Japan’s Cutting-Edge Pop
Between Reality and Fiction
Anime Pilgrimage to a Special Place in the Heart
Fans of the idol-themed anime Wake Up, Girls! see the town of Sendai, a present-day city in Tohoku, the northern region of Japan, as something of a fictional world. This uncommon work, fusing anime and reality, injects the city as much as possible into the storyline. The long-established Japanese sweet shop Kumagai-ya, located on Kimachi-dori Street, becomes the family home of Hayashida Airi, a main character. Both the fictional shop interior/exterior and Airi’s father, the shop owner, look identical to their real counterparts. In fact, Kumagai-ya’s owner laughs about being asked often by fans visiting the shop whether Airi is at home.
One of the pleasures of such pilgrimage is to cross the line between reality and fiction. Traveling to cities, mountains, and forests where fictional anime and manga stories are set, fans relish being present in the real views and landscapes while internally reconnecting with the fictional world of their favorite work.
Take a pedestrian deck in Sendai, for example: the suspended walkway connects shopping facilities with the railroad station. Its neatly laid-out floor tiles and gently arced handrails must have evoked an extremely urban, futuristic feel when first completed; after many years, however, the walkway has become so much a part of people’s ordinary lives that no one notices it. But anime works set in real towns and cities lightly cast a veil over daily scenes experienced by residents. Once you perceive the deck, your mind’s eye sees a beautiful girl—carefully conjured by the anime creator—as she runs off before your very eyes. And now, when you place your hand on the rail where hers had been, it feels warm to the touch. The commonplace scene is regarded now in a new light, with a fresh story given new meaning.
Wake Up, Girls! gives new life to Sendai: its fans search for their favorite idol characters at Kimachi-dori Street, live houses, and Jozenji-dori Street. The Sendai they perceive is seen in their mind’s eye. The ordinary morphs into fiction. Anime backdrops and settings across Japan continue to teach us that the border—if there is any—between reality and fiction is easily transcended.
Producer of tours to places used as anime settings. Seichi Kaigi Co., Ltd. president. Publishes Seichi Kaigi magazine covering pilgrimages and content tourism. Kakizaki plans local events including Anitamasai (Anime/Manga Festival in Saitama) as well as develops unique regional goods. Main publication includes Seichi Junrei Anime Manga 12-kasho Meguri (2005) (pilgrimage: touring 12 anime/manga sites).