Visiting the locations where your favorite movies and TV shows were made is a fantastic hobby (and one that’s a lot easier if you’re in L.A. or Vancouver). But in recent years, anime studios have been modeling more and more of their locations on real places. Sharp-eyed fans have begun identifying these locations and going on “pilgrimages” — some in costume, some just for fun. And clever creators seeing the trend in action are turning it into a way to give back to their home towns.
Match, for example, the image above with the image to the left. K-ON! fans will recognize Sakuragaoka High right away. But in reality, the building is modeled on a grade school — Toyosato Elementary, to be exact. Toyosato is a four-hour train ride from Tokyo, but many fans come to the school to tour it, take pictures, and get photos of themselves in costumes near familiar sites on school grounds.
Occasionally this doesn’t go well for the locals — the real North High of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, Nishinomiya Kita High, finally had to ask fans to stop entering school grounds during class. Regardless, it did bring a lot of attention to the area, and that’s given a few creators some ideas.
Take Yutaka Yamamoto, the creator of Wake Up, Girls! and the short film blossom. The projects were set in Sendai and Otsuchi respectively, both cities in his home region of Tohoku on Honshu Island. His upcoming crowdfunded project Hakubo will be set in Iwaki, completing his unofficial “Tohoku Trilogy.” Yamamoto hopes not only to show his love for his home, but also to bring increased tourism and income to Tohoku after the 2011 earthquakes via fan pilgrimages.
Similarly, Saga Prefecture teams up every year with the local Kyushu Ceramic Museum to run “Animation Around Saga Prefecture,” which features a pair of short films by Saga-born anime creators. The intention is to show the beauty of the area, celebrate their home prefecture, and hopefully drive interest toward it!
More and more creators are opting to represent the cities and prefectures where they grew up in their work And while this occasionally means a “North High” situation, in most cases it means a jump-start for tourism and economic help for the places they grew up, thanks to devoted anime fans. So if you’re ever on a trip to Japan and have a chance to go on a “pilgrimage” to a location from your favorite anime, do … just so long as you’re not interrupting classes!