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
Washinomiya Jinja torii rebuilding
All construction work on the new torii at Washinomiya Jinja (鷲宮神社) in Kuki, Saitama Prefecture has been completed and was unveiled at a small ceremony in the morning on December 3. An earlier notice posted at the shrine indicated work was scheduled for completion December 3 and visitors would be able to pass through the torii the following day. However, it appears that people were able to walk under the gate as soon as the ceremony concluded. The new torii is styled similiarly to the previous one, but is slightly larger and made of iron, rather than wood.
The historic gate, which collapsed due to aging in 2018 August, is an iconic location used in Lucky Star. Head priest Aizawa Tsutomu (相沢力) during the ceremony and Kuki mayor Umeda Shūichi (梅田修一) in a later blog post both mentioned Lucky Star fans among the groups to which they extended thanks for support of the reconstruction. The unveiling ceremony conincided with Ōtorisai (大酉祭), a small local festival. Vendors on grounds for the festival offered commemorative clear files with images of the new torii and Lucky Star character illustrations to anyone who purchased 500 JPY or more. Eruru (えるる @erukuma) published a detailed report with photographs from the unveiling ceremony and festival. Media coverage: Saitama Shimbun, Mainichi Shimbun, Mainichi Shimbun (video). Photos: tweet 1, tweet 2, tweet 3, tweet 4, tweet 5, tweet 6, tweet 7, tweet 8
— どんくん (@donkun999) December 3, 2021
Anime fans participated in the annual volunteer deep clean at former Toyosato Elementary School (豊郷小学校旧校舎群) on December 4, emphasizing attention on areas that building staff aren’t able to apportion time during routine cleaning. The school is an historic building in Toyosato, Shiga Precture and location model for K-On! Photos: tweet 1, tweet 2
— 豊郷町観光協会 (@toyosato_kankou) December 4, 2021
Yuyuyu character birthday
Fans of Yūki Yūna wa Yūsha de Aru traveled to Kan’onji, Kagawa Prefecture on December 5 to attend birthday celebrations for character Inubōzaki Itsuki at Michi-no-eki Toyohama (道の駅とよはま). The highway rest area is marking the December 7 birthday with a display and special parfaits from December 4 to 12. Photos: tweet 1, tweet 2, tweet 3, tweet 4, tweet 5, tweet 6
— ✡Ai✡ (@Ai_iwhs) December 5, 2021
Cafe Dream Haruhi event
The promotional Christmas event and Suzumiya Haruhi collaboration at Cafe Dream (珈琲屋ドリーム) in Nishinomiya, Hyōgo Prefecture is underway. Patrons who purchase a waffle and drink set (in which one of the options is a melon cream soda), receive a character postcard as a gift. Visitors can post messages on a Christmas tree poster in the shop. The promotion will run from December 5 to 26. Photos: tweet 1, tweet 2, tweet 3
Seichikaigi Expo 2021 Winter
Seichikaigi Expo 2021 Winter (聖地会議EXPO2021冬) will be held December 25 and 26 at the Kindai University Practical Science Hall (近畿大学実学ホール) in Higashi-Osaka, Osaka Prefecture, as announced previously. Many of the discussion events will also be live streamed on YouTube. A detailed list of topics and speakers has been release for one of those events, the Seichijunrei Anime/Manga National Zoom Tour (聖地巡礼 アニメ・マンガ全国 ZOOMめぐり) on December 26 from 14:00 to 16:30 JST. This talk will include representatives from local government and businesses that have been involved with past or upcoming anime and anime-adjacent collaboration promotions.
Kan’onji Yuyuyu dōjinshi event
Yusha-bū Kokoroe 19 (勇者部心得 じゅうきゅーうっ！), the latest installment of Yūsha-bu Mankai (勇者部満開)—a Yūki Yūna wa Yūsha de Aru fan-organized exchange event and dōjinshi spot sale—will be held 2022 February 20 at High Staff Hall (ハイスタッフホール) in Kan’onji, Kagawa Prefecture.
Nanjō Aquatope collaboration (2021/11/07)
One of the Shiroi Suna no Aquatope goods being offered as a gift in exchange for furusato nōzei (hometown tax) is a “special resident card” filled out with details of characters from the show, printed and issued by Nanjō City Hall. A kickoff ceremony for the promotion was held November 7, featuring appearances by voice actors Itō Miku (Misakino Kukuru) and Aida Rikako (Miyazawa Fūka), who received resident cards for their characters. Media coverage: Ryūkyū Shimpō
Shizuoka Yuru Camp collaboration (2021/12/04-31)
A second exhibition of Yuru Camp character panels will be held at Michi-no-Eki Fujikawa Rakuza (道の駅 富士川楽座) in Fuji from December 4 to 31. The first was held from from March 3 to 28, then extended to May 9 due to Covid-19. This is one of several events integrating with Yuru Camp x Shizuokaken (『ゆるキャン△』×静岡県)—a marketing collaboration between Shizuoka Prefecture and Yuru Camp—which recently launched a new campaign. Fujikawa Rakuza is the goal point of the Fujisan foothill area course, one of two stamp rallies being offered through the collaboration.
Yuru Camp driving stamp rally (2021/11/26 – 2022/02/27)
Central Nippon Expressway Company (中日本高速道路) launched a smartphone based stamp rally for Yuru Camp locations along the Chūbu-Ōdan Expressway (中部横断自動車道) in Yamanashi and Shizuoka prefectures. The campaign will include Yuru Camp goods and collaboration menus at selected service and parking areas, and will run from 2021 November 26 to 2022 February 27. News release: Central Nippon Expressway Company. Media coverage: Travel Watch, Netorabo, Kuru Kura, Spice, Famitsu.com
Around the end of 2019, the volume of material I wanted to include in the Media and General Interest section had increased to a level that often exceeded my capacity to digest and summarize. Counterintuitively, after Covid-19 began this accelerated even more. Despite intermittent state of emergency declarations and restrictions on movement, many location-based activities, particularly official marketing collaborations, still went forward. Marketing communications and public relations efforts for these collaborations is increasingly vigorous. It also seems that the time of much broader awareness of anime pilgrimage and anime tourism among mainstream media reporters has arrived. In general, more coverage, especially more diversity in writers and geographical representation, is a good thing. The only drawback (for me), is that I’m having a hard time keeping up.
To manage this, I’ve been processing news items using a three tier prioritization. Group A are things that are time sensitive, or very important but straightforward and easily summarized. I try to do these as soon as they come in. Group B are less time sensitive and less critical, but still interesting. I process this queue when it’s a slow news week. That leaves Group C. These are not rejects. Group C are stories that I feel are both interesting and important, but would not be adequately understood through a short summary. These need more time to digest, think about, and write. The end result would be a much longer written explanation, one that potentially includes research beyond the initial story to provide additional context. I’ve actually done this kind of “long news item” on occasion, for complex stories. Now I’m just giving it a name. Once I process the current queue of Group C, I’ll continue to use the Feature section for future stories as needed.
Anime Tourism Association Japanese Anime 88-Spots 2020-2021 Edition List
The first story I’ll look at with Feature requires turning the clock back to 2019 October 29. This was the day the Anime Tourism Association (アニメツーリズム協会) announced the 2020 edition of its Anime Tourism Association Japanese Anime 88-Spots list (訪れてみたい日本のアニメ聖地88) (Japanese: announcement, news release, list; English: announcement, list). Because of Covid-19, voting for the subsequent 2021 edition of the list, which would have taken place during 2020, was cancelled. The 2020 list was simply extended as the 2021 list and is still in effect at the time of writing. It will be replaced by the 2022 edition of the list when that one is announced next week on December 15.
With each new list, a few works that were included previously drop off, while new ones are added. The new works may be recent releases or past works appearing for the first time. The 2020 list added the following work/location pairs:
Love Live! Sunshine!! – Hakodate, Hokkaidō Prefecture
Hulaing Babies – Aizuwakamatsu, Fukushima Prefecture
BanG Dream! – Toden Arakawa Line, Tokyo Metropolis
Sarazanmai – Taitō Ward, Tokyo Metropolis
GeGeGe no Kitarō – Chōfu, Tokyo Metropolis
Just Because! – Fujisawa, Kanagawa Prefecture
Girly Air Force – Komatsu, Ichikawa Prefecture
Yatogame-chan Kansatsu Nikki – Nagoya, Aichi Prefecture
GeGeGe no Kitarō – Sakaiminato, Tottori Prefecture
Karakai Jōzu no Takagi-san 2 – Tonoshō, Kagawa Prefecture
Hakata Mentai! Pirikarako-chan – Fukuoka City, Fukuoka Prefecture
Irozuku Sekai no Ashita kara – Nagasaki City, Nagasaki Prefecture
The 2020 edition is the third list released by the Association. My assessment and criticism of the previous lists (2017, 2018) fell under two main issues. The first was that the Association was not transparent about its selection process. It did not explain gaps between the raw results of fan voting, which were released for the 2017 edition, and the final list. There was significant blowback as a result of the discrepancies. Raw results were not released for the 2018 addition, however independent fan surveys, such as those conducted by researcher Ōishi Gen and polls among members of the Butaitanbou-sha Community, provide a reasonable proxy. The second issue is that the Association used language such as “fan chosen” and “fan voted,” when the reality was that final list represented a set of business decisions made by Kadokawa and partners that make up the Association, not a democratic process.
For the 2020 edition, again the raw results were not released. Looking at communications from the Association regarding the list announcement, there are examples where the language is more explicit that fan voting is only one of multiple inputs considered. This is an improvement. However, looking around there are signs that problematic characterizations remain. Two Kadokawa owned media properties, Famitsu.com and Web Newtype, reported on the list announcement. In its headline, Famitsu.com writes, “selected by the votes of approximately 80,000 anime fans” (アニメファン約8万人の投票で選ばれた). In the text, Web Newtype says, “selected by the votes of anime fans” (アニメファンの投票によって選定されており). The physical plaques placed at anime spots still read, 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.’
Fortunately, most mainstream media publications are making the effort to understand and communicate these nuances clearly. I still am of the opinion that it would be best for the Association to be completely transparent about how the list is selected and drop any remaining pretenses of fan-endorsed authenticity. It is a business. It should not try to pretend it is anything else.
As in the past, contents tourism researcher Kawashima Tarō published his thoughts on the announcement. I think it’s worth digging into the details of what Kawashima says, as he is generally supportive of thoughtful business involvement in promoting anime tourism, but also critical of problems he sees with the way the Association operates. He notes that, while the earlier editions were skewed toward works for which Kadokawa is a controlling rights holder, this has been diluted over time as other rights holders become more receptive to authorizing a work for inclusion. At the same time, he is suspicious of the absence of immensely popular pilgrimage-inducing works, such as Studio Ghibli films Tonari no Totoro and Mimi o Sumaseba, Shōnen Jump series Slam Dunk, and all Kyoto Animation series for which Kyoani is the controlling rights holder (Chūnibyō demo Koi ga Shitai! and later). The works are not included due to “adult circumstances” (大人の事情)—which I infer to mean someone won’t give permission or the Association doesn’t want to do it, but we’ll never know why because they won’t risk causing loss of face by revealing information.
Kawashima says that, while some people are wary of the intentions and methods of the Association, or are suspicious of Kadokawa’s influence on its operations, what he hears from some creators and rights holders is that they are reluctant to have a location officially recognized by a third party organization as a seichi, or recognize it themselves. The reason is that, from the creator’s perspective, while there may be real life models for settings, the world of the work is fictional. To preserve the integrity of this fictional world, pushing information about the location models is not something these creators support, but they are happy for fans to make these discoveries and treat the locations as seichi on their own.
Reaction from butaitanbou-sha was muted. My sense at the time was that many had already come to the conclusion that the Association did not share their values, and moved on from trying to engage with it. Among those who commented, almost all mentioned the conspicuous absence of Kyoto Animation series (here, here, here, here and here). The 2020 edition of the list has exactly zero locations in Shiga Prefecture, which is a bit awkward considering it has Toyosato for K-On! and multiple places around Lake Biwa for Chūnibyō. Prolific butaitanbou-sha Lidges (tweet) offered this frank suggestion: “If the works of some production companies cannot be chosen, rather than use the vague language ‘comprehensive judgement’ (総合的な判断), the Association should communicate directly that it cannot choose those works. Otherwise, I don’t think voting has any meaning.”
The Association was increasingly active with various promotions and events for works that appear on the list over the past two years, pandemic notwithstanding. Some of these merit a deeper look and I plan to include several in the Feature section. The 2022 edition list will be available for scrutiny in a week. I also think it’s worth a Google deep dive at some point to get a broader sense of the presence and impact the Association has had since it formed several years ago. In light of those plans, I’ll abstain from making firm conclusions until I’ve had a chance to organize my own “comprehensive judgement.”
(白い砂のアクアトープ Shiroi Suna no Akuatōpu)
@heero_yuy2 (tweet) proposes Haterumajima (波照間島) as a possible reference for the sea turtle nesting beach. Based on the little information available in Street View, there’s nothing for comparison beyond a sandy beach with vegetation and the fact that, like the Kuroshima settings, Haterumajima is administratively part of Taketomi (竹富町), Okinawa Prefecture.
Iejima (伊江島), Okinawa Prefecture
Chatan (北谷町), Okinawa Prefecture