Feeling like a Protagonist on Location | Pop Culture | Trends in Japan | Web Japan

Web Japan > Trends in Japan > Pop Culture > Feeling like a Protagonist on Location

Feeling like a Protagonist on Location

Increase in Tourism through Exchange of Information

    It is not uncommon for fans of animated and live action films to visit locations featured in such stories. With the development of social networks it is now possible even for complete strangers to easily share information with one another. More and more people try to be the first to identify particular movie locations, visit them, and share photos of and comments about the locations.  
    Due to the rise in visitors, local governments and businesses have started to actively encourage location tours and fan gatherings. Fans participating in such events are able to feel a closer connection to their favorite stories. Such activity can bolster a given region's name recognition and lead to an increase in tourism.

Movie Your Name. Boosts Tourism

    The animated film Your Name. (original title: Kimi no na wa) by director Makoto Shinkai, released during the summer of 2016, has become the second-highest-grossing Japanese film in history (as of June 2017). Your Name. was a huge hit across Europe, America, and Asia, as well.

    The movie's female protagonist Mitsuha Miyamizu lives in a fictional town in the Hida region, located near the center of Japan. In one scene, the male protagonist Taki Tachibana, who swaps bodies with Mitsuha in his dreams, visits Hida City in Gifu Prefecture. After the film's release, many fans began visiting Hida City.

Hida Furukawa Station, as seen in  <i>Your Name.</i> ©2016 Your Name. Production Partnership.

Hida Furukawa Station, as seen in Your Name. ©2016 Your Name. Production Partnership.

The actual Hida Furukawa Station. Image provided by Hida City Tourism Division.

The actual Hida Furukawa Station. Image provided by Hida City Tourism Division.


    The official website of the Hida Tourism Association suggests different routes along locations featured in the film. The Miyagawa Taxi Company, which appears in the movie, but exists in real Hida City, offers tours to Your Name. locations like the Miyagawa-cho Ochiai bus stop, the Keta Wakamiya Shrine, or the Hida City Library.
    Most libraries prohibit photography, but at the Hida City Library, tourists can request special permission to take pictures, as long as they follow certain rules.

Scene from Your Name.. The Keta Wakamiya Shrine, a stop during the search for Mitsuha. ©2016 Your Name. Production Partnership

Scene from Your Name.. The Keta Wakamiya Shrine, a stop during the search for Mitsuha. ©2016 Your Name. Production Partnership

The real Keta Wakamiya Shrine. Image provided by Hida City Tourism Department.

The real Keta Wakamiya Shrine. Image provided by Hida City Tourism Department.

Fans Visit a Local Shrine

    The manga series Chihayafuru, which portrays the world of karuta, traditional Japanese playing cards, began serialization in 2007.
In 2011 it was adapted as an animated show for television and turned into a live action movie in 2016, which led to a rise in fans of hyakunin isshu, the Japanese poetry anthology that karuta is based on, and to a massive increase in the number of competitive karuta players within a few years.

    Hyakunin-isshu (Ogura-hyakunin-isshu to be precise) was compiled more than 800 years ago by nobleman and poet Fujiwarano Sadaie, who selected 100 waka poems (Japanese poems consisting of 31 syllables) for it. In competitive karuta play, the reciter begins reading the first half of a waka poem written on a given card, upon which the opponents can pick up the card featuring the second half, in accordance with the rules of the game. Because victory and defeat are decided in an instant, the game demands speed, good reaction time, and superb memory and concentration, giving it aspects of athletic competition.
    Nowadays, Omi Shrine in Otsu City, Shiga Prefecture, which hosts the national competitive karuta championships, is visited by many Chihayafuru fans.
    Omi Shrine is located a 30-minute train ride from the JR Kyoto Station. The shrine rents out traditional attire worn at the competition and offers fans the opportunity to dress up as characters from the series and take commemorative pictures.

Omi Shrine, which has experienced an increase in visitors since it was featured in the manga Chihayafuru. Image provided by Omi Shrine.


    The local Keihan Ishiyama Sakamoto Line runs a Chihayafuru-themed train. The interior shows colorful characters from the series.

Chihayafuru-themed train. Image provided by Keihan Electric Railway Co., Ltd.


    The Chihayafuru character Arata Wataya lives in Awara City in Fukui Prefecture, located north-northeast of Kyoto, near the Sea of Japan. The town has become known to many thanks to the manga, anime, and movie.
    It organizes various events related to Chihayafuru and competitive karuta. The local bus company even used to run a Chihayafuru-themed bus.
    Japan Post's Hokuriku branch office supported local efforts by selling specially framed stamp sets themed "Chihayafuru & Awara" in Fukui Prefecture post offices.

Fans taking pictures with cardboard cutouts of Chihayafuru characters. The fan meeting was held on the cherry-tree-lined path, a location featured in the anime. Image provided by the Tourism and Business Division, Industry and Economy Department, Awara City.


Man giving information to a large group of Chihayafuru fans visiting featured locations.Image provided by the Tourism and Business Division, Industry and Economy Department, Awara City.

Man giving information to a large group of Chihayafuru fans visiting featured locations.Image provided by the Tourism and Business Division, Industry and Economy Department, Awara City.

Chihayafuru-themed bus stopping in front of the Awara Onsen Station, frequently featured in the series. The bus was decommissioned in March 2016. Image provided by the Tourism and Business Division, Industry and Economy Department, Awara City.

Chihayafuru-themed bus stopping in front of the Awara Onsen Station, frequently featured in the series. The bus was decommissioned in March 2016. Image provided by the Tourism and Business Division, Industry and Economy Department, Awara City.


Specially framed

Specially framed "Chihayafuru & Awara" stamp set sold by Japan Post's Hokuriku branch office in 2014. Sales have ended. Image provided by Japan Post Co., Ltd., Hokuriku Branch Office..

Cover of Chihayafuru issue No. 1. © Yuki Suetsugu/Kodansha Ltd.

Cover of Chihayafuru issue No. 1. © Yuki Suetsugu/Kodansha Ltd.


    The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya is an animated TV series based on the "Haruhi Suzumiya" series of novels by Nagaru Tanigawa, which has sold more than 18 million copies. The animated theatrical film The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya was also released abroad.
    The TV series is a science fiction story featuring the eponymous all-girls high school student Haruhi Suzumiya. It is set in a fictional location, but Haruhi's commute to school is based on the road from Hankyu Koyo Line Koyoen Station to Nishinomiya-Kita High School, in Nishinomiya City, Hyogo Prefecture, which is visited by many fans of the story.

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. Image provided by KADOKAWA.


    Fans still continue to visit locations featured in the animated series Lucky☆Star, first broadcastin 2007. Lucky☆Star was originally created by Kagami Yoshimizu as a four-panel cartoon. The high school attended by the characters is based on Kasukabe City's Kasukabe Kyoei High School, from which the author graduated.
    Kuki City in Saitama Prefecture, too, is popular for having appeared in Lucky☆Star. The appearance of mikoshi (portable shrines) painted with Lucky☆Star characters at a local matsuri (traditional festival) and events related to the series draw large crowds of tourists.

Kasukabe Kyoei High School, when it was featured in the anime. Image provided by Kasukabe Kyoei High School.

Kasukabe Kyoei High School, when it was featured in the anime. Image provided by Kasukabe Kyoei High School.

The Hajisai matsuri held in Kuki City, Saitama Prefecture. A mikoshi features imagery from Lucky☆Star. Image provided by Kuki City Society of Commerce and Industry, Washinomiya Office.

The Hajisai matsuri held in Kuki City, Saitama Prefecture. A mikoshi features imagery from Lucky☆Star. Image provided by Kuki City Society of Commerce and Industry, Washinomiya Office.


    Neon Genesis Evangelion started as an animated TV series in 1995, before becoming a hit in theaters as well. Kanagawa Prefecture's Hakone Town, famous for its hot springs, is actively advertising its influence on the series. Souvenir stores selling Neon Genesis Evangelion merchandise are popular with tourists and the local tourism association holds stamp rallies. Using new technology like Augmented Reality (AR) in conjunction with GPS, participants can explore all of Hakone with their smartphones or tablets. When they arrive at designated spots, characters or items become visible on their devices.

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. Image provided by KADOKAWA.

"Eva-ya," a store selling Neon Genesis Evangelion merchandise in Hakone


    Because of the synergy between fans spreading information on social networking sites and local governments and businesses hoping to use the popularity of films and animated shows to boost commerce in their region, unexpected places may become famous in the future as well.

Locations mentioned in this article. Many more are spread across Japan.

Locations mentioned in this article. Many more are spread across Japan.


Page Top