwaku Bonbori Matsuri lighting ceremony and main festival for 2020 were both cancelled in May, the town launched the Yuwaku Onsen Recovery Campaign (湯涌温泉リカバリーキャンペーン) on July 4. Yuwaku Bonbori Matsuri is based on a fictional festival from P.A.Works series Hanasaku Iroha, which used Yuwaku Onsen as the model for its setting. Though there still won’t be a ceremony or festival this year, fans are invited to purchase and place a custom message on the “bonbori” lanterns that decorate the main plaza in the onsen town, lit each night from August 1 to November 30. A photo of the lantern and thank you note will be sent to purchasers. Between 2020 August 1 and 2021 March 31, guests staying at participating ryokan will receive sets of clear files featuring Hanairo characters.

Like most vacation destinations, Yuwaku is experiencing a sharp decline of visitors and revenue due to Covid-19. The lantern donations aren’t new, they’ve always been part of the annual event, an opportunity for fans to be part of the festival and help offset operating costs, though the tradition now represents the remaining tangible link between fans and Yuwaku after the disruption.

Lanterns were officially lit up on August 1 as planned.

Numazu and Love Live! Sunshine!!
Like many cities with vacation and tourism assets, Covid-19 has upended these components of the local economy in Numazu, Shizuoka Prefecture. This includes events related to Love Live! Sunshine!! seichijunrei, for example the Watanabe Yō character birthday, a fan-led initiative, that would have been celebrated in April. Several hotels that appeared in the background art of the series and would have been potential lodging for anime pilgrims visiting the city have gone bankrupt and closed as a result of the pandemic. At the same time, deep bonds that have formed between the city and “Livers” have found other ways to stay connected. A couple from Shanghai who visited Numazu multiple times in the past sent cartons of masks to the Tsuji Photo Studio, Numazu Riverside Hotel and Nunozawa Draper (kimono fabric shop). Media coverage: With News

Numazu summer festival poster
Although the Numazu Natsu Matsuri (沼津夏まつり) has been cancelled this year due to Covid-19, the promotional poster featuring Love Live! Sunshine!! main character Takami Chika will still be produced. The poster will be available beginning in August, sold at multiple locations in the city, including the Gamers Numazu shop, as well as mail order through the Gamers online store. Media coverage: Official site, Asahi Shimbun

Shibukawa Initial D manhole covers
The city of Shibukawa, Gunma Prefecture installed manhole covers featuring scenes from Initial D at seven locations, including Ikaho Onsen, on July 27. This was originally planned to be part of Gunma Destination Campaign (群馬デスティネーションキャンペーン), a prefecture-wide tourism push from April to June that was cancelled due to Covid-19. The launch of the manhole covers was marked with a ceremony at Shibukawa Station on July 27, as well as promotional wrapping on local bus lines and a stamp rally that began August 1. Media coverage: Jōmō Shimbun, Mainichi Shimbun, Asahi Shimbun

Zonsaga collaboration
Saga City Transportation Bureau will launch a Zombie Land Saga marketing collaboration in Saga City beginning August 8. The campaign will feature one vehicle wrapping with characters from the show, in-vehicle announcements by voice actor Hondo Kaede as character Minamoto Sakura, and a limited run of commemorative tickets and clear files. A launch ceremony will be held at Saga City Hall Main Government Building on August 7, the day tickets first go on sale. Media coverage: Official site, Saga City Transportation Bureau, Saga Shimbun

Future Season Pilgrimage

@sky_dj_ made a pilgrimage to Hokuto, Yamanashi Prefecture for Super Cub PV.

Current Season Pilgrimage

@lidges made a pilgrimage to Iwami, Kurayoshi and Misasa, Tottori Prefecture for Uzaki-chan wa Asobitai! PV and key visuals.

@flyingbird1124 made a pilgrimage (updated post) to Chiba City and Funabashi, Chiba Prefecture for Yahari Ore no Seishun Rabukome wa Machigatteiru. Kan Episode 2 and Episode 4.

@teo_imperial (post), @Bf109K1 (post) and @flyingbird1124 (post) made pilgrimages to Satte, Saitama Prefecture for Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu Episode 29.

Past Season Pilgrimage

@112233aabbccdde made a pilgrimage (post 2) to Tokoname, Aichi Prefecture for Nakitai Watashi wa Neko wo Kaburu (A Whisker Away).

@hiro_senritu made a pilgrimage to Ōgaki, Gifu Prefecture for Koe no Katachi.

@kimamanidance made a pilgrimage to Ichikawa, Chiba Prefecture for White Album 2.