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5 Places to visit in Japan if you love the anime movie “Your Name”

5 Places to visit in Japan if you love the anime movie “Your Name”

Anime (アニメ) is by and large a huge factor of Japan’s popularity around the world. It is a facet of the country’s subculture that is enjoyed by millions of people everywhere, and many creative minds have carved out names in the industry and produced works that have gained critical acclaim and household recognition, such as Miyazaki Hayao (宮崎駿), Hosoda Mamoru (細田守), and Shinkai Makoto (新海誠 ).

 

Often, stories featured in anime draw inspiration from their native origins, injecting make-believe and fantasy into unmistakably Japanese settings. Through anime, people from other countries have a looking glass through which they gain insight into the everyday lives of the Japanese and the sceneries which surround them. It is a very common practice for anime studios to harness the likenesses of actual locations in Japan as backdrops for their works, often right down to the exact same placement of minutiae like signposts and trees.

 

Fans of the anime ‘Zombieland Saga’ (ゾンビランドサガ) will surely recognise the former Mitsubishi Company Headquarters building in Karatsu, Saga, which served as the focal setting for the show. (Image credit: Ananda Kang)

 

This has kicked off a subset of tourism in Japan driven by ‘holy site pilgrimages’ (聖地巡礼 seichi junrei) where fans of a certain anime venture out to hunt down the real-life places found in it. They usually strive to take photographs in the same angles as featured in the show, and allow themselves the fanciful illusion that they stand in the very same ground as their favourite characters did in the show. 

 

Characters from Girls und Panzer (ガールズ&パンツァー) greet visitors at Oarai Station. (Image credit: Ananda Kang)

 

Now, it is no secret that I am a huge fan of anime just as much as I am a fan of Japan’s sights and sceneries. My love for anime blends with my love for travelling around Japan in the form of these so-called pilgrimages—as a matter of fact, one of my most-loved places in Japan happens to be a venerable holy site in its own right: Oarai Town (大洗町 Ōarai-machi), in Ibaraki Prefecture (茨城県 Ibaraki-ken).

 

One of my personal favourite Shinkai Makoto movies in recent times is “Your Name” (君の名は Kimi no Na wa), a highly popular and critically-acclaimed movie about two high schoolers living in different parts of Japan who wake up one day to find that their bodies have been switched. They struggle to come to terms with their mutually alternating existences, the city boy living out the life of a country girl and vice-versa, and eventually develop a close bond with each other that transcends time and space.

 

It is set primarily in Tokyo (東京) but also features a few places in Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県 Gifu-ken) while taking inspiration from other locations such as a picturesque lakeside city in Nagano (長野) and a charming volcanic island in the Izu Island chain (伊豆諸島 Izu-shotō). Just as in many other Shinkai Makoto films, scenes are reproduced faithfully and beautifully from their real-life counterparts, so read on if you plan to embark on your very own “Your Name” seichi junrei.

 

1. Yotsuya, Tokyo

(Image credit: Ananda Kang)

 

Nestled within Tokyo’s bustling downtown area in Shinjuku (新宿) is the neighbourhood of Yotsuya (四谷). Already popularised by earlier art forms like the Kabuki work ‘Yotsuya Kaidan’ and author Murakami Haruki’sfamous novel ‘Norwegian Wood’, Yotsuya shot to further fame among modern fans by serving as the backdrop of a climactic scene in “Your Name”.

 

(Image credit: Ananda Kang)

 

In particular, this flight of stairs leading up to Yotsuya Suga Shrine (四谷須賀神社 Yotsuya suga jinja) has seen throngs of fans visiting to shoot this iconic angle, reimagining the scene where the two main characters shared a heartfelt exchange.

 

Yotsuya Suga Shrine (四谷須賀神社)
Address: 5-6 Sugacho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 160-0018
Nearest stations: Yotsuya-Sanchome Station (四谷三丁目駅) / Yotsuya Station (四ツ谷駅)
Opening hours: 24 hours (Suga Shrine is open 9am–5pm daily)

 

2. Cafe La Boheme, Tokyo

(Image credit: Ananda Kang)

 

Situated just beside Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden (新宿御苑) is a fancy but quaint Italian restaurant called La Boheme. Its facade was replicated in the movie as the setting of the restaurant where the male protagonist of the show, Taki (瀧), worked a part-time job.

 

(Image credit: Ananda Kang)

 

The food was great and the atmosphere was charming. There were a lot of young couples dining in when I visited, so even if you’re not a huge fan of the show this place is also an ideal spot for a casual date.

 

Cafe La Boheme (カフェ ラ・ボエム)
Address: 1F/2F Cosmo Shinjuku Gyoen Building, 1-1-7, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo, 160-0022
Nearest station: Shinjukugyoem-mae Station (新宿御苑前駅)
Opening hours: 11:30am–11:30pm (Weekdays), 11am–11:30pm (Weekends and Public Holidays)
Tel: +81 3-5366-2242

 

3. The National Art Center, Tokyo

(Image credit: Ananda Kang)

 

Speaking of dates, in one part of the movie Taki goes on one with an older lady from his part-time job whom he admires. They visit an art gallery that is ostensibly derived from The National Art Center (国立新美術館 Kokuritsu Shin-Bijutsukan) in Roppongi (六本木), Tokyo. The two characters share a light meal and view art displays against the backdrop of the building’s dramatic wave-like contours.

 

The National Art Center, Tokyo (国立新美術館)
Address: 7-22-2 Roppongi, Minato-ku, Tokyo 106-8558
Nearest station: Nogizaka Station (乃木坂駅)
Opening hours: 10am–6pm (Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Sundays), 10am–8pm (Fridays & Saturdays) (Closed on Tuesdays)
Admission fee: Free (Fees may vary by exhibition/facility)
Tel: +81-3-5777-8600 

 

4. Lake Suwa, Nagano

(Image credit: Ananda Kang)

 

We step out of the metropolitan capital in search of more holy sites in the countryside. Situated in Nagano Prefecture and conveniently connected by a single rail line to Tokyo via the Chuo Line (中央線 Chūō-sen), Suwa City (諏訪市 Suwa-shi) is a quiet township that nevertheless hosts one of the oldest Shinto shrine complexes in Japan. (You can read more about Suwa Taisha in this article from my scooter trip series). 

 

It so happens that the fictional rural town of Itomori which the female protagonist, Mitsuha (三葉), lives in takes on a very striking similarity to the city of Suwa. Actually, a cluster of lakes and lakeside settlements in Koumi Town (小海町 Koumi-machi), Nagano served as the direct basis for Itomori, but Lake Suwa (諏訪湖) itself is prominent and grandiose enough to warrant some credit. If you’re ever in the area around southern Nagano it is definitely worth venturing out to take in this magnificent view.

 

Lake Suwa (諏訪湖)
Address: Suwa, Nagano
Nearest stations: Okaya Station (岡谷駅) / Shimo-Suwa Station (下諏訪駅) / Kami-Suwa Station (上諏訪駅)

 

5. Hida-Furukawa, Gifu

(Image credit: Chong Woon Hian)

 

Near the end of the second act of the film, Taki sets off in search of answers to a mystery which had befallen him. His quest takes him to the rustic town of Hida-Furukawa (飛騨古川).

 

(Image credit: Chong Woon Hian)

 

Many snapshots of the olden town show up in the film as Taki and his friends transit from place to place, creating a vast collection of holy sites for avid fans to hunt down.

 

(Image credit: Chong Woon Hian)

 

While you’re visiting, do take the time to check out its drainage canals teeming with koi fish as well as its beautifully preserved buildings, savour the local sake and wagyu, and hang out with their town mascot, the Hida Cow (飛騨牛).

 

Hida-Furukawa Station (飛騨古川駅)
Address: 8 Furukawacho Kanamoricho, Hida, Gifu 509-4225
Nearest station: Hida-Furukawa Station (飛騨古川駅)

 

Conclusion

The scenes from Shinkai Makoto’s stunning spectacle “Your Name” come to life in these picturesque views located all over Tokyo and some parts of Japan. Indeed, there are several more places in and around the Tokyo metropolitan area, and even in far-flung places such as Aogashima Island (青ヶ島), that do count as holy sites for the movie even though they feature mostly in visual references and mere blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moments. You would have to be a hardcore fanatic of the show to try to collect them all.

 

In pre-pandemic times, the tourism brought about by seichi junrei pilgrims were a great boon to rural areas which would otherwise have remained nothing more than obscure locations patronised only by locals and the most intrepid of explorers. Once things have gotten back to normal, such places would certainly be welcome to seeing more visitors flocking back to take in their sites and contribute to their economies once more. 

 

If you love anime just as much as you do travelling, do take the time to research if your favourite show has any holy sites and consider a side trip to visit them the next time you step foot in Japan!

 

(Header image credit: Ananda Kang)

 

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