The waiting scene from Kanon
Most of you surely know about the trend of visiting real life sites that have been used as models for scenes in anime, manga and games. This kind of trip is usually called “anime pilgrimage” in English, and 聖地巡礼(seichi junrei = holy ground pilgrimage) in Japanese, and the locations may really resemble regular, religious pilgrimage sites in some cases where the number of visitors is massive and they inundate the location every weekend. That applies in particular for Washimiya Shrine, the model for Hiiragi’s shrine in Lucky Star, and the former Toyosato Elementary School, the model for Sakuragaoka High School where the members of the band After School Tea Time leisurely spend their time drinking tea and eating snacks in their K-ONbu. In these 2 cases, the otaku pilgrimages have triggered tourism activity in areas of no other particular interest, thus bringing more money to the local economies that benefit from the influx of visitors. However, that’s not the point of this post. The objective of this post is to introduce you to sites where you can get information about the real life locations. If you say it’s pointless because you don’t understand Japanese, don’t feel down. There are also maps with many locations portrayed in anime marked therein, and you don’t have to understand Japanese to be able to follow a map.
Keiichi’s house from Higurashi no Naku Koro ni
First, there is a site called Butai Tanbou (Scene Hunting) which lists links to various blogs with anime pilgrimage posts. The links are indexed by origin (anime, manga, game), but those are not in any particular order. You’ll have to search by Japanese title, which you can find for example on AniDB, in case of anime, or at VNDB, in case of visual novels. There are over 500 titles – a stunning number – many of which you’ll have no awareness of. When you click on a title, you’ll see an archive of bloglinks. Most of them will be reports from visiting a certain place(s) adopted into anime/game, but some also include maps, which would be definitely helpful if you wanted to visit the site.
The bridge from Fate/stay night
Second, another site that archives otaku pilgrimages: CR Biwa-ko Shisha pilgrimage archive, CR Biwa-ko Shisha top page. The posts in this one are more random and I haven’t come across any maps. However, it may be worth checking out this site should you want to have a look at some photos of the real life locations from famous titles such as Kanon, Air, Haruhi, Clannad, Onegai Teacher, True Tears, K-ON, Kamichu, etc.
Another site is called SOS-dan Puyoraa and it hosts comparative shots for famous titles, including Kanon, Clannad, Higurashi, Umineko, and so on.
Rooringu Mawashi Geri is another blog where you can find comparative photos, but it’s harder to search for something there. You will have to search by the Japanese title using the search bar.
School premises from Angel Beats!
Next one is a site called SVTC run by two people. In the gallery, you can find precisely taken photos from the real life locations in comparison with corresponding anime screenshots. The best thing, however, is that they have made a map on Google Maps, marking the spots in it. Here it is: The best map.
There are more maps, some of them include spots that are not indicated in others and vice versa. I’ll post links to them too, so that you can check them all out.
Finally, you can visit an English blog run by an American Navy man stationed in Japan. He has visited many pilgrimage sites, related to titles such as Clannad, Higurashi, K-ON, Fate/stay night and so on. In each of his posts, the directions to the site are explained.
The mansion from visual novel Umineko no Naku Koro ni
If you decide to set out on a pilgrimage, you have to expect that you will get stared on as the locations are not the usual tourist spots so it looks strange if a foreigner takes pictures of trees, shabby shops, walls, apartments, let alone schools. Warning, schools are probably the most risky spots. Stepping on school grounds is regarded as trespassing and you might find yourself in quite a predicament, drawing the attention of policemen. And it isn’t limited only to schools. If you act too suspicious (doing something that makes you stand out a lot), you might draw their attention anywhere.
It’s useful to bring reference material with you so that you can get the right angle. Even if you think that you remember the angle, the actual place will have a different feeling to it when you stand there and you might not be that sure of it any more. For example, if you wanted to take a photo of a shop or a building by a city street, there would be people walking by and cars passing by, which would make the place look a bit different.
The planetarium building from visual novel Planetarian.
However, even if you don’t have the guts to go around taking photos at places where it would make you stand out, there are pilgrimages that will lead you to regular tourist spots. For instance, Higurashi’s model village Shirakawa-gou, the monkey park that the Light Music Club went to in K-ON!!, Central City Park in Nara where Shino fed the good-licking deers, Kyuu Furukawa Teien in Tokyo which stood as the model for the mansion in Umineko, and many more places. People who have gone on a pilgrimage say it was a wonderful experience, which made them feel as though they were in the same world as the anime/game characters and it made them love the anime/game even more.
I believe you might find the above information useful if you wanted to set out on a pilgrimage one day. But even if you’re not interested to set out on one, you may still enjoy the photos you can find in those countless holy ground hunting reports.
Scene from To Aru Kagaku no Railgun