Mountains surround the Hida region, in northern Gifu Prefecture, at the center of Japan. This beautiful region, which offers fine walks in nature and into Japan’s past, is experiencing renewed interest as a tourist destination and fun place to stroll because of a hit animation film set there.
In 2016, the animated film “Your Name.” (Kimi no Na ha.) suddenly put Hida City in the spotlight for anime devotees. The plot begins with a strange incident in which a high school boy living in Tokyo, named Taki, and a high school girl named Mitsuha, in the fictional town of Itomori, somehow switch bodies back and forth. They realize this and begin to communicate, eventually becoming attracted to one another. They attempt to meet but never quite make it. The bittersweet storyline brought tears to women and men, young and old.
Though a fictional town, Itomori is modeled here and there on Hida City landscapes. Soon after the movie’s release, fans streamed to Hida City to walk the various scenic spots made familiar by Taki and Mitsuha in the romance fantasy.
After leaving Tokyo on the bullet train, Taki connects to a local line at Nagoya. The first station where he alights is modeled after Hida Furukawa Station, gateway to Hida City. He stops to do research at a library modeled after the Hida Municipal Library. Then, searching for Mitsuha’s town of Itomori, he passes a shrine based on Ketawakamiya Shrine, famous for its Furukawa Festival, inscribed on December 1, 2016, into the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage list. The festival is one of Japan’s Three Great “Naked Festivals” and is held April 19–20 every year. Several hundred men clad only in cotton loincloths carry pallets bearing Okoshi Daiko drums through the streets—quite a spectacle.
Though Mitsuha is depicted as being tired of country life and dreaming of city life in Tokyo, city moviegoers find the vast nature and leisurely pace of life in Hida greatly appealing. It is somehow reminiscent of old Japan, and perhaps that nostalgia is what triggers many to travel there.