The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games, academia and life dare to converge

The Stairs to Suga Shrine in Yotsuya, Shinjuku, Home of the Fateful Meeting in Kimi no Na wa (Your Name)

“The distance between insanity and genius is measured only by success.” —Bruce Feirstein

The history behind Suga Shrine dates back to the Edo period; the shrine itself is actually the merger between the Gozutennou and Inari shrines, which, after the Meiji Restoration, became enshrined together to become the Suga Shrine. The shrine takes its name from Japanese mythology, where hero Susano no Mikoto defeated an eight-headed serpent and remarked 「吾れ此の地に来たりて心須賀、須賀し」(Romaji: “Warere kono ji ni ki tarite kokoro suga, suga shi”, literally “I come to this place, and my heart becomes purified”). The shrine itself features unique paintings on its ceiling depicting the Sanjurokkasen (The Thirty-Six Immortals of Poetry) a group of poets from the Asuka, Nara and Heian Periods renowned for their poetic ability. The painting was dedicated to the shrine in 1836, being the work of Unpou Ooka, while the lettering was done by Arikoto Chigusa. Besides the painting, the site also is home to the Komainu, a guardian dog statue dating back to 1728, as well as the Yotsuya mitsuke memorial stone. With a bit of history behind it, the Suga Shrine is an intriguing place to visit for folks travelling in Japan, being close in proximity to the Tokyo Toy Museum and Shinjuku Historical Museum. However, I imagine that most folks are not here for some Lonely Planet-esque entry on the Suga Shrine: the stairwell leading up from the main road to the Shrine was quite trivial until the première of Makoto Shinkai’s Your Name, and since the film’s release, has become a popular spot for visitors looking to tread the same path that inspired the place Mitsuha and Taki, the film’s protagonists, meet properly for the first time.

  • Because we are going through Your Name again, the presence of duplicate images in this post are unavoidable. The post itself comes out of the blue, precisely a year after Your Name premièred in Japanese theatres; it is a consequence of a request I’ve had from a member of Tango-Victor-Tango, who was looking for a well-written location post and was kind enough to supply me with the photographs they’d taken. I’m not sure how visible this post will be in the grand scheme of things, since search engines are saturated with sub-standard location posts from Your Name, but at the very least, I hope that the post, featuring fifteen images each for the real-world location and movie incarnation, will be helpful for this particular member.

  • Most of the images of the film’s final moments are set in the streets surrounding Suga Shrine, and while attesting to the exceptional amount of attention Shinkai’s art team has paid to detail, such as illustrating of street signs, protrusions in the road and even the reflection of light on wet surfaces, the locations themselves are rather unremarkable, so this post’s figure captions will not deal predominantly with the locations themselves. Instead, I will take another look at the ending of Your Name, which has been considered inappropriate in the days following the home release.

  • Criticisms of the film’s ending as being inordinately happy have been made by a handful of individuals, asserting that a happy ending is, and I quote “…a lie that people actively seek because they can’t accept the shitty mess that is real life”. Such an assertion evidently can only come from individuals who have yet to find fulfilment or purpose in their lives – if they have such aversions to notions of serendipity, it follows that such people hold a degree of resentment against society itself, lacking the drive to better themselves and improve things around them.

  • The same individual goes on the claim that “…endings are the ones which realistically portray the cost of all their characters’ actions and why, in the end, the choices were worth it, despite what they gave up in exchange”. The irony of this is that even by their definition, Your Name‘s conclusion is enjoyable. I remarked that one of the main themes of Your Name, missed elsewhere even by reviews published to major news sources, is that love transcends spatial-temporal boundaries. As such, after everything that Taki and Mitsuha had gone through, it is realistic in portraying how the two reach their destination.

  • Because Your Name places so much emphasis on the unusual properties of how fate can bind individuals together and makes extensive use of the red ribbon as a metaphor for this connection, it stands to reason that the film was aiming to illustrate the strength of this connection. To have Mitsuha and Taki pass by one another and passively resign themselves to a fruitless search would be to contradict the very themes that Shinkai strives to convey. Mitsuha and Taki make sacrifices on the course of their journey to find one another, and the end result is the culmination of these choices.

  • The reason why there is seemingly “no patience for contrarian opinions” is not for the fact that contrarian opinions exist, but because the opinions themselves seemed intent on painting the movie as a sub-par “feel-good” effort that deviated too greatly from realism. I found that the film succeeded in telling the story it set out to tell, and with its combination of comedy and drama, managed to capture the audiences’ attention from start to finish. While not a masterpiece that dramatically altered my worldview, it nonetheless remains an immensely enjoyable film; it is evident that folks who found the film unsatisfactory are in the minority.

  • Owing to the film’s widespread popularity and reach, there have also been numerous cases of armchair experts coming out of the woodwork to comment on the film, asserting that there is a much deeper meaning in the film that other viewers have missed and that they alone understand. The counterclaim for this is simple enough: the fact that Your Name is so popular and relatable for such a diverse population is precisely because the film’s themes, symbols and motifs are universally understood. By conveying these ideas in a visually stimulating manner, through the perspectives of two everyday characters, the messages in the film are never obfuscated.

  • One indication that execution of Your Name is masterfully done is that the film was able to present abstract topics in a highly accessible manner. One of the long-lasting lessons I took away from my time in academia, one that endures, is that an idea that it takes genius to make the complex understandable. The concept is attributed to Albert Einstein, and my former supervisor certainly encouraged his students to think this way: while other professors gave jargon-heavy talks, with slides filled to the brim with text, my former supervisor explained complex systems in simple terms, preferring to let visuals and diagrams augment his lectures. Shinkai is likewise able to express complex ideas in an approachable manner, which lends itself to his films’ ability to move such a number of viewers.

  • The most noticeable differences between the real-world staircase in Suga Shrine and the incarnation seen in Your Name is visible in this image: while largely faithful to the real location in composition, lanterns from the shrine are not present in the film, giving the sense that it is down an ordinary street that Mitsuha and Taki meet, rather than beside a shrine. While Your Name makes extensive use of real-world locations, it also integrates fictionalised locations, as well, standing in contrast with Five Centimeters per Second and The Garden of Words.

  • One of the most suspenseful moments in Your Name was watching to see if Taki and Mitsuha would go the route that Takaki experienced in Five Centimeters per Second. In Your Name, Mitsuha and Taki come close to missing their moment, but ultimately seize the chance to address the longing in their hearts. It is a welcome, deserved ending for two characters for whom the film persistently present as being fated to meet one another: their longing was purely to meet, and the film allows this modicum of solace in being able to do so.

  • While long held to be Shinkai’s best work, and a movie that I count as being a full-fledged masterpiece for having changed the way I saw the world, I presently find that Your Name is an excellent companion to Five Centimeters per Second in that it confers another, different perspective on what things could be. While prima facie differnt in their endings, Your Name ends in an open manner just as Five Centimeters per Second did, to remind audiences that meeting is not sufficient, but it is necessary, for a meaningful relationship to occur. Much like how Takaki accepts what’s happening and see where things go, Taki decides to take a chance and see where things go, as well. The endings are, in retrospect, more similar than initially apparent.

  • I’ll take a moment to remark that I’m not particularly fond of going down long flights of steps, since the longer the stairs are, the more likely I’ll feel as though I’ll trip on the way down. This image is almost identical to the one I used in my original Your Name review, and in the comparison between reality and Your Name, both similarities and differences become quite apparent here. I imagine that the choice to blend reality with fabricated cityscapes is meant to mirror the fact that Your Name uses both fictional and realistic elements.

  • Besides the ending, one conversation topic that seems to plague discussions of Your Name is why Taki and Mitsuha remain oblivious to the differences in their years, especially considering how the current year is almost always actively in one’s mind owing to the prevalence of calendars. I imagine that the sheer lunacy of the conscious exchanging phenomenon pushes the year into the back of Mitsuha and Taki’s minds, which is not improbably considering just how shocking such an experience would be. Others yet contend that their different iPhone models should immediately give away the year, but such a remark is indicative of naïveté: the iPhone 5 that Mitsuha uses is still quite widespread, explaining why Taki has no trouble with using one, while Mitsuha, being from the country, assumes that she’s been out of the loop with respect to iPhone models as a result of living in the countryside and accepts Taki’s iPhone 6 without too much difficulty.

  • One of the things I’ve never mentioned about Your Name but greatly enjoyed was Mitsuha’s version of the song Nandemonaiya: the RADWIMPS version was quite nice, but having Mone Kamishiraishi perform it was to give the song a particularly strong emotional feeling to it surpassing even that of RADWIMPS’ performance.

  • With this last image, so ends a locations post that was thrown together on a moment’s notice. This one comes across being more unusual in focussing less on the setting and more on topics (somewhat) relevant to the film itself. The reason for this is that there is only so much I can talk about concerning stairwells, and not being an engineer, I won’t be able to offer any technical details about the bending moment of a stairwell or anything of that sort. Regular programming resumes in a few hours, where I will be detailing my incredibly enjoyable experiences with Battlefield 1‘s Łupków Pass update and the insane things I’ve done with the armoured train on that map.

The question is then, how does one reach this location? Owing to the exceptional mass transit system of Tokyo, this is not particularly challenging as an endeavour: Suga Shrine is an eight-minute walk from the Tokyo Metro Marunouchi Line Yotsuya-Sanchome Station, and ten minutes away from JR Yotsuya Station, being located at 5 Sugacho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo. The actual detail of the stairs leading up to the shrine is quite different than that of Your Name, as is the cityscape visible from the top of the stairs, but as outlined in the Your Name Official Artbook, this is one of the major locations in Tokyo featured in Your Name, along with Gaien (the pedestrian overpass is located here near the Shinanomachi station and is the site where Taki and Miki share several conversations over the course of the movie), Yoyogi (where Mitsuha first visits in an attempt to meet up with Taki), Roppongi (Miki and Taki have their date at the Brasserie Paul Bocuse Le Musée Restaurant on the third floor, after meeting up at Yotsuya) and Sendagaya (Mitsuha can be seen running here at the train station trying to catch a glimpse of a seemlingly-familiar face). Outside of Tokyo, the town of Itomori is evidently a fictional location, drawing inspiration from Hida in the Gifu Prefecture and Lake Suwa of the Nagano Prefecture. The dormant caldera is modelled after Aogashima; located south of Hachijojima, it is very remote and typically, can only be accessed by helicopter or boat. The latter is a tricky gamble owing to dangerous terrain surrounding the island, accounting for the general reluctance of fans to visit.

4 responses to “The Stairs to Suga Shrine in Yotsuya, Shinjuku, Home of the Fateful Meeting in Kimi no Na wa (Your Name)

  1. Remy Fool August 29, 2017 at 04:52

    Although you claim this to be an impromptu locations post, I found your conclusions and captions to be very enjoyable to read. You picked excellent photos to emphasize the similarities and differences between the scenes depicted in Your Name and the locations in real life, too.

    I’m aghast at how some people seem to have…strange conceptions regarding the film. Ah, well, I guess there are people like that everywhere, but thankfully they’re the minority.

    Like

    • infinitezenith August 29, 2017 at 22:26

      This was a post that I got a request for early on the morning of the 25th, as I was heading off for work. When I arrived home later, I sat down and put the “information” parts of the post together first, before diving into Battlefield 1 to enjoy a quiet Friday night to myself. When I finished, I wrote up the figure captions. It was quite rushed by my usual workflow: I think of posts anywhere from a week to a few months before I write them and sometimes draft ideas in a text file first. This was the exception, and I struggle to think of things I could say about stairs 😛

      My overall thoughts on Your Name were that I enjoyed it, as it’s very much a summer film that stayed true to the messages it was intending to convey. I think folks who didn’t like it were looking to have their hearts broken again as per Five Centimeters per Second, but the presence of supernatural in Your Name suggested that this was unlikely: if love were to be assisted by such a force and still fail, the message I would get is that “love is pointless”. This would be a very Nihilistic view and certainly contradict the things we’ve seen in the movie. I’m glad we got the ending that we did, and I can only imagine what reception to the film would be like if Mitsuha and Taki were shafted in the end.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Remy Fool August 30, 2017 at 00:54

        Ohh, I had no idea. I am in awe over how much preparation goes into each blog post. You did a great job with this editorial considering the circumstances!

        I really like your assessment of the film and of the implications if Mitsuha and Taki were thwarted at the end in this type of setting. I suppose some people believe that true art involves angst and suffering, but happy endings that tie back to inherent themes are more than welcome in my book.

        Like

        • infinitezenith August 30, 2017 at 22:32

          For me, real art is anything made with the artist’s intent, and succeeds if I can feel the way the author intended to convey. If a work conveys suffering well, or if it conveys happiness well, then both are worthwhile.

          Thanks for the praise! I’m likewise impressed with your posting consistency and maintaining meaningful content for the volume of posts you’ve got 🙂

          Like

Please provide feedback!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: