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

Usagiyama Mochitsuki Taikai 2020 Fall
The Usagiyama Mochitsuki Taikai (うさぎ山餅つき大会) is a Tamako Market fan organized Mochizō character birthday celebration and mochi pounding event usually held in the fall at Demachi Masugata Shōtengai in Kyoto. This year, it had originally been moved to May in order to coincide with the fifth and final convening of the Usagiyama Dai Bazaar, a dōjinshi spot sale and cosplay event, but both were postponed until further notice, due to Covid-19. The mochi pounding meetup is back on, scheduled for October 11, which is just a day after the actual character birthday. Interested participants can register here. Attendance is limited to 15, much lower than in the past, and attendees must agree to mask wearing, social distancing, and providing contact information to the organizer for the purpose of communication after the meetup in the case of a suspected infection. Despite the extra requirements, I expect this event to be a lot of fun, as always. Many thanks to @shinkeihan6350 for managing to pull this back together amid challenging circumstances.

Tamako Market
Jack Johnson, creator of Under The Scope, published Why Optimism Matters: The Importance of Tamako Market, a video critique of the series that emphasizes the themes of community and inclusivity that flow through the show’s depiction of its Usagiyama Shōtengai, the real life Demachi Masugata Shōtengai, and the working environment and creative philosophy of Kyoto Animation.

Reappearing Buildings Part 3
After eight years of writing about real locations in anime, this story is perhaps the most amusing to me, both for its peculiar details and because it keeps popping up. A free standing residence in Katsuragi, Wakayama Prefecture (Street View) was used in the background art in the first season of Non Non Biyori in 2013, and again in the second season in 2015. It appears in three different variants: One as is, another flipped around its vertical axis, and a third flipped and then compressed laterally. The building reappeared in Sakura Quest in 2017, which led butaitanbou-sha Kai (@kai881) to investigate, eventually discovering three additional structure groupings, seven buildings in total, all of unknown origin, which are also shared between those two works. Now, they appear for a third time, in Uzaki-chan wa Asobitai! Episode 10.

Non Non Biyori is a composite of multiple unrelated rural locations, but there are a significant number of scenes that come from Katsuragi, so the appearance of the residence isn’t random there, whereas Sakura Quest is based on locations in Nanto, Toyama Prefecture, and this episode of Uzaki-chan is set in Tottori Prefecture. But there is no known link that explains how both the residence and unknown buildings ended up being reused in the latter series. There are no shared directors, art directors, producing studios or background art studios.

Kai had this to say about the recent reappearance: “I’m getting tired of seeing these buildings.”

Karatsu Zonsaga building damage
The Karatsu City Museum of History and Folklore, formerly the Mitsubishi Joint Stock Company Karatsu Branch main building (旧三菱合資会社唐津支店本館), which was used as the model for the residence of Franchouchou in Zombie Land Saga, sustained wind damage to part of its roof and some of the windows during Typhoon No. 10 on September 7. Media coverage: Saga Shimbun, Anime News Network, Crunchyroll News

Nara Kimetsu no Yaiba jinja-junrei
Fans of Kimetsu no Yaiba are visiting Katsurakiniimasu Honoikazuchi Jinja (葛木坐火雷神社), also known as Fuefuki Jinja (笛吹神社), in Katsuragi, Nara Prefecture. Though this shrine is not a location used in the series, the special attack practiced by character Agatsuma Zen’itsu is called Honoikazuchi no Kami (火雷神), which is the same name as Honoikazuchi no Ōkami (火雷大神), the deity enshrined at this location. Media coverage: Sankei Shimbun, Nara Shimbun, Doppuri Narazuke

Supporting pop culture contents
Marketing Research Camp conducted a survey May 22 to 24 of 624 men and women between the age of 15 and 49 who answered “actively supporting” (推し活をしている) in a preliminary survey about engagement in support activities for respondents’ favorite pop culture figures and works, such as idols or anime characters. These active supporters skewed young, accounting for 37.7% among teens, then 26.3% (20s), 13.1% (30s) and 8.5% (40s).

Among this group, 72.9% have purchased products or goods related to the pop culture contents, 62.5% had attended events or live concerts, and 56.1% share information about it through social media. When purchasing goods used for the purpose of supporting, this group considers design (68.5%), price (62.7%), and “support color” (推しカラー) (59.9%) as important factors. “Support color” is literally a designated color to indicate specific support for someone or something.

71.2% of this group have purchased collaboration products or goods that are made by general manufacturers but meant specifically to support pop culture contents. For these purchases, this group considers design (69.4%), price (58.3%), and “everyday usability” (普段使いできる) (54.0%) as important factors.

Finally, among these active supporters, 34.3% have engaged in seichijunrei as a means of demonstrating support. Of this seichijunrei group, 78.0% report taking photos, 61.7% share photos or video on social media, and 59.3% say they “order from a related menu” (推しの関連メニューの注文). No context is given, but I’m going guess that the menu refers either to a pop up collaboration cafe, or ordering the appropriate items at a restaurant that the pop culture figure or character visits in the media contents. Media coverage: Numan

Chichibu trilogy
Local tourism site Fun! Chichibu published detailed walk-through reviews of each of the three official anime pilgrimage maps for the Chichibu trilogy (Anohana, Kokosake, Soraao). Each walk-through includes extensive photography for most locations and Google Maps with all locations identified by name and reference number.

Uzaki-chan Tottori locations
Prior to the broadcast of Uzaki-chan wa Asobitai! Episode 10, Abema Times published an article about anticipated intensive use of Tottori Prefecture tourism locations.

After watching the episode, I can confirm that it was indeed intense, often beating the viewer over the head with lines that sound like they came straight from a tourism department brochure, identifying specific locations in the dialog and text captions.

The Anime News Network review of Episode 10 by James Beckett pulls no punches. I especially enjoyed: “Is the Tottori Prefectural Government Tourism and Exchange Bureau International Tourism Attraction Division the innocent organization its fancy website would have you believe? Or is it secretly a cabal of shady-ass thugs that is more-than-willing to kidnap and extort innocent animators to get their hands on that sweet, sweet tourism cash?”

Editorial: Like it or not, the time of anime that is engineered to elicit a tourism response, and in cases like this, blurs the line between collaboration and straight up advertisement, is upon us. From a short-term, transactional point of view, it makes sense for the relevant tourism promotion organization to push for identifying locations in the work directly. But this takes away “treasure hunting” opportunities for butaitanbou-sha, which dampens and deters organic, long-term anime pilgrimage interest. The push to commodify anime pilgrimage, to frame it as mere tourism, limits its potential to facilitate deeper, meaningful engagement. Heavy-handed commercialization risks killing the golden goose.

Current Season Pilgrimage

@fragments_sue made a pilgrimage (post 2) to Ashikita and Kumamoto City, Kumamoto Prefecture for Hōkago Teibō Nisshi Episode 1 through Episode 8.

@lidges made a pilgrimage to Tottori Sand Dunes Conan Airport in Koyamachō Nishi; Tottori Sand Dunes in Fukubechō Yuyama; Uradome, Iwami; Hakuto, Tottori City (all Tottori Prefecture) for Uzaki-chan wa Asobitai! Episode 9 and Episode 10.

Past Season Pilgrimage

@habusan made a pilgrimage to Iwatsuhime Jinja in Misaki, Akō, Hyōgo Prefecture for Air.