The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games and life converge

Anime and Real Life, Finding The Colours of Nagasaki: An Oculus-Powered Armchair Journey of Irozuku Sekai no Ashita kara

“Without black, no colour has any depth. But if you mix black with everything, suddenly there’s shadow – no, not just shadow, but fullness. You’ve got to be willing to mix black into your palette if you want to create something that’s real.” –Amy Grant

Fireworks fill the sky of Nagasaki in August 2078 – it’s a beautiful evening, and the skyline below is barely recognisable from its 2018 counterpart. However, Hitomi Tsukishiro is about to head back sixty years with help from her grandmother, Kohaku. After Hitomi developed achromatopsia, she became unable to see the world in colours and fell into a depression. Kohaku believes her teenaged self will be able to help Hitomi find happiness anew and so, has opted to send her back in time using magic, a power which runs in the Tsukishiro family. When Hitomi opens her eyes, she finds herself in a world sixty years earlier. While nowhere nearly as well-developed as she knows it, Hitomi finds that the Nagasaki of 2018 is a bustling city of around four hundred thousand people. In this older time, Hitomi ends up befriending members of the photography and art club, along with her grandmother; sharing time with each of the younger Kohaku, Yuito, Asagi, Kurumi, Shō and Chigusa helps Hitomi to rediscover the magic in her life, allowing her to find colours in her world anew. It is in Nagasaki that the events of 2018’s Irozuku Sekai no Ashita kara (The World in Colours from here on out) are set. Nagasaki sports the unfortunate distinction being one of two cities in the world to have ever been devastated by an atomic attack in 1945. On August 9, the plutonium bomb was detonated over the city, instantly killing some thirty-five thousand people. Nagasaki was slowly rebuilt after the Second World War. Reconstruction only really began a year after the bombings, with a particular emphasis on transforming the former military city into a centre of commercial ship-building, trade and fishing. By 1949, redevelopment accelerated with the passing of the Nagasaki International Culture City Reconstruction Law, and thanks to the efforts directed towards reconstruction, the Nagaski we know forms the backdrop for Hitomi’s own journey. It is here that magic and the mundane intertwine – in The World in Colours, the ability to control magic is a trait that women in the Tsukishiro family share, and Hitomi had shut her powers away after her mother had left the family. Unlike P.A. Works’ previous anime, The World in Colours places magic at the series forefront, treating it as another skill that can create joy for others, rather than something that brings about miracles. While Nagasaki isn’t a particularly magical city (being better known for its temples and museums), The World in Colours‘ commitment to realism means that the anime is able to tell a particularly compelling story: bringing Nagasaki to life means being able to convince viewers that magic is very much a reality, even if it cannot manifest as the phenomenon that Kohaku and Hitomi can master.

  • Because The World in Colours is a story filled with magic and witchcraft, it makes sense to open the post with a virtual visit to the Forest Witch Café, which forms the inspiration for the Tsukishiro magic shop that Hitomi lodges at. In reality, the Forest Witch Café is located some twenty-seven kilometres away from the heart of Nagasaki. The restaurant is named for its location in the forest. The owners take pride in using home-grown ingredients in their dishes: vegetables come straight from their garden, and their curry is a favourite amongst patrons.

  • A quick glance at Forest Witch Café’s menu finds a wonderful variety of dishes: their lunch special is only 1650 Yen, featuring a salad fresh from their garden and homemade chicken confit, soup, a choice of house curry or pasta and a dessert, plus coffee. This is only available with a reservation. For visitors looking to do dinner, courses start at 3500 Yen. Similarly, there’s also a handful of coffees and sweets available for those seeking a pit stop. Besides this delightful café, which forms the backdrop for the Tsukishiro magic shop, Forest Witch Café also does tarot fortune telling, as well. In real life, there’s also a small shop behind the café that sells Witch-themed trinkets and goods: Owing to its location, visitors will need to take a few buses or rent a car to reach this café, which, compared to the rest of the locations in this post, is quite out-of-the way.

  • In The World in Colours, the house behind the magic shop is where the Tsukishiros live. Hitomi has numerous memories of spending time with Kohaku here, and According to Kohaku’s grandmother, their house was built in 2017 (the same year my new place was built) Inspection of satellite imagery finds that the Tsukishiro residence looks nothing like its counterpart in The World in Colours, but this is unsurprising, since actual character residences are usually custom-designed to fit with the story’s requirements.

  • Back when The World in Colours was airing, the one location I had confidence in locating was Megami Bridge, a cable-stayed bridge that takes route 51 over Nagasaki Bay. Completed in 2005, the bridge’s main span is 480 metres in length, and is beautifully illuminated by nightfall. The World in Colours had the Magic-Photography-and-Art Club attempt to catch a ferry passing underneath for a unique photo, and while they fail, the evening is a memorable one, typifying the journey that this anime had sought to convey.

  • Being the only cable-stayed bridge in the immediate area, finding Megami Bridge alone didn’t offer me with much to write about. However, last September, I was looking to do a location hunt for The World in Colours after utilising the Oculus Quest to identify and share locations within the anime that I’d previously watched. The premise behind these location hunts is simple enough: I can’t put boots on the ground right now owing to the global health crisis, but Google Street View is extensive enough for me to visit mundane, ordinary spots such as these.

  • Armed with a combination of 3D photogrammetry data and full immersion offered by a powerful VR headset, I found that it was possible to locate things with a much greater confidence than before, since the VR environment allowed me to quickly look around and orient myself. BY comparison, using Street View on a desktop computer or tablet is more limiting. In this way, I was able to make progress in finding the same streets that Hitomi and Kohaku hit during their time together in The World in Colours: by looking around for landmarks, I was able to define a starting point. This spot, for instance, was located after I found Izumokinrin Park and began looking for landmarks like Ōura Elementary School, which is visible on the hill in the right hand side.

  • To start off such a journey, I began by using Google Maps’ 3D photogrammetry data to explore areas near Megami Bridge, and in a curious turn of fate, one location caught my eye: Mount Nabekanmuri Park. This is the spot Hitomi visits in 2078 during the finale, being the place she and Yuito shared thoughts together away from the more rowdy and energetic crowd that is the Magic-Photography-and-Arts Club. To my surprise, just across the valley is the spot where Yuito shares his drawings with a curious Hitomi: Izumokinrin Park. Closer inspection of the park finds the same pavilion and amphitheater that forms the site of where Kohaku performs the complex bit of magic to send Hitomi back into the future.

  • A search for high schools in the area, near Izumokinrin Park, finds exactly one candidate whose exterior matches the high school Hitomi and Kohaku attend perfectly: this is Nagasaki Minami High School, which is only a stone’s throw from Izumokinrin Park. True to reality, the school seen in The World in Colours has the same statue and clock near its front. The World in Colours shows the high school both as it appeared in 2018, as well as again in 2078 – the school itself was opened in 1961, so by the events of The World in Colours, the school would’ve likely undergone several renovations to remain in full operations even a full 117 years later.

  • Nagasaki Minami High School can be seen on the hill here:  tracing the path the Magic-Photography-Arts Club take, I was able to find this spot without too much trouble. I’m always fond of still like these: the mirror, railings, yellow house and utility pole in both the anime and real-life versions match up pretty closely. While such spots are easy enough to find after locating the landmark, The World in Colours presented me with another challenge. Kohaku and the others are fond of taking side routes down flights of stairs that line the hills of Nagasaki.

  • There are a lot of narrow streets in Nagasaki, and even more stairwells cutting up and down the steep slopes, but Google Street View doesn’t go down these paths, so the steps that everyone uses as shortcuts are something that I wasn’t able to replicate in my Oculus-powered travels – as one would reasonably expect, the Oculus Quest is not the magic bullet solution for replacing travel outright. However, owing to current circumstance, the ability to almost wander the streets of Nagasaki with the same freedom as I would in reality is a welcome one.

  • To my great surprise, the park that the Magic-Photography-and-Art Club visit during The World in Colours‘ sixth episode is actually within walking distance of their high school. This is Glover Garden, an open-air museum that showcases Nagasaki’s western-style buildings. The most famous of these is the Former Glover House, which belonged to Scottish merchant Thomas Glover, who would later play a role in overthrowing the Tokugawa Shogunate, kicking off the Meiji Restoration. Glover Garden most closely resembles Calgary’s Heritage Park in that many of the buildings here were relocated from other parts of the city, and there’s a 620 Yen admission fee to the site.

  • Yuito is shown to be working at the Jiyu-tei Café and Teahouse, which is located in Glover Garden’s grounds. Open from 0930 to 1715, Jiyu-tei Café and Teahouse is known for its ambience and Castella, a Japanese sponge cake that Nagasaki is particularly well-known for. According to their website, Jiyu-tei offers Castella sets with seasonal drinks, although they do have cake and ice cream on their menu, along with a solid selection of hot and iced teas and coffees. Visitors report friendly service and love the ambience: altogether, one would probably find this to be a fantastic place to take someone on a date.

  • It suddenly strikes me that as a result of location hunting for anime, and as a result of looking around town for restaurants, I’ve amassed a reasonable knowledge of places nearby, including those that could prove quite romantic. In Nagasaki, Glover Park seems like a great place for a first date. The bridge that Kohaku crosses near Nagasaki Seaside Park, on the other hand, is a little more mundane, being something seen en route to a date – there are actually a pair of these bridges, and the one Kohaku crosses is the further one from Route 499, whereas here, I’m only able to see the first of the bridges. This is a case of “close enough”, since I wasn’t able to find a way of getting closer, but fortunately, the bridges are similar enough so that readers should be convinced that P.A. Works also replicated this spot with their usual attention to detail.

  • This particular spot offers an unparalleled view of Nagasaki’s skyline: it is located near Ōura Elementary School, not more than a quarter-kilometre from the Glover Garden. The stunning nightscape reminds me a great deal of the hill where Stuttgart’s House R128 is located: this house is well-known for being a modernist home capable of fulfilling its energy requirements and possesses an open floor concept: the only closed rooms in the house are the bathrooms. I’ve long had a fascination with this style of living: the open concept exposes the house to nature, and by night, the Stuttgart cityscape can be seen.

  • When I first finished watching The World in Colours, I had no idea as to where the walkway that Kohaku was running along was located: I still recall how in a similar frame during one of my The World in Colours posts, I only remarked that the site looked photorealistic. This time around, because I had found numerous of the landmarks in Nagasaki for, I was able to determine that this walkway is a part of Glover Sky Road, which consists of a covered escalator similar to Central Mid-Level escalators in Hong Kong, which is the world’s longest outdoor covered escalator.

  • Glover Sky Road is the best way to reach Glover Garden if one were approaching from the east end, and this escalator system is something that locals also appreciate, making it much easier to get around: this project was built to increase accessibility in Nagasaki, and was the first of its kind in Nagasaki. Like Hong Kong’s Central Mid-Level Escalator, Glover Sky Road has since become something of a local attraction, offering visitors with a brilliant view of Nagasaki’s cityscape.

  • Here at the intersection where Hitomi and Yuito see one another off, the Former Mitsubishi No. 2 Dock House can be seen to the left. Featuring high ceilings, coal-fired fireplaces and large windows, this building was constructed in 1896 as a dormitory for sailors. In 1972, it was relocated to its current site, and presently houses an exhibit on Nagasaki’s shipyards; shipbuilding has been an integral part of Nagasaki’s economy, alongside heavy industry.

  • After Hitomi and Yuito part ways, Hitomi prepares to make her way down Glover Sky Road and return home. The Tsukishiro home and magic shop is a central location in The World in Colour, and were such a site to be real, it would certainly be worth visiting: the magic shop is filled with luminescent jars of star-sand that exude a gentle, calming glow, and the Tsukishiro residence is smartly designed. In particular, Hitomi and Kohaku’s rooms are separated by a circular opening, allowing the two to open up to one another without exposing themselves wholly, mirroring how Kohaku takes things with Hitomi one step at a time.

  • There’s also a skylight in the Tsukishiro residence that gives Hitomi a beautiful view of Nagsaki’s nightscape and harbour. Initially, this spot comes to act as a refuge of sorts for Hitomi, representing a distant vantage point that emphasises her removal from the world. As Hitomi grows closer to the Magic-Photography-Art Club, she begins to tread the streets of Nagasaki with the others, signifying a better connection to the world around her. Here, Yuito and Hitomi head down Ringer Street, adjacent to Ōura Elementary School.

  • This intersection is located down Oda-Kaigan Dori near Nagasaki Seaside Park. Owing to the lack of Street View coverage down here, I wasn’t able to capture the places where Hitomi and Shō visited together; while ostensibly for club activities, Shō had taken a liking to Hitomi and this was a bit of a date of sorts. Chigusa and Kurumi also spend time together here while Kurumi waits for her older sister to arrive. Despite lacking the imagery, given that The World in Colour faithfully renders things like the intersection, it is not inconceivable that P.A. Works would’ve taken the time to ensure the park in The World in Colours was true to its real-world counterpart, as well.

  • A little further down the road, the Nagasaki Harbour Medical Centre can be seen, along with line 5 of the Nagasaki Electric Tramway. The tramway has a lengthy history and was opened in 1915 and is the only tramway in Japan to have retained all of its original lines: despite an adult fare of 130 Yen, the company remains profitable, and The World in Colour has the Magic-Photography-Arts Club utilising public transit quite frequently, allowing me to follow it and locate other areas of interest.

  • One such spot is Oranda Bridge crossing a tributary of the Nakashima River, where Kohaku wonders if feelings for Yuito might be the cause of Hitomi’s colour vision intermittently returning. To the right, the Juhachiginko Head Office building can be seen, and the building on the left houses Gibraltar Life Insurance. The Nagasaki Electric Tramway Line 1 runs along this road, so following it using VR allowed me to find this spot. While other sites, such as Like a Fish in Water, utilise Japanese social media and bloggers from Hatena to do the heavy lifting for them, my location hunt posts depend entirely on the technology available to me.

  • As such, finding a spot entails locating landmarks, putting the Oculus Quest headset on and “walking” around until I locate the area of interest, based purely on my estimates of where something is using hints from the anime. The process is quite tiring, and in order to avoid eyestrain, I limit my sessions to a quarter-hour at a time. For this post, locations were a ways more obscure than usual, so it took a lot of wandering over a lot of hours to find everything, such as this spot in a quiet neighbourhood near Shiiko Park. Altogether, it took around 20 hours spaced out since September to actually locate enough spots of interest, which is why this post is only out now.

  • The last spot I’ll cover in this location hunt is the observation platform at Mount Nabekanmuri Park: because The World in Colours had Yuito and Hitomi visit an observation point where the Megami Bridge was visible, I ended up doing a search to see which places in Nagasaki would offer such a view. This was the spot I would use as a starting point for my location hunt using the Oculus Quest, and I decided to save it for last because the views up here are spectacular. Although the ascent can be a little difficult for some, visitors generally report that it is well worth it.

  • With this VR-powered location hunt in the books, I’m glad to have taken the effort of treading through The World in Colours‘ locations. While certainly all of the locations possible, being able to nonetheless see iconic spots in The World in Colours using the Oculus Quest and Wander, without having to board a plane and put boots on the ground, speaks volumes to what’s possible with this technology. With the location hunt for one of director Toshiya Shinohara’s signature anime in the books, I remark that I’ve got another location hunt coming up in under a week while I’m on a roll with finding places in anime.

The World in Colours represented a very unique challenge with respect to location hunting – previously, I’d used the Oculus Quest in rural areas with great success, but urban areas were intimidating because the sheer amount of streets and structures would make it considerably more difficult to locate points of interest. This is because when location hunting, I typically start with a landmark, and then use the characters’ preferred modes of transportation to determine where other sites are. If characters typically walk, I’ll know to determine which streets provide the easiest path to their next destination. Similarly, characters taking the train means seeking out their destination station and then exploring nearby areas. In rural areas, like those of Yamanashi, or smaller urban areas like Kawagoe, this isn’t a challenge because the search area is smaller. Google Maps has improved dramatically over the years, and an increasing amount of regions on Earth now have 3D data available, so using a combination of 3D photogrammetry data and the Oculus Quest is usually sufficient to pinpoint the spots seen in an anime. However, after a city becomes large enough, these techniques become more time-consuming, and limitations in map data also preclude certain areas from being visited. In The World in Colours, for instance, Hitomi and the others often take narrow stairwells connecting streets together, and these paths are simply inaccessible in the Oculus Quest. However, on the flipside, even in a city as large as Nagasaki, the old techniques still work: locating the park where Kohaku and the others prepared to send Hitomi back to 2078 was the breakthrough moment, and after this game-changer, I determined that most of the areas of interest would likely be walkable (i.e. within 3 kilometres). From this point onwards, I ended up identifying several key areas seen in the anime simply by strolling the streets using the Oculus Quest, and ultimately, I accumulated enough spots to do a discussion on the locations seen in The World in Colours. In this way, the combination of sophisticated technology, prior experience in location hunting and a little bit of patience has allowed me to identify the same spots that Hitomi visits with the Magic-Photography-and-Arts Club during her time in 2018. The end result is that, should I ever decide to plan a trip to Nagasaki in the future, I wouldn’t have much trouble in finding the locations to an anime that had deeply moved me when I’d first watched it. However, for the time being, any trip to Nagasaki (or Japan, for that matter) remains a hypothetical, and consequently, I am glad that we are at a point where it is possible to do the next best thing from the comfort of an armchair – walk the virtual streets of Nagasaki using the Oculus Quest.

6 responses to “Anime and Real Life, Finding The Colours of Nagasaki: An Oculus-Powered Armchair Journey of Irozuku Sekai no Ashita kara

  1. Michael E Kerpan January 20, 2022 at 19:09

    For me, one of the greatest pleasures of watching anime (especially slice of life) is the ability to re-visit places my wife and I have actually been (or want to visit but have not yet gotten to). The often meticulous location depiction amazes me (given how shoddy most American shows are in this respect — even when they are ostensibly set in real life places). It really gives us a thrill to see something we remember (almost always with affection). And it is fun to visit new places– like Takagi-san’s Shodoshima — and try to trace where things happen.

    Great work on your Irodoku tour of Nagasaki (where we spent 3 days). I really wish Irodoku could get the traction it deserves — as I find it probably the most satisfying “young witch in training show” of any I have watched.

    Liked by 2 people

    • infinitezenith January 20, 2022 at 22:15

      If I may, Flying Witch is another one of those shows with young Witches learning their craft, although it tends towards being a iyashikei rather than a coming-of-age story like The World in Colours. Having said this, both shows are rather under-valued in the community and definitely do deserve a bit more exposure. Furthermore, Flying Witch is set in the Hirosaki area of Aomori, which I previously did a location hunt for many years back!

      That anime go through such lengths to present these vividly detailed worlds is something I similarly enjoy and appreciate: from a thematic perspective, it gives the feeling that there is the extraordinary in the ordinary, and the sights we pass by day-to-day might be host to some wonderful adventures, too. This is what led me to want to visit Japan to begin with: after finishing Tamayura a decade earlier, I’d longed to put boots on the ground in Takehara for myself. That dream is within arm’s reach right now, so I’m just letting things in life settle down before I action a trip I’ve been wanting to do for ten years. Similarly, I can see how watching anime can bring back pleasant memories of travel. I’m nowhere nearly as well-traveled as you (having been out of grad school for “only” five-and-a-half years), but I’ve also had the pleasure of seeing places I visited during my 2017 trip reproduced in Yuru Camp△ 2 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Michael E Kerpan January 21, 2022 at 20:07

    Flying Witch is a lovely show too. I feel it presents a more “credible” model for witch education than Kiki’s Delivery Service (by a long shot). We never got to see anything in Hirosaki (except to change there for a train to Goshogowara — on our way to Tsugaru). We loved Aomori (and wished we could have seen the Nebuta Matsuri — rather than just a sampling of its floats on display) . 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • infinitezenith January 23, 2022 at 22:05

      Aomori seems far removed from the hustle and bustle of somewhere like Yokohama, so it is appropriate as the place for Makoto to be surrounded by nature for her witch training. In spite of this, there does appear to be quite a bit to see up in Aomori, too. Flying Witch did a wonderful job of showing some of these spots off, and perhaps in the future, you’ll have a chance to visit 🙂

      Like

      • Michael E Kerpan January 24, 2022 at 07:41

        We definitely hope to return to Tohoku some day — including seeing more of Aomori.

        I think I discovered this site because I was looking for more information on Irodoku — and you were just about the only person who had anything useful to say about it. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

        • infinitezenith January 26, 2022 at 21:53

          The internet’s pretty vast, and I’m confident there must be some other thoughts of Iroduku that capture the series’ successes. If not, I suppose I’ll hold the distinction of hosting the only positive review in the English-speaking world!

          Like

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