The Infinite Zenith

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Category Archives: Anime locations

A Photogrammetry Exercise in Kimi no Na wa (Your Name): Determining the location of Taki’s Apartment and a fly-through from Tokyo to Hida

“Where is Taki’s apartment located?”

This question was posed by one of our readers shortly after Your Name began screening in Japan, and at the time, information about the film, especially amongst the English language anime community, was limited. Consequently, when I received the question, I wondered if it were even possible to answer it accurately. For one, metro Tokyo is the world’s largest city, and even Tokyo Proper has a surface area of 2187.66 km² and a population of 13 617 445 as of 2016. By comparison, Calgary has a tenth of the population, and it’s already tricky enough to find things here — it took me ages to realise that Pure Pwnage‘s Lannagedon event was hosted at the Bowness Community Centre, for instance. However, the challenge was an intriguing one, and I began wondering how to go about solving it. When I recalled an episode of The Raccoons back in July, I felt that I had my answer: in the episode “Search and Rescue”, Bert Raccoon and Cedric Sneer go looking for a meteorite that lands on Jack Pine Island in the Evergreen Forest. Assuming that recovering the meteorite is a day trip, the two do not leave any information behind as to where they went, and when their raft floats off from the island, the two find themselves stranded. Despite the effort of their friends, who search the Evergreen Forest through the night for them, the two are not found until the next morning. After Lady Baden-Baden reveals that she saw the meteorite, Professor Smedley-Smythe is able to use triangulation to work out where the impactor landed, leading to Bert and Cedric’s rescue. The concept of triangulation is a reasonably simple one: if there are at least two known points, then the location of an unknown point can be determined by forming a triangle by means of the existing points. The version in The Raccoons is the simplest one: the baseline distance and angles are not used, as a map is available. However, slightly more involved forms allow for a distance to the unknown point to be determined provided that one knows the baseline distance between two observes and the relative angle of this baseline to their line of sight. In this exercise, I apply a variation of the technique, plus several landmarks in the Tokyo, to form the starting point for answering this question.

Locating Taki’s Apartment

  • Figure I: Taki viewing Tiamat’s fragment splitting up in the eastward direction. The Yoyogi Tower and Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building are highlighted in this image for clarity. All of the images in this post can be expanded for viewing at full resolution.

  • Figure II: A section of the Tokyo skyline seen in Your Name. Here, I’ve highlighted some of the buildings visible in the image. Landmarks with a red label were used in my preliminary estimates to narrow down which area Taki’s apartment is located in.

  • Figure III: Approximation of where the skyline in Figure II might be viewed from. Using the four landmarks and roughly their angles, the area one can begin looking for Taki’s apartment is highlighted in blue, enclosed by the sightlines. All of the map data in this discussion are sourced from Google Maps and have been modified to improve clarity.

From footage in Your Name, Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building and the nearby Yoyogi Building is visible from Taki’s apartment (Fig I). In the image, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building is right of the Yoyogi building. Inspection of a map allows us to work out that Taki’s apartment must be east of these buildings. The second set of points we can use can be derived from the fact that Taki is seen leaving home with Tokyo’s skyline visible on the horizon (Fig II, Fig IV, Fig V, Fig VI, Fig VII). Visible in the frame’s left-hand-side is Akasaka Palace, accommodations for visiting state dignitaries. Tokyo Tower is also visible, along with the Embassy of Canada as the frame pans right. Thus, we can use Tokyo Tower and the Embassy of Canada as the first of the known points for our calculations: in the images, the Tokyo Tower is left of the Embassy of Canada, so we can reason out that the scene is taken from a point north of these buildings. The estimated sight lines allow us to constrain Taki’s apartment to an area in Shinanomachi, Wakaba, Yotsuyasakamachi (Fig III). These are densely-built up neighbourhoods, and while we’ve worked out roughly where Taki’s apartment could be, exploring the area bit-by-bit would still take a while. Fortunately, we have two more points that makes the calculations easier to approximate: Akasaka State Property is visible in the frame shown when Taki (Mitsuha) is looking over Tokyo. We use this to further constrain the possible region to an area west of the Akasaka State Property (Fig II). The second point is rather more subtle – there’s a small apartment complex called the Meiji Park Heights, and it is visible in the image’s lower right hand corner (Fig VII, VIII). This apartment is located southwest of Taki, so using the same technique and tracing backwards, we find a line that passes over a community centre north of the Chou Main Line (Fig IX).

  • Figure IV: Identifying buildings visible from the perspective seen in Your Name. When we zoom in to the area highlighted in Figure III and rotate the camera, we find a distinct set of landmarks not dissimilar to the buildings seen in Figure II. I use some of the more distinct skyscrapers in the image as comparisons.

  • Figure V: The equivalent spot from Figure IV in Your Name. Amongst the buildings I’ve looked at include the 43-story Park Court Akasaka: The Tower, a residential complex that was completed in 2009, the Sogetsu Concert Hall and the Embassy of Canada. The Embassy of Canada was chosen as a point primarily because of its distinct roof. This building was completed in 1991.

  • Figure VI: Panning east from the perspective in Figure IV. When the camera pans right, other buildings become visible, including Tokyo Midtown, a mixed-use building that is, with its height of 248 meters (814 feet), the second-tallest in Tokyo. By comparison, Brookfield Place East of Calgary will have a completed height of 247 meters (810 feet). Other buildings highlighted for their visibility include the International Medical Welfare University Graduate School, Honda Welcome Plaza Aoyama and the TK Minami-Aoyama Building.

  • Figure VII: The equivalent spot from Figure IV in Your Name. With the number of familiar landmarks visible in Your Name, we can say that Taki’s apartment must be located close to the Akasaka Imperial Property. There is one final structure that is present when the camera pans, and this is the Meiji Park Heights, with its distinct roof and windows.

  • Figure VIII: A closer view of Meiji Park Heights. Despite its unassuming appearance from 3D imagery, the building houses spacious, luxury apartment units and is conveniently located to two train stations, as well as the Akasaka grounds. With two-bedroom units that have a total area of close to 1125 square feet (110.41 square meters), rentals start at 350000 Yen per month (3900 CAD), more than double that of an equivalent in Calgary (1500 CAD per month).

  • Figure IX: Using the Akasaka State Property and Meiji Park Heights to constrain the possible region of Taki’s apartment further. The Akasaka State Property was visible in Figure II, and together with the Meiji Park Heights, allow us to say that Taki’s apartment must be in a narrow area where both structures are visible. Using the sightlines running east-west, the possible location of Taki’s apartment can be searched for in the highlighted area.

We now have an area small enough so that we can start looking around manually, and immediately north of the community centre are some apartment complexes. We are left with several options: Taki lives in an apartment with an outdoor hallway, which allows us to eliminate a larger apartment nearby with windows facing south, as well as a green-roofed apartment (Fig X, XI). Adjacent to the green-roofed apartment is a slightly taller apartment, and while it has south-facing balconies, this is our candidate, located at the address 〒160-0011 Tōkyō-to, Shinjuku-ku, Wakaba, 1 Chome-22-15. The building itself is called 離宮ハイム (Rikyū haimu), and from details in the film, Taki lives on the sixth floor. Despite the descrepancies in design, especially with respect to the placement of balconies and the angle of sunlight seen in the film, when we descend down for a closer look along a road, it becomes apparent that we’ve located Taki’s apartment. Details in the road he’s seen running along, both to school and to meet up with Miki for his date, line up with what is visible from the site’s real world location (Fig XII, XIII, XIV, XV). Without the use of too much trigonometry, we’ve found Taki’s apartment with some reasoning, a bit more guesswork and liberal use of Google Maps. I remark that a more precise and sophisticated technique can be applied here: because we have the heights of the Tokyo Tower and Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, clever use of a clinometer and the screenshots can also allow one to approximate the distance to the buildings and determine where the screenshots are roughly located.

  • Figure X: Highlighting Taki’s apartment and the route he’s seen taking to school and on his date with Miki. Taki’s apartment is highlighted in blue, while the route we see him take is given in red. From exploring the area given in Figure IX, Taki’s apartment was located in the space of around two minutes.

  • Figure XI: Corridor outside of Taki’s aparment. Close inspection of the unit numbers find that Taki lives on the sixth floor, although his apartment has a covered corridor compared to the unit located in the real-world location. However, as the structure needs to be suited for plot-related elements, the discrepancies are readily accepted without much concern.

  • Figure XII: Street-level view looking south from the road leading from Taki’s apartment. Quite ordinary and unremarkable by any definition, it is possible to use Google Street View to approximate a small section of Taki’s route, and I imagine that folks in Tokyo familiar with the region can trace his path to school and the route he takes when meeting Miki for a date with total accuracy.

  • Figure XIII: The equivalent spot from Figure XII in Your Name. The extent to which details are reproduced are incredible: whether it be the placement of mirrors, the potted plants beside the apartment on the right, the vending machine or the skyline, we have a near-perfect reproduction within Your Name of the location.

  • Figure XIV: The road going down the hillside leading from Taki’s apartment. The real-world location is filled with shrubbery, with the skyline barely visible, whereas in Your Name, there is less vegetation that allows the skyline to be more clearly seen.

  • Figure XV: The equivalent spot from Figure XIV in Your Name. While I never visited this spot during my time in Tokyo back in May, the closest I got from Taki’s apartment and the Suga Shrine would have been around 2.6 klicks, when I visited the Meiji Jingu Garden. This was the first destination that was on my itinerary in Tokyo.

The Giant Flythough Kimi no Na Wa

During the opening credits to Your Name, there’s also a brief moment where the camera flies from Taki’s apartment in Tokyo, through the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, out to rural Japan and eventually, Itomori (Fig XVI). This is undoubtedly an impressive feat of animation and a visual treat to behold on its own, but there is a pleasant surprise to this, as well – if one were to project a line from Taki’s apartment in the heading as depicted in the film, they would end up in Hida, Gifu, passing over Lake Suwa along the way (Fig XVII, XVIII). In total, roughly 237 kilometers of distance separates the location of Taki’s apartment in Tokyo from Hida in the Gifu prefecture. While some might consider this a mere coincidence, the level of detail Makoto Shinkai and his team put into their art is nothing short of exceptional, so I imagine that this was a deliberate design in keeping with the thematic elements within the movie. Whereas Shinkai’s earlier themes were more about distance, Your Name deals predominantly with connections and how distances can be closed: the Chinese term “緣份” (pinyin: yuán fèn, “fate”) describes the movie neatly, as it appears that supernatural forces compel Taki and Mitsuha to meet. That their homes lie along the same line is a clever element added to the film, and while subtle, serves to reinforce notions that Taki and Mitsuha must meet in order to convey the thematic elements in the movie. With this in mind, it is likely that Shinkai and his team worked backwards, choosing the rural location and then corresponding it with a location in Tokyo; it is considerably more difficult to pick a rural location suitable for Mitsuha, whereas in Tokyo, the dense urban build-up means that Taki could have been placed anywhere in central Tokyo without any substantial impact to the narrative.

  • Figure XVI: Stills from the opening scene in Your Name depicting a fly-over from Taki’s apartment in Tokyo to Mitsuha’s house in Itomori. Starting from the roof of Taki’s apartment (1) and flying east over the Tokyo cityscape (2) towards the Tokyo Metropolitian Government Building (3), the camera moves through the gap between the two towers (4) out into rural Japan after a transition (5), eventually landing in Itomori (6).

  • Figure XVII: Approximation of the route covered by the route seen in the opening in the real world. The red path highlighted shows this: in the upper left, the route covered between Figure XVI’s (1), (2) and (3) are shown. The opening shortens things after (4) is reached. Curiously enough, the line intersects Suwa Lake before landing in the small town of Hida in Gifu. During my visit to Japan, we passed by Suwa Lake after leaving the Ikenotaira Hotel beside the shores of Shirakaba Lake en route to Nagoya and Gifu.

  • Figure XVIII: Overhead view of the entire route from Tokyo to Hida, Gifu, intersecting with Lake Suwa. The total distance separating Taki’s apartment from Suwa Lake is 154 kilometers, while the full distance from Hida to Tokyo as the mole digs is 243 kilometers. To put things in perspective, Red Deer to Calgary is a little less than 154 kilometers, while Edmonton and Calgary are separated by a distance of 270 kilometers.

Closing Remarks

An interesting point to note is that only 480 metres separates Taki’s old apartment from the Suga Shrine. This entire exercise only took around five minutes to complete, although the post itself took a ways longer to draft out: from exploring the areas by means of Google Maps’ Street View and 3D utilities, it becomes clear that, as with Suga Shrine, Your Name takes some creative liberties in recreating locales for the film but nonetheless retains considerable accuracy. That it is possible to apply a bit of triangulation and make use of a commonplace tool to precisely determine where the events of an anime film occur, is itself a testament to how far technology has come in recent years. Sophisticated techniques for obtaining stereographic data to create 3D maps has made photogrammetry, the process of using imagery for locating structures and objects, increasingly accessible to all users: Google has optimised their 3D maps so even computers with an Intel Iris GPU can view maps in 3D. Such tools make it effortless to figure out where one’s destinations are, what road layout and traffic controls lie along a hitherto unexplored route and gain a preview of what things look like on the ground at a location halfway across the world. With tools of this calibre, quickly ascertaining locations within anime becomes a much more straightforwards task, especially if one is familiar with a handful of landmarks in the area of interest. All of these sophisticated tools means that hopefully, I’ve adequately answered the question posed: when asked “where is Taki’s apartment located?”, I can suitably respond “〒160-0011 Tōkyō-to, Shinjuku-ku, Wakaba, 1 Chome-22-15“. Back in The Raccoons, for Bert and Cedric, being lost on an island now simply means sending out a phone call and tagging their location to simplify the search and rescue process. Having said this, some lessons, such as informing others of their intended activities and destinations, continue to endure even if the technology we’ve presently got far outstrips anything that was available in 1989.

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.

Hirosaki Region, Aomori: Home of Flying Witch

“Magic is believing in yourself, if you can do that, you can make anything happen.” —Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Terror in Resonance depicted the Aomori prefecture of Japan as a perpetually snowy and miserable locale perfect for governmental agencies to conduct secret nuclear weapons research, but this is a gross over-generalisation of the prefecture as a whole. Granted, being the northern-most prefecture on the Honshu does subject the prefecture to heavy snowfall and has a relatively cool climate, and its rugged terrain results in Aomori having a lower population density. However, this also corresponds with mountains and lakes that remain quite pristine: it is amongst the quiet plains of western Aomori that Flying Witch is set: the events of the anime are set in and around the city of Hirosaki. With a population of 176590 (September 2015 estimates), the town’s castle and surrounding cherry blossoms are the central attractions — during Golden Week, there is a cherry blossom festival held near the castle. Hirosaki is also known for its agricultural sector: besides rice, the Hirosaki region accounts for nearly a fifth of Japan’s apple production. The area has been populated since the Heian Period, and Hirosaki was renamed several times over the course of history: its current moniker was adapted in 1808 from its former name, Takaoka. Besides the Hirosaki castle, the town is also home to a collection of Western-style buildings dating back to the Meiji restoration. With its humid continental climate, summers in Hirosaki are hot, reaching a daily average of 23°C in August, while winters are mild in comparison.

  • Moving from the hustle and bustle of Yokohama to the comparatively quieter Hirosaki region marks a substantial change of pace. I live in a city of around a million people; it’s a fine balance between the quiet of a smaller town and the energy of a larger town, and I am quite happy with the city. With this in mind, the city sprawl, arising as a consequence of (presumably ill-informed) consumer preference, is very grating, since it drives up the costs of infrastructure. There’s more surface area to cover for power grids, water, transportation and sanitation, increasing the costs per person, but not everyone shares my views, and some former classmates have lectured me for not supporting subdivision growth.

  • Of course, I couldn’t give two hoots about their opinions, so we won’t peruse that topic further. Back in Flying Witch, here is a local shopping center where Makoto goes to purchase a broom for travel. The placement and storefronts of the anime incarnation closely resemble the real-world counterpart, which is located in Hirosaki’s western edge. While brooms are typically depicted as magically enhanced to be capable of flight, Flying Witch suggests that they act as conduit for magic, so a skilled Witch need not ride the broom, but can fly merely by touching the broom and willing themselves to fly.

  • While initially mistrustful of Makoto, Chinatsu warms up when Makoto agrees to take Chinatsu to her favourite doughnut shop in the mall. The real-world equivalent is a bit more ornately decorated, compared to the more conservative colours seen in the anime version, but the resemblances are quite apparent. Us Canadians are said to consume the most doughnuts per capita of any country on earth (Japan comes in second place), and this is partially owing to the presence of Tim Hortons in the country.

  • While on a walk, Makoto crosses a bridge over a small canal. A handful of these canals cut through Hirosaki, and a cursory glance at the city reveals that it is mostly low rises, with Hirosaki Castle and Park at the heart of the city. Makoto’s penchant for getting lost is a personality trait that is gradually phased out over the course of the series as she grows familiar with the area, although she still enjoys taking things at a casual pace and can appear to be going off-mission.

  • On her walk to a local fabrics shop, Makoto runs into Nao, who is on a delivery for her parents. With a maximum east-west distance of around 6.5 kilometers and a north-south distance of 6.9 kilometers (to traverse those distances would be a short 10 minute drive assuming light traffic at 50 km/h), Hirosaki is not a particularly large town, and so, one could make their way around town by bike. The city is built in the Tsugaru plains, and being relatively flat, making this trek more straightforwards than back home, where the hills and valleys present a bit more of a challenge for cyclists.

  • Café Concurio is modelled after Hiarosaki’s Taishō Roman Tearoom (大正浪漫喫茶室), located a short ways from the southwestern edge of Hirosaki park inside the Fujita Kinen park. Its naming is derived from the Taishō period in Japan — running from 1912 to 1926, this period was marked by the convergence of Japanese and Western culture thanks to increased exposure to foreign elements, reinforcing Japanese cultural values while integrating aspects from the west. It is a highly romanticised period, hence the moniker “Taishō Roman”.

  • The interior of the tea room is faithfully reproduced in Flying Witch, although in Café Concurio, the lights are dimmed, and only natural light illuminates the interior. Beyond differences in lighting, elements in the real-world equivalent make it into Flying Witch, whether it be the wooden paneling of the walls, or the stone fireplace and its attendant decorations. The major difference between the two cafés are their location: the real world tea room is located at the heart of Hirosaki, while in Flying Witch, Café Concurio is located in a quieter area.

  • The Taishō Roman Tea Room is popular amongst locals, who note that the apple pie sold here is of a particularly excellent quality and some have even claimed the Taishō Roman Tea Room’s apple pie to be the best in the city; the tea room is often crowded as a result, and naturally, the terrace seats offer the best environment to enjoy an apple pie under. With this in mind, the number of patrons means that it can be difficult to get a seat here, and while Café Concurio is depicted to be very quiet, allowing Makoto, Kei and Chinatsu to sit in the terrace, at the Taishō Roman Tea Room, some patrons sit in the inner areas during busier hours.

  • Aside from their apple pie and coffee, the Taishō Roman Tea Room also serves a variety of pastries and some hot meals. While the tea room appears to be hidden in plain sight, some English-speaking patrons have noted that the menu, while limited in variety, is excellent: the tempura soba is said to be unparalleled, and the owners speak English. Between the atmosphere and quality of the food, the Taishō Roman Tea Room seems like a location worth visiting should one ever be in Hirosaki: to really have a Flying Witch experience, one merely needs to visit the nearby Hirosaki Park by morning, and then stop by the Taishō Roman Tea Room for lunch.

  • In Flying Witch, Café Concurio is given a Harry Potter treatment in that it is bewitched to be hidden away from Muggles, and it is Makoto’s knowledge of magic that allow Chinatsu and Kei to visit, bringing to mind how Witches and Wizards conceal their locations in the Harry Potter universe using a variety of spells, with Diagon Alley being the most famous of these locations. Access is controlled by a woebegone-looking pub known as the Leaky Cauldron, and there is a special brick that must be tapped in order to reveal the entrance.

  • Construction on Hirosaki castle began in 1603, but following Ōura Tamenobu’s death a year later, the project stalled until Tsugaru Nobuhira resumed the project in 1609, finishing the castle in 1611. It was destroyed by a lightning strike that subsequently ignited a fire in 1627, and it was not restored until 1810. A large park surrounds the castle and is home to a large number of cherry blossoms that have made the park famous: towards the end of April and early May, the park’s 2600 cherry trees come into bloom, receiving upwards of a million visitors over this time-frame.

  • Makoto flies over Hirosaki Park’s southern edge en route to a fabric shop, and Sannomaru Ōtemon Gate is visible here. This particular image was captured from a staircase on Hirosaki’s Tourism Board building, close the public library.

  • Makoto, Chinatsu and Kei enter the park via the Sannomaru Ōtemon Gate, one of the five surviving gates to the castle. Located on the park’s southern end, the gate’s assembly and surroundings is rather similar to that of the Kitanokuruwa gate in the park’s northern edge, which directly faces the city (there is a small parking lot in the park’s southern end).

  • This is one of the ponds in Hirosaki Park: details such as the crookedness of the tree and the placement of ornamental shrubs are meticulously captured to reproduce actual elements from the area, and I imagine that locals familiar with the park would have no trouble picking these details out. A ways back, Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans did a scene using Edmonton, Alberta as the setting: our neighbours to the north immediately identified which buildings and locations downtown served as the backdrop for the anime’s events.

  • Originally opened in 1894, the present-day facilities at Hirosaki Station were completed in 2004 and as of 2012, has a daily ridership of around 4500. The nearest hotel, visible here to the right, is the Art Hotel. A four star hotel boasting modern facilities, it is located approximately 1.67 kilometers (just a hair more than a mile) from Hirosaki Castle and would only necessitate a 15-20 minute walk to reach.

  • A bus terminal lies just outside of the train station: Makoto takes the number five route, which takes ridsers to Namioka, Goshogawara, Onoe, Kuroishi, Okawara and the Aomori Airport. This scene brings to mind an experience I had during my Cancún conference: I had arrived at the George Bush International Airport and realised I had forgotten to arrange for transportation to the zona hotelera from Cancún International Airport. Armed with an iPhone and Google-fu, I managed to book a private shuttle that ended up costing around 50 USD for a round trip.

  • The lessons learned there is to do my research before taking off: after I sorted that out, the Cancún conference turned out to be much smoother than Laval, as my hotel was located right beside the conference venue. In Laval, owing to our last-minute bookings, a colleague and I only managed to get a hotel at the outskirts of town. It would have taken around three quarters of an hour walk this distance, but we later found a bus that took us close to the conference venue.

  • This guardrail may seem unextraordinary, and by all counts, it is an ordinary guardrail. What makes it special is  the fact that Makoto, Chinatsu and Akane are going whale watching and make a brief stop while trying to locate a sky whale. While Edmonton has been featured in an anime now, I wonder if Cowtown will do the same: our city’s still-futuristic downtown core, with its glass buildings, was featured in the 1983 film Superman III and 2001’s Exit Wounds. Neither film turned out to be critically acclaimed, and the latter turned out hilarious for trying to pass off Calgary as Detroit.

  • If an anime were ever to use locations from Calgary, I would notice almost immediately. Back in Hirosaki, a bridge provides a vantage point, looking out over a river canal. Besides providing an excellent side-by-side comparison of anime locations against their real-world equivalents, the location posts I do also offer a prime opportunity to showcase some of the scenery in anime through screenshots that are otherwise not selected (often, it’s a difficult decision) for use in conventional posts.

  • Chinatsu and Makoto cross a small bridge en route to the shopping center on their first outing in Kamisukisawa, and this bridge is roughly five-decimal-four klicks from the centre on foot. This would make a fantastic walk lasting around an hour at a casual pace, and a year ago, while in Kelowna for the Giant Walkthrough Brain performance, I walked to the Kelowna Community Theatre from the Manteo Resort on both days of the presentation. While it would be a longer walk, it can also be quite pleasant.

  • While one might imagine that it would be fairly straightforwards to recognise areas from one’s own town were it to be featured in a show, the truth is that even locals are unlikely to be familiar with every nook and cranny in their neighbourhoods. It is this reason that I am so fond of taking walks, and one of the best surprises was in fact from Pure Pwnage: while the show had portrayed Lanageddon 2005 as taking place in Calgary, for instance, it took me quite some time to work out that the setting was Bowness Community Center. It was during a Japanese cultural festival, when I visited the Bowness area myself, that things clicked together.

  • Nao finds Makoto under a pavilion during the fifth episode, after Makoto decides to follow Chito for a walk. A cursory glance at a map suggests that locations in Flying Witch are closer than they are in actuality: this is typically done to give characters a chance to share conversations while walking to a destination, and I recall a café in Glasslip that was located much further from Mikuni than initially thought: it’s quite a ways away from the city where the characters reside, but the frequency of their patronage suggests that it would be within walking distance.

  • Creative liberties such as these are perfectly acceptable, as they allow an anime to facilitate both its narrative while conveying a sense of realism (Glasslip remains an unusual exception!), and back in Flying Witch, this view of Mount Iwaki is taken from near Apple Park. With a maximum elevation of 1624.7 metres, it is a dormant stratovolcano whose last eruption occurred in March 1863, and the summit can only be reached by hiking to the top. This trek takes roughly four hours to complete, starting from a shrine, although a more widely-used route involves a ski lift that takes hikers to within half an hour of the summit.

  • There’s always a joy about visiting small towns for their tranquility, and while Hirosaki is not a small town (being only a shade smaller than Regina, Saskatchewan) by any definition, the outskirts of town have a very rural feel to it: it becomes difficult to tell where the countryside ends and the city begins until one is a ways into town. This stands in sharp contrast with Canadian cities, where build-up is found up to a certain point, and then abruptly stops, giving way to the countryside.

  • The Yuguchi Shinto Shrine is where Akane decides to provide some instruction to Makoto about spell casting: she’s taught a simple spell to summon crows in the third episode. As I’m not too versed with magic and magical lore, I wouldn’t know what the application of such a spell would be. Long considered to a symbol of respect for family in Chinese culture (孝), the crow’s call is also considered to be an ill-omen, and when I was an undergraduate student, I recalled a story where Cao Cao heard a crow’s call before his ill-fated campaign during the Battle of the Red Cliffs whenever hearing a crow’s call before an examination.

  • Inspection of any pair of images in the location posts will invariably find that the photographs (top) are much more detailed than their anime counterparts: the real world simply has unmatched textures, detail and lighting effects. By comparison, anime locations often feel much cleaner, devoid of any visual clutter: the cleaner anime renditions make them less busy and allow for focus to be directed towards things that move (such as the characters).

  • While well-known locations are expected to be reproduced with a high accuracy, one of the biggest draws about slice-of-life anime such as Flying Witch is that the artists go out of their way to ensure that even seemingly trivial locations are rendered such that they faithfully represent their real-world equivalent. This is a small street that Chinatsu walks along while following Chito around on his walk during the fifth episode.

  • The high school that Makoto, Nao and Kei attend is modelled after the Hirosaki Seiai Academy (弘前学院聖愛中学高等学校), with facilities for both middle and high school students. The school is located in Hiarosaki’s southern area, around 3.75 kilometers from Hirosaki park and seven kilometers from the locations where Makoto and Chinatsu share their first walk. Makoto is seen frequently walking to school from her residence, another indicator that distances in the anime have been modified to better accommodate the atmosphere in Flying Witch.

  • This is a Shinto Shrine in the Mount Iwaki area, an area steeped in mythology. The Slenderman Harbinger of Spring stops here briefly before continuing on with his travels, and the Shrine itself officially encompasses the whole of the mountain. Established in 780, most of the present-day structures were built in 1694 with support from the Tsugaru clan of Hirosaki Domain. The shrine hosts the Oyama-sankei, a festival held annually during the autumn equinox with a parade from the shrine to the top of the mountain as its centerpiece where where pilgrims carry colorful banners and are accompanied by traditional drums and flutes.

  • I’ll round this post off with an image of the Imaya Knitting and Sewing shop that Makoto stops at to purchase cloth for her cloaks during the finale. While nearly identical in terms of appearance, right down to the banner, placement of items and the storefront’s design, inspection of the Hiragana finds that the real shop is known as the Shimaya Knitting and Sewing Shop. It’s been five months since Flying Witch aired, and I recall giving it a strong recommendation: there has been no news of a continuation, but I have had a chance to check out Flying Witch Petit, a short anime depicting the characters in chibi. With this Flying Witch location post finishe, this marks another anime whose locations have been presented in a manner accessible for English-speakers. My next locations post will be for Kimi no na wa: the photographs are ready, and all I need are high-resolution screenshots from the movie itself.

A large part of the magic in Flying Witch, aside from the actual magic that Makoto practises, lay in how the choice of setting. Makoto is presented as a Witch who is very attuned to her surroundings, and as she is originally from Yokohama, the rural backdrop of Hirosaki offers her an opportunity to really explore the environment and master the disciplines required for becoming a fully-qualified Witch. A great many discussions, my own included, do not fully cover this, but it is the tranquil, laid-back atmosphere of the countryside that allows Makoto to focus on her tasks: life in a city is rather hectic, which would have detracted from Flying Witch‘s theme that an effective Witch is someone with an open mind and a sense for adventure amongst nature. Consequently, it should be clear that the setting has a substantial contribution to the messages being portrayed in Flying Witch; the anime brings all of this to life, and while I’ve presently not heard of any news for a continuation, the manga is on-going, so it would be most pleasant to see what lies ahead in the future, especially considering how Chinatsu’s innate curiosity about Witches and magic later lead her to apprentice under Makoto. To watch her own journey as a Witch would likely be very enjoyable, considering how well-executed Flying Witch‘s first (and only) season is.

Ōarai, Ibaraki: Home of Girls und Panzer

“There is never just one thing that leads to success for anyone. I feel it always a combination of passion, dedication, hard work, and being in the right place at the right time.” —Lauren Conrad

The last major anime locations post I did was published more than a year ago, for Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka?, which was set in Colmar, France. In this post, we return to the Eastern coast of Japan just north of Tokyo in the Kantō region — it is no secret that the prefecture of Ibaraki is home to Ōarai-machi (大洗町), the setting for the series Girls und Panzer. In no small part thanks to Girls und Panzer, tourism in the town of Ōarai (which I’ve romanised everywhere else on this blog as Ooarai for convenience’s sake) has been bolstered by fans of the series, who’ve come to visit locations that feature predominantly in the anime. While Ōarai in Girls und Panzer plays host to several Panzerfahren matches, the economy of Ōarai in reality is powered by agriculture and fishing: rice and sweet potatoes, along with flounder, sardines, clams and whitebait are major products from the region (as Anzu’s penchent for dried sweet potatoes can attest). In addition, the Japan Atomic Energy Agency also operates a research center in Ōarai. The town of Ōarai was created from the merger between two villages in the Higashiibaraki district, Ōnuki and Isohama, on November 3, 1954: previously the two villages were established on April 1, 1889. Less than a year later, on July 23, 1955, Natsumi (a village in the Kashima district) was annexed by Ōarai and incorporated into the town.

  • It seems appropriate to kick this post off with an image of Ōarai station. Opened in 1985, the station serves an average of around 2690 passengers daily and is situation 11.6 kilometers from the terminal in Mito. This is one of the larger location posts I’ve made, featuring thirty images of the real world location and their corresponding depictions within Girls und Panzer for a total of sixty images. In keeping with the formatting of the other location posts, each real world image is followed by a figure caption, and the anime equivalent is posted below.

  • The building seen here during the finale, when Miho and the others ride through Ōarai following their victory at the championships. A cursory glance shows just how faithfully details are reproduced, with colours and even text closely matching the real-world equivalent. A Kumon tutoring branch can be seen here: I see branches in my country, and a looking further, the company’s origins date to 1958, when Toru Kumon’s son fared poorly in mathematics. Drafting hand-written notes, his son gradually became more adept in mathematics, and caught the neighbours’ attention. Today, the tutoring company is headquartered in Osaka and has locations in forty-nine countries.

  • In an earlier post, I remarked that I would not be keen on sifting through Google Maps to locate every spot in Ōarai, but I will occasionally do so here. This particular intersection is located at 大洗駅前通り and 県道106号線: the elevated rail carrying the Kashima Rinkai Railway Ōarai Kashima Line can be seen in the background here; the differences in lighting suggest that Miho and the others return to Ōarai by morning.

  • A very large majority of the scenes from Girls und Panzer set in Ōarai can be found in the third, fourth, seventh and final episodes: most of the events of Girls und Panzer are set aboard a vast carrier known as school ships in-universe. These gargantuan sea-faring vessels are self-contained towns helmed by students with the aim of preparing them for the duties of adulthood, and one of the OVAs, “School ship war”, deals with life aboard such ships in a manner reminiscent of Discovery Channel’s Mighty Ships.

  • The narrow streets of Ōarai provide a very claustrophobic environment for armoured combat: modern doctrine does not encourage the use of main battle tanks in armoured settings, since the buildings offer opponents places of cover, and also make it much easier to conceal anti-armour weapons, whether they be RPGs or IEDs. Instead, for an urban setting, IFVs and assault guns would be better suited for engaging infantry. Miho’s preferred tactic is to lure her opponents into urban settings with plenty of cover, knowing it will throw them off.

  • During Ōarai’s first match against St. Glorianna, a majority of Ōarai is cordoned off in order to provide the tanks with an urban environment, and below, a peace officier sets up a sign in front of several shops: the one with the colourful storefront appears to be a grocery shop, and again, a comparison between the two images illustrates the level of detail that went into replicating the scenery in Ōarai for Girls und Panzer.

  • The road to the brick structure visible here, for instance, is actually adjacent to the Brian Ōarai Store and a bakery of sorts. The building’s shutters here are closed, suggesting that much of the area has been cleared to facilitate the match, although the relative lack of shadows in the anime incarnation of the location shows that even in something like Girls und Panzer, not all locations can be rendered with the same graphical fidelity as something like Your Name.

  • This is another angle of the same location where Miho manages to make use of the close quarters to quickly dispatch a handful of the Matilda II tanks. At this point in their career, Ōarai Girls’ tankers are quite inexperienced and lose handily to St. Glorianna, even with Miho’s formidable skills in their corner providing a number of their kills. A part of the joy in watching Girls und Panzer was watching Miho’s leadership helping the different teams grow and unify under her direction, while at the same time, seeing Miho re-discover her love for Panzerfahren thanks to the environment her teammates cultivate.

  • The actual street is more densely built than the anime portrayal; the latter gives a much greater sense of space compared to the real world, but these locations do indeed match up: as the real-world image illustrates, it’s directly behind the brick building, and the house behind have very similar designs. The major difference, besides density, is the fact that the grassy field is not fenced off in Girls und Panzer. Placements of shadows suggest that it is late morning or early in the afternoon.

  • The final stages of the exhibition match are settled at this intersection, and while Miho risks a maneouver to reach the Churchill’s rear, her main gun does not pack enough punch to score a mission-killing hit on Darjeeling’s Churchill. Miho later uses the same technique against Black Forest to defeat Maho’s Tiger I, and again in the movie to overcome Alice’s Centurion. The realism of the armoured combat in Girls und Panzer is the subject of no small debate, but I’ve generally chosen to remain a spectator, preferring to focus on the anime’s overarching themes.

  • In the seventh episode, Miho and her friends return to Ōarai’s ferry terminal after visiting Mako’s grandmother. They travel through the streets of Ōarai by evening, and in the distance, the Ōarai Marine Tower is visible. Even with the low lighting, the details in the anime replication of the actual town is apparent, whether it be the small symbols on the house in the foreground,  or the placement of fliers on the telephone poles and vegetation growing out of the sidewalks.

  • A vacant lot adjacent to a Panasonic store serves as the site for some vendors to set up their stands on the day of the exhibition match. Careful inspection of the sign above the storefront shows that in Girls und Panzer, the brand “Panasonic” has been swapped out for “Nanasonic”: shows usually make use of this technique if they wish to present a product similar to that of a real-world brand without going through the procedure in order to acquire the permissions to use the brand, although there are some cases where shows may use brand name products with the company’s endorsement.

  • The sign welcoming visitors to Ōarai is visible from near the town’s post office, leading to the ferry terminal. I live somewhere landlocked, so there are no ferries: the nearest substantial body of water is the Pacific Ocean, and there are ferries that move between Vancouver and Vancouver Island. I’ve not visited Vancouver Island and Victoria for quite some time, but the island does seem quite picturesque for driving around on. At some point, I should rent a vehicle and drive the island.

  • The complex visible in this image is the Resort Outlet Ōarai, a shopping center near the Ōarai Marine Tower. Miho and her friends visit this facility to purchase swimsuits during the “Water War” OVA, as well as to relax in the aftermath of their match against St. Gloriana. The location also serves as the main event centre during this match, where Ōarai’s citizens congregate to watch the first match hosted locally in quite some time. Inspection of this image shows again that details are faithfully reproduced, whether it be the placement of rooftop chimneys or the number of arches in the buildings.

  • Sixty meters in height, the Ōarai Marine Tower is one of the tallest structures in the area. It provides a beautiful panorama of the area surrounding the town, and also serves excellent ice cream. With an admissions cost of less than 10 CAD, it’s a ways more inexpensive than the 18 CAD for ascending the Calgary Tower. While eclipsed by several buildings downtown, the Calgary Tower continues to offer an impressive view of the Calgary skyline: visiting the Calgary Tower is less costly than the 168 HKD (roughly 28 CAD) for an adult ticket to visit Hong Kong’s Sky 100 Observation Deck.

  • While the Resort Outlet Ōarai is perhaps a quieter mall, its staff are very friendly, and the mall’s proximity to the ocean, coupled with a playground, makes it a suitable point for families to visit. Since Girls und Panzer aired, there’s a small diorama in the mall depicting events from the anime. For folks interested to check this out, the mall is a mere fifteen minutes’ walk from Ōarai Station, although it will take around an hour and forty minutes to reach Ōarai Station from Tokyo Station.

  • Given the vast differences in population, I imagine that for a Tokyoite would regard the Resort Outlet Ōarai the same way I see the smaller shops in places like Cochrane or Bragg Creek in comparison with the largest shopping malls in the city. I’ve got a fondness for small shops, as they exude a much warmer atmosphere and oftentimes, have unique items available for sale that might otherwise be unavailable from larger shops.

  • The Ōarai Marine Tower is visible from the original image, but is noticeably absent in the anime incarnation: a bit of reasoning will find that the overhead image of the entire Resort Outlet Ōarai buildings was taken from the southwestern corner of the tower. The distance separating the two locations is only a hundred meters.

  • This is the interior of the Aqua World Ōarai, the regional aquarium. This large hallway serves as the site of a flower arrangement exhibition that Hana takes part in, and her display, a bold and expressive statement about her love for Panzerfahren, is visible in this frame. It is here that she reconciles with her mother, who feels that Hana’s involvement in Panzerfahren has allowed her to develop a more individualistic approach for arranging flowers.

  • Covering 19,800 m² and featuring an animal population of 68000, Aqua World opened in 2002 and receives around 1.1 million visitors annually. The aquarium is open from nine to five most days, and adults are charged 1850 Yen for admissions (around 21 CAD), making it slightly more expensive than admissions for the Royal Tyrell Museum in Drumheller (18 CAD) or Calgary’s Glenbow Museum (16 CAD). The former, I visited during the Labour Day long weekend of 2016, while in 2013, Heritage Day in Alberta meant that the Glenbow Museum was free of charge; my last visit there prior to 2013 was back when I was still a primary school student.

  • A small side road here that Miho takes to enter Ōarai from a rugged countryside actually leads to the Ōarai Isosaki Shrine, which was established in 856, destroyed in a conflict between 1558-1570 and rebuilt in 1690. Designated a site of cultural significance by the Ibaraki Prefecture, the sea is visible from the site. Folks looking to visit will note that the Shrine is open from six in the morning to five in the afternoon, and there is no cost for admissions.

  • In Girls und Panzer Der Film, Miho and Chi-han Tan’s forces evade the combined forces of St. Gloriana and Pravda during an exercise near this location, and in the original anime, Miho directs her group into the town along this road. This particular spot is only some 120 meters from where the previous screenshot was taken: a hotel occupies the left of this image, while the warehouse to the right is a seafood processing factory.

  • The facilities that Miho and the Panzerfahren club are sent to are modelled after the old Kamioka Elementary School (旧上岡小学校) in Daigo, some seventy kilometers northwest of Ōarai. The wooden school was built in 1879, during the Meiji Restoration period and has closed as an elementary school. Its construction and historical value meant the site has been preserved, with television dramas and movies being filmed on the school grounds.

  • The official site encourages visitors to check out the old Kamioka school: there is no admissions cost, and the grounds are open from nine in the morning to four in the afternoon. Its location is admittedly reminiscent of the Atlas Coal Mine in Drumheller, although in the case of the latter, there is a ten dollar charge to walk the area: I was intrigued by the old tipple and coal mining facilities, and next time I visit, I will be purchasing the “Ghost Tour” package. The site is said to be haunted, and I am rather curious to tour the tipple’s interior, as well as some of the subterranean coal shafts.

  • By April 2016, Girls und Panzer fans had visited the site in such numbers that they were interfering with operations at the facilities, and were otherwise causing disturbances in general. The site’s caretakers have since banned cosplayers from the site, although standard visitors remain free to walk around and photograph the grounds. I’ve heard that some anime fans can be generally unpleasant; while I’ve encountered a few fans from the military-moé genre with whom I’d rather not think about, in general, anime fans are ordinary folks that I have no trouble getting along with. As such, it’s quite logical to suppose that in this case, it is the actions of the few that ruin things for the majority.

  • The interior of the Principal’s office is shown in the pair of images here. Details in the interior, from the wooden panelling of the room and placement of furniture, to framed documents on the walls, are highly conserved between the real-world setting and anime depiction. The only major difference is the Championship flag hanging on the left wall.

  • While I’ve tried my best to avoid duplicate photos in this locations post, the images illustrating the broadcast room have been recycled: no other anime image quite captures the real-world version quite as effectively, with its cramped setting and clutter. Compared to the TV series, Girls und Panzer Der Film seems to have improved on the artwork in different scenes, featuring much more detailed environs than its predecessor.

  • When the engines of Saunders Academy’s C-5M Super Galaxy are heard, the girls run out into the hallways, eager to receive the tanks they’ve come to regard as dearly as family. In these frames, note the posters on the walls, which are highly accurate renditions of those found in the actual school: on the right wall, the distant image is of the water cycle, while the image closer to the camera depicts a volcano’s magma chamber and movement of magma through the Earth’s crust.

  • I’m actually one flight of steps too early in the real-world image relative to the position that the anime equivalent was taken from. The multitude of moments from Girls und Panzer Der Film evokes memories of when I wrote the review for the movie some seven months ago. It was an endeavour taking me twelve hours to complete, but looking back, I’m no longer surprised that reviewing the film on such short order after its home release had no impact on my graduate thesis. I had largely finished the thesis paper by then and was in reasonably good shape to take on the defense, so I was able to take the day off to write the review.

  • Kamoika Elementary’s exterior is visible from this shot. For the curiously-minded, this is where the school is located: compared to previous location posts, I’ve included occasional links to Google Maps so that readers may use them as starting points to explore around. I remark to the fellow who spent a fair bit of time tracking down the locations from the “Anglerfish War” OVA, that tracking down the linked locations took a total of less than ten minutes, because I’m One With the Force and the Force is with me. I realise that Ōarai location posts are probably abundant in number, but nonetheless, when I received the request to write this one, I accepted, knowing that I could consolidate a side-by-side comparison of Girls und Panzer locations under one roof — my roof, to make them more accessible. Besides Girls und Panzer, I also have a request to do Flying Witch.

Even before the rise of Girls und Panzer, Ōarai drew upwards of three million visitors per year — its beaches and golf courses aside, the area also boasts an aquarium known as Aqua World, a marina, as well as several museums. In addition to the plethora of outdoor activities, Ōarai is well-known for its monkfish. Belonging to the Lophius genus, monkfish has a moderately firm texture and is somewhat chewy, with a mild, sweet flavour reminiscent of lobster. Monkfish can be prepared in a number of ways (common means include baking, broiling, frying, grilling, steaming or poaching), and in Tom Clancy’s Threat Vector, John Clark enjoys a finely prepared dinner of monkfish while on an assignment to assassinate a known terrorist while in Libya. With a population of 16823 as of September 2015, the town of Ōarai is a fine destination for visitors looking to partake in marine sports or try out the monkfish. The city can be reached by the Number 51 highway or through the Kashima Rinkai Railway Ōarai Kashima Line, for which there is a stop in Ōarai. With the town covering only 23.74 km², the area is quite small — dedicated fans will have next to no problem identifying all of the locations in Ōarai that featured in Girls und Panzer.

Colmar, France: Home of Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka?

“I’ve been called many names like perfectionist, difficult and obsessive. I think it takes obsession, takes searching for the details for any artist to be good.” —Barbra Streisand

That Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka? is set in a town inspired by France’s Colmar is a badly-kept secret. Located in the Alsace region of north-eastern France, Colmar is a town with a population of roughly 67 214 (as of 2009, with a metro population of 126 957) and is best known for its well-preserved old town, museums and landmarks. Colmar was founded in the ninth century and changed hands several times during the course of its history: it was taken by Sweden during the Thirty Years’ War in 1632, re-conquered by King Louis XIV in 1673 and annexed into Prussia in 1871 after the Franco-Prussian War. Returned to France after World War I as a part of the terms outlined in the Treaty of Versailles, Nazi Germany annexed Colmar in 1940 and finally, in 1945, Colmar was returned back to France. The area has a sunny and dry climate as a result of its proximity to the mountains, and consequently, Colmar is home of some of the best Alsace wine. Despite its turbulent history, Colmar’s old town remains well-preserved, spared the razing and strategic bombing that leveled cities throughout Europe during wartime: Germanic and French influence is seen in its sandstone and timber-framed buildings, and its fairy tale-like atmosphere means Colmar serves as the inspiration for Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka?.

  • I believe this is one of my larger location posts, rolled on in response to requests for an English-language variant of the comparison between the town of Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka? and Colmar, France. Here, Cocoa is walking down Grand Rue (Main Street) in search of her accommodations. Some 500 meters long, a large number of Colmar’s major attractions line this street.

  • Branching off Grand Rue is Rue des Marchands (Merchant’s Street), a smaller street lined with shops. Because Gochuumon wa Usagi Desuk Ka? depicts the passage of seasons over its run, one wonders how accurate the anime depiction of the climate was, and it turns out that compared to Colmar, summers aren’t quite as hot, while winters are a bit cooler. Colmar’s geography means that it has a sunny and dry microclimate, so rain and snow are infrequent.

  • Rabbit House’s architecture was inspired by two separate buildings: its lower floors are inspired by those of a similar building on Rue des Boulangers, with its distinct window shutters. Numerous buildings in Colmar are timber-framed, an architectural feature that was commonplace prior to the nineteenth century. Rather than dimensional lumber used in modern wooden-framed buildings, timber-framed buildings uses logs or tree trunks to form the building’s frame.

  • A shot that allows for the whole of Rabbit House to be seen shows that the upper floor likely took inspiration from a building on Rue du Chasseur: the narrow taper of the roof and singular window seen in Rabbit House is mirrored in a real-world shop. Timber-framed buildings allow for open spaces and can be quite energy efficient, but highly difficult to maintain.

  • Cocoa checks her heading near Champ de Mars, a public park that was laid out in 1745. While not seen in the photographs here, there’s also a central fountain topped by the statue of Admiral Bruat built by Bartholdi in 1864.

  • One of the coffee shops in Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka? features a distinct looking sign that was actually drawn off a similar-looking sign in Rue du Général de Gaulle of the village Riquewihr, which is only 11 kilometers from Colmar. With a population of 1308 as of 2006, the village widely praised for looking as it did during the sixteenth century, as it too was spared the destruction of WWII.

  • Cocoa and Chiya’s high school is modeled after Colmar’s Mediatheque. The building has at least five centuries’ of history: in the late 16th century, the west side of the building was utilised as a military hospital until  was reserved for the military hospital until 1792, when it was moved to the Catherinettes. The building retained its function as a hospital until 1937, when the Pasteur hospital was built in Colmar’s Western side. Subsequently occupied by two departments of the IUT of the University of Haute-Alsace, the building was renovated in 2012 to become a media library.

  • The Lauch River which passes through the south-eastern portion of the old town known as Little Venice and is lined by Rue des Ecoles. This section of the old town feels like it came straight from a fairy tale and has a very romantic feeling, with its colourful timber-framed buildings.

  • Boat tours of the canal are offered in Colmar, allowing one to languidly cruise the Lauch River. The guides giving the tour are versed in English and lasts around half an hour, costing six Euros per adult (around 8.70 CAD, a fantastic deal); tickets can be purchased from one of two docks, both of which are located near the bridge by Rue de la Poissonnerie.

  • The fictional town in Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka? draws inspiration from other European cities, as well: there are canals in Colmar, but some of the wider sections were derived off the canals found in near Au Pont Saint Martin, an Alsace restaurant at the heart of Strasbourg. Strasbourg is a much larger city located 64 kilometers northeast of Colmar; with a population of 759,868 as of 2010, the city has an Oceanic climate with warm summers and cold winters.

  • This is an image of Colmar’s Marché couvert de Colmar (Covered Market of Colmar), of which only a corner can be seen in the Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka? screenshot. Located near the Lauch River at the Old Town’s southern end, the market was built in 1865, and its location along the river meant that goods could be delivered via boat. Selling a selection of local meat, cheese, spices, wine and fruit and vegetables on display, the covered market also has a small café that serves pastries, coffees and wines.

  • While Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka? showcases a quiet town, Colmar is quite busy with tourists. Individuals with a sufficiently powerful GPU can view Colmar on Google Maps in full 3D and make use of the labels to pinpoint locations as I’ve done here. Unlike the town of Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka?, which appears to have frozen in history and remained a small town, in present-day Colmar, the Old Town is surrounded by a modern city.

  • Here is another shot of the river along Rue des Ecoles. Careful inspection of both images demonstrates again the level of detail that went into creating the setting of Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka?: in fact, I remarked in my review of the first season that the idyllic European setting was what appealed so much about the anime. Whereas most slice-of-life anime are set in Japan, Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka? dared to go the whole nine yards in creating an authentic, compelling setting that sets it apart from similar shows.

  • Not all of the locations of Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka? are located in France. The large, ornate pool seen in their town was inspired by Budapest’s Széchenyi thermal bath, the largest thermal/mineral bath in all of Europe. The bath is located along Kós Károly Stny. by Budapest’s City Park, and was designed by Győző Czigler in Neo-baroque style  Construction began in 1909 and the bath opened in 1913.

  • Széchenyi thermal bath’s water features a high concentration of  sulphate, calcium, magnesium and bicarbonate and is fed by two separate springs: one provides water at 74 °C, and the other supplies 77 °C water. These waters are used for medicinal purposes, helping sooth degenerative joint illnesses, chronic and sub-acute joint inflammations.Owing to its popularity, the facility underwent a major expansion in 1927, resulting in the structure that is currently seen.

  • The entrance to the pool in Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka? is actually the back of the building facing the pools. regions of Hungary exhibits geothermal activity, accounting for why hot springs are present there. To the best of my knowledge, the extent of geothermal activity in France is not quite to the same extent as seen in the Rocky mountains, but thermal springs can also be found in the Alsace region.

  • The outdoor pools at Széchenyi thermal bath are maintained at temperatures of 27 to 38 °C. Three separate pools are present: a central pool is for swimming, and two pools to the edges are intended for visitors to relax in. Pools in the facility’s interior are kept at 27 °C: besides acting as a pool/thermal springs, Széchenyi thermal bath also provides spa and massage services.

  • Provided that an anime’s creators disclose which locations inspired the settings of their show in a magazine interview, the locations would not be particularly difficult to find. Location hunting for anime locations in Europe is surprisingly inexpensive: at the time of publication, it would cost between 1000 to 1600 dollars to fly from Tokyo to Paris round-trip, so assuming location hunters take the more inexpensive option, I estimate that visiting Colmar and Budapest would not total more than 3000 dollars.

  • Various architectural elements seen in the backgrounds of the original pool are mirrored in Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka?‘s pool, although some details have also been modified. It is presumed that the pool in Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka? is rather smaller than Széchenyi thermal bath: the real thermal bath covers more than  6,220 square metres and features 15 indoor pools.

  • This post took a fair bit of time to compile, as gathering and assembling the information was a major time sink. Similar to my Glasslip locations post, this was motivated largely by the wish to provide an easy-to-read, English-searchable post for readers wondering about the locations of Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka? and for any reason, do not wish to search a Japanese-language site for the content. Thus, when I make these posts, I strive to ensure that my location posts load faster, easier to navigate and provide more useful information for the readers, so that the level of effort that goes into making anime such as Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka? are conveyed.

Colmar’s major attractions lie in the old town: despite its size, the old town is pedestrian friendly, being packed with a range of shops and restaurants that serve Alsatian cuisine (a combination of traditional French and Germanic techniques, making use of pork, sauerkraut, foie gras and wine). In addition, boat tours along the canals are also offered. There are several hotels located in the Old Town with rates ranging from 25 to 200 Euros per night. It’s worth mentioning that Colmar merely served to inspire the town seen in Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka?: the swimming pool that Chino and her friends visit is modeled after a swimming pool in Budapest, Hungary, and the size discrepancies between Colmar and the town of Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka? can be seen in a map that Cocoa is referencing (Colmar is much larger and the old town is surrounded by a modern city). With this being said, the level of detail seen in Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka? is impressive; as per the other anime locations I’ve documented here, it’s always pleasant to know that this level of effort goes into bringing an anime’s setting to life.