The Infinite Zenith

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Tag Archives: Anime Location Hunts

Houkago Tea Time’s Real Life Visit to London, England: An Oculus-Powered Armchair Journey of K-On! The Movie

“In London, everyone is different, and that means anyone can fit in.” –Paddington Bear.

Whereas I’ve kept my virtual location hunts limited to Japan thus far, in this post, I will take readers to the heart of London, England, home of Houkago Tea Time’s impromptu but memorable graduation trip. In K-On! The Movie, a plan to make a graduating gift worthy of Azusa transmutes into a graduation trip when Yui, Ritsu, Mio and Tsumugi do their utmost to conceal it from Azusa. London differs from any location I’ve previously written about: for one, everything’s in English, making it much easier to plan a trip and get around. In conjunction with the fact that there are undoubtedly K-On! fans in London, and that the K-On! Movie Official Guidebook identifies key areas that Houkago Tea Time visit meant that, within a few months of the film’s première, fans were already purchasing train or plane tickets bound for London, ready to retrace the same steps that Yui and her friends tread during their lightning trip in Britain’s capital, home of some of the world’s most famous music locations. Abbey Road crossing, The Troubadour and Camden Town are iconic spots, associated with the development of rock music around the world, and speaking to Mio’s love for music, wind up being places that the girls visit during their haphazard but exciting travels. During the course of their travels, Yui and her friends both visit famous spots, as well as perform their own unique music for London’s citizens in a trip that helps the senior students to remember that their greatest gift to Azusa would take the form of the music that had inspired her to join their light music club in the first place. While folks have travelled London and done their location hunts previously, the combination of circumstance and curiosity led me to turn the Oculus Quest towards London for the internet’s first-ever virtual tour of K-On!‘s locations. Despite nearly ten years having elapsed since K-On! The Movie premièred (and with it, the inevitable fact that London’s cityscape has changed considerably since Naoko Yamada visited to research locations for the movie), the power conferred by the Oculus Quest and Google Maps’ ability to seamlessly display historical map data has meant that it remains quite possible to have an authentic virtual tour of London à la Houkago Tea Time, utilising the Oculus Quest’s unmatched ability for immersion.

  • Having already done a post about Toyosato Elementary School some nine years earlier, I’ve chosen to skip ahead to London proper. While I’m armed with an Oculus Quest and the best that technology has to offer, folks looking to reproduce Houkago Tea Time’s trip back in 2012 were not left at a disadvantage: K-On! fans who lived in London shared locations with prospective visitors, and the official movie guide also points out where the different stills are from. Coupled with a bit of path finding and use of Google Maps (already decently sophisticated in 2012), finding the locations for the film proved quite straightforward.

  • The taxi from Heathrow International Airport to the girls’ first destination, Hotel Ibis London City, takes them past Famous 3 Kings, an iconic pub serving classic fare like burgers, wings and pizza that is known for their excellent drinks, food and ambience. While Yui and the others never swing by a pub for dinner (presumably, only Mio’s English is sufficient to navigate the menu), were I to visit London for myself, a pub would be on my list of places to check out, along with a place for a proper plate of bangers and mash, fish and chips, Sunday roast and a full English Breakfast. I concede that a lot of pubs back home have a very British or Irish feel to them, but nothing beats checking out the real deal.

  • Because Ritsu imagines that there’s only one Ibis in London, she supposes that they’ve booked the one in London City. Their first stop thus ends up being the Ibis at London City, rather than Earl’s Court. The Ibis at London City is located in an excellent spot – it is within walking distance of iconic London landmarks like the Big Ben and Tower of London. The decision to not have Houkago Tea Time lodge here was likely because the point of this trip wasn’t about London itself, but rather, their shared experiences – the Ibis at Earl’s Court isn’t near any London icons, but instead, offers Yui and the others a chance to check out a side of London known to the locals.

  • While the London cityscape has changed considerably in the past nine years since K-On! The Movie premièred, as evidenced by the different storefronts here on Commercial Street, the buildings themselves are still recognisable. The traffic in the Google Street View versions, however, is considerably denser, and one of the long-standing limitations of a virtual reality approach – the Google Street View car takes images at specific intervals, and this means that I’m not always to get the exact same angles as seen in an anime.

  • Because of how the London Underground is set up, Mio and the others have a chance to swing by Camden Town, whose location made it a transport hub in London. As the district became the nexus for rail lines and canals, warehouses were constructed here to store goods. However, the area was redeveloped, and today, is better known as an entertainment district with a highly unique aesthetic. K-On! The Movie captures this particularly well, showing it as a colourful district with a myriad of storefronts.

  • Yui and the others travel from Aldgate Station to Camden Town Station: after Yui notices Azusa having trouble walking, the girls take a detour in search of new shoes for Azusa on Mio’s suggestion. After leaving the station, the girls immediately comment on the atmosphere in Camden town, and at an outdoor market, they end up picking out something that works for Azusa. The kaiten sushi place that Yui and the others perform at is no longer around: it’s the former Proud Music Venue, which opened in 2001 and closed in 2018.

  • After a lengthy day, Yui and the others finally make it to the Ibis at Earl’s Court, and since the check-in isn’t shown, it stands to reason that the process was very seamless. Unlike Ibis London City, Ibis Earl’s Court is located further from central London attractions: the hotel has its own conference facilities and brings to mind the likes of the hotels in the eastern part of my city. Ibis Earl’s Court is noted for its clean facilities and friendly staff, although the hotel’s age is showing. The prices here are slightly lower than those of Ibis London City, making it suited for a group of high school students whose graduation trip came out of the blue.

  • While the locations in London initially seem intimidating, Naoko Yamada and her staff fortunately drew their stills from nearby locations, and a brief walk down Lillie Road allows for everything to be located with relative ease. The scene of London’s iconic double-decker buses was taken at the intersection between Lillie Road and North End Road looking west: the spot is only 210 metres away from Ibis Earl’s Court.

  • Ritsu and the others pass by West Brompton Station on their second day en route to breakfast. Located on the London Underground District Line, one can easily reach Aldgate Station from here: had Yui and the others chosen not to go to Camden Town per Mio’s request, reaching the Ibis Earl’s Court from Ibis London City would’ve been fairly straightforward, and indeed, thanks to the District Line, the Ibis at Earl’s Court is an excellent alternative for folks looking for slightly less pricy accommodations while at the same time, still be somewhere close to a line back to central London.

  • This intersection is located at Old Brompton Road and Earl’s Court Road, and the angle seen in K-On! is from Earl’s Court Road, looking south. K-On! The Movie has Yui and the others looking left per the signage on the road surface to check for vehicles before crossing, which I found a little strange, since Japan also has left hand traffic. Conversely, left hand traffic is foreign to me: whenever I visit Hong Kong, the fact that everything is the opposite of what I’m used to always requires a bit of adjusting to.

  • After crossing the intersection and backtracking a little, Yui’s curiosity about The Troubadour leads the others to stop for breakfast here. The Troubadour is a coffeehouse that dates back to 1954 that has played host to music icons, including Jimmy Page, Jimi Hendrix and Bob Dylan. The location was chosen precisely owing to its connection to music history, although for Yui, I imagine she picks it owing to its distinct appearance. A glance at The Troubadour’s brunch menu shows that Yui had the Eggs Benedict, which goes for 9.5£ (16.27 CAD): brunch is served from opening until 1430, and this does feel a bit pricy, but on the flipside, their dinner menu is much more reasonably priced, with their iconic braised Rosemary and Garlic Lamb shoulder going for 24£ (41.11 CAD). The Troubadour is definitely a restaurant I’d be happy to swing by should I ever decide to visit London.

  • Upon finishing K-On! The Movie, a few locations did elude me, such as the Chelsea Ballet School and the apartments along Oakley Street. The K-On! Movie Official Guidebook was instrumental in helping me to sort out where everything was located: the guidebook had indicated that Yui and the others had travelled along King’s Road, and this is what led me to Oakley Street. There’s nothing innately special about the Chelsea Ballet School: it offers youth instruction in ballet, and according to the notes, substituted David Bowie’s house, which the team couldn’t find during the time in London.

  • With the K-On! Movie Official Guidebook to go off of, I first found Oakley Street first, and then did a bit of backtracking to find the Chelsea Ballet School. While this row of apartments seems quite unremarkable, the spot is actually close to the Bob Marley Blue Plaque, which is across the street from the spot Mio and the others pass by en route to World’s End. Since the moment happens so quickly, it stands to reason that Mio did not end up stopping the others for a quick photo, which speaks to K-On! The Movie‘s themes: even in London, home of music legends, Houkago Tea Time are more wrapped up in their own adventures, doing things at their own pace.

  • With Azusa’s planning, the group next swing by the backwards clock at World’s End: this store sells what is advertised as timeless music fashion, and I imagine that the clock is supposed to be indicative of this. Having now taken a closer look at the range of locations Houkago Tea Time visit in London, it is clear that Yamada and her team researched the locations thoroughly for their connection to music, and even if Mio and the others never actually stop at the iconic locations she’d wish to check out, through serendipity, the girls do end up passing by some of the most famous music spots of London anyways.

  • Just a stone’s throw from World’s End is this apartment block and a set of benches that Yui et al. catch their breath at. The apartment can actually be seen from World’s End, making this a relatively easy location to find. I believe that in Britain, apartments are referred to as flats in casual speech, although realtors call them apartments. The gap between British and North American English is noticeable, especially with regard to pronunciation and vocabulary, but aside from these differences, English is English: were I to visit London for myself, I’d have a much easier time of it for the simple fact that, besides my Canadian inflection, my command of English is sufficient for me to get by over in England.

  • Abbey Road Crossing is probably the single most famous crosswalk in the world: Apple Records’ John Kosh had designed the album on the idea that The Beatles were so famous that they could get away without the album or band name. The actual photograph was taken in 1969, and since then, The Beatles’ famous crossing has been imitated endlessly. When Azusa, Mio, Yui, Tsumugi and Ritsu cross, their minds aren’t even on the fact that they’ve tread on hallowed grounds: Azusa is busy trying to figure out what other spots the group can visit next.

  • While K-On! The Movie is generally faithful to the placement of locations, the biggest one that would’ve thrown location hunters off was Harpers Café at the intersection Southwark Street and Borough High Street: it is located south of the River Thames, and is nowhere near Hyde Park or the British Museum. Serving a range of sandwiches, Harper’s was replaced by a Costa Coffee at some point after the film released: location hunters today would have no chance of checking out Harpers Café, which featured in the movie because their neon coffee sign drew Yui’s attention for its resemblance to the Houkago Tea Time logo.

  • It is not lost on me that numerous Blogspot blogs have come up over the years portraying their owners’ trips to London in search of K-On! The Movie‘s locations. During an exercise I conducted some years ago, a hypothetical trip to London, England would cost no less than 3500 CAD in total. However, this trip was conducted using estimates of the price, and today, using something like Expedia, I was able to put together a flight and accommodations package for a total of 788 CAD. I appreciate that the current global health crisis has resulted in travel prices plummeting, but even assuming that the actual price is twenty percent greater (946 CAD), this is still considerably less pricey than my original estimates.

  • Of course, if I were to do a trip to London, I would allocate about a week to fully explore and take in everything; K-On! had condensed the trip down to five days and three nights for the sake of the story, but to really take in everything, I would prefer to do things at a slower pace. Big Ben and Palace of Westminster can be seen while crossing Westminster Bridge here: Big Ben was originally built in 1859 to act as a highly accurate clocktower, and the Palace of Westminster adjacent to it was finished in 1876 after some 36 years of construction: the site had been home to an older palace that hosted the British parliament, but a fire in 1834 decimated the original building.

  • At the time of K-On! The Movie‘s première, the London Eye Ferris wheel was the highest viewpoint until The Shard opened two years later. Even now, it still offers a breathtaking view of the London Skyline. Tickets cost £31 per adult (52 CAD) if one were to order them on the day of, as Yui and the other have done during their trip. Visiting the London Eye offers them a spectacular alternative that, while unexpected, was nonetheless enjoyable. Even Mio, who’d developed a fear of rotating things during the trip, casts her worries aside once she sees the London cityscape.

  • After returning to the Ibis Earl’s Court for their second night, a still from the intersection at Old Brompton Road and Warwick Road looking north is shown. There’s a unique charm about London, and K-On! The Movie manages to capture a feeling that looks like it came straight out of SkyfallSkyfall really captured the moody, brooding aesthetic of London in a way that previous Bond films had not, and K-On! The Movie replicates the Cold War-like feeling of the nighttime London streets. What’s impressive is that had come out before Skyfall, speaking to how much effort went into the film.

  • The next morning, while out and about, Yui wanders past the Brompton Cemetery. She passes by the stone arches and gates on its northern end while noting that she’s having trouble with the song for Azusa, and looking around the area, the recycling bins have since been removed. I imagine that Yui’s just wandered here while contemplating what Azusa’s song should sound like: moments later, Azusa calls out to her, saying it’s time to head off for that morning’s adventures.

  • Because Yui and the others are set to perform on their final full day in London, they swing by Denmark Street near Tottenham Court Road to check out instruments. The large buildings at the end of the street are office blocks, and Google CGS, as well as Central Saint Giles have their offices here, too. This was about the last of the spots I could easily check out using the Oculus Quest: in this post, numerous locations, such as the Waitrose & Partners Gloucester Road supermarket, Borough Market, Tower Bridge, Jubilee Park and Tower of London have been omitted because limitations in Street View precluded their inclusion.

  • I’ll wrap this post up with the London Bridge Experience, a tourist attraction claiming to be the United Kingdom’s spookiest. As a callout to this fact, K-On! The Movie has Mio running away from a staff dressed up in horror garb in abject terror. While my post is by no means the first ever location hunt for K-On! The Movie, nor is it the most comprehensive, it does demonstrate the level of effort that went into making the film memorable, and having life-like locations definitely helped to make Yui and Azusa’s London trip special.

Revisiting the locations Houkago Tea Time visit during the course of K-On! The Movie was a trip down memory lane: when the film became available overseas, I was well into my MCAT review, and exam anxiety had gripped me. To be able to watch Yui and the others explore London in a carefree, spirited fashion conferred catharsis that allowed me to regroup, and over the years, my fondness of K-On! The Movie has only increased. The film’s messages of appreciation and living in the moment, of going with the flow are timeless and universal, and while the film is cheerful throughout its run, a hint of melancholy permeates every scene; viewers know that with K-On! The Movie, K-On!‘s animated adaptation would be drawing to a close. The film’s decision to visit London, birthplace of rock as we know it, and whose musical icons doubtlessly inspired the way Houkago Tea Time play, acts as a swan song for the series. After watching the film, I ended up purchasing the K-On! Movie Official Guidebook, the first time I’d ever bought an artbook, and a few pages in, I’d noticed that the locations seen in the film were catalogued. For the longest time, I’d been meaning to do a location hunt for the movie, but eventually, such a project fell from my mind. However, with the recent resurgence brought on by the Oculus Quest’s capabilities, I decided the time was ripe to go visit London. The technology has its limitations: there are a few points in London where Google Street View does not offer coverage, so I was not able to visit all of the spots that Houkago Tea Time had, but beyond this, it was a fairly comprehensive experience. While Yui and her friends only stay in London for three days, it becomes clear that even this short trip was filled to the brim with new discoveries. With this in mind, given how much London has changed over the past nine years, visitors looking to see things precisely as Yui and the others do might prove disappointed: some shops have been replaced, and new buildings are found in London’s skyline (including the Shard, which was under construction back in 2011), so the scenery isn’t going to be entirely what Houkago Tea Time saw. In spite of this, many spots still remain as they once did: the Hotel Ibis at Earl’s Court, and Troubadour are still around, as is the British Museum and Chelsea ballet school. Camden still retains its unique aesthetic, and the view of Big Ben from Westminster Bridge remains quite unchanged from nine years earlier. In short, London is still worth visiting, and I imagine that such a trip would be life-changing, well worth it: I certainly would be interested in purchasing a flight across the Atlantic and booking accommodations at Ibis Earls’ Court.

The Real Life Road Home From Izu Peninsula: An Oculus-Powered Armchair Journey of Yuru Camp△ 2, Part IV

“I wish I was at home in my nice hole by the fire, with the kettle just beginning to sing!” –Bilbo Baggins, The Hobbit

It’s been week after Yuru Camp△ 2‘s finale aired, and already, I’m suffering from Yuru Camp△ withdrawal. This was only to be expected, as Yuru Camp△ 2 represented an immensely cathartic experience, and so, without weekly episodes to look forwards to, things have become somewhat emptier. However, this does not mean that I’m out of Yuru Camp△ 2-related materials to talk about: somewhere before the series had ended, I did promise to return and do a short post on the remaining locations in Yuru Camp△ 2. This time around, I follow Rin and the Outdoor Activities Club’s way home. In the aftermath of a memorable and fulfilling journey to the Izu Peninsula, Yuru Camp△ 2 slowly winds down as the girls finish their itinerary and make their way back to Yamanashi under a setting sun that illuminates the land in a warm, gentle glow. Along the way, there are several noteworthy destinations to stop along at, allowing Rin and the Outdoor Activities Club to keep all of the promises they’d made at the onset of this journey. Thanks to Yuru Camp△ 2 being very open about its locations, this final set of locations prove straightforward to find. During the course of each of the four parts to my Yuru Camp△ 2 location hunt, I had a considerable amount of fun in finding everything: armed with my prior Oculus Quest experience, using landmarks and full immersion meant that none of the locations posed any challenge to find this time around. Thus, in this post, I take readers through the last of the Izu destinations, and return to Yamanashi, where Rin’s journey with camping first began.

  • The last leg of this journey begins at Hiroi Liquor Store, which is located at the heart of Itō in Izu’s eastern edge. Open from 0900 to 1800 JST on most days, Hiroi’s owners are every bit as friendly as the Iidas, and their sake is said to be excellent, being made from local rice. While I’m not big on alcohol, Hiroi also has an interesting selection of imported foods and drinks, making it a worthwhile place to check out even if one does not partake in drinking.

  • Mount Omuro is located 2.9 kilometres north north west of Hiroi Liquor as the mole digs, but by road distance, it’s a 4.6 kilometre drive. This dormant pyroclastic cone has not erupted for four millennia and is home to the Yamayake Festival, an annual event during which vegetation is burnt away. At the foot of the mountain, there’s a Visitor’s Centre and cable car that takes visitors to the summit of Mount Omuro. During early March, they’re open from 0900 to 1645 JST. An individual ticket for a round trip is 700 Yen (8.05 CAD), and the walk around Mount Omuro’s crater rim takes anywhere from twenty minutes to half an hour.

  • Across the street from the Mount Omuro’s Visitor Centre is the road access to Izu Shaboten Zoo, home of the capybaras that Akari is so excited to see. At the fork in the road, there’s a distinct cactus statue belonging to Izu Cactus Village Glamping, a resort offering fancy-pants camping. Glamping (Glamorous Camping) has been around for centuries as a concept, but it was only in 2016 where it entered the English lexicon. As one might expect of fancy-pants camping, Izu Cactus Village offers a do-it-yourself barbeque and beautiful geodesic dome tents that provide all the comforts of home. It’s, as folks are wont to say, a different form of camping that is a different kind of luxurious compared to the more traditional camping that Rin and the others do.

  • Glamping would defeat the purpose of Yuru Camp△, and their destination lies a ways ahead at Izu Shaboten Zoo, which is open between 0900 and 1700 JST from March to October. Visiting here is pricey compared to the Outdoor Activities Club’s usual events; individual tickets cost 2400 Yen (27.59 CAD), while for Akari, the price of admissions is 1200 Yen (13.80 CAD). For comparison, adult tickets to my local zoo is 24.95 CAD per adult, while children’s tickets are 14.95 CAD. However, what makes Izu Shaboten Zoo special is that, besides the famed onsen-enjoying capybaras, most of their animals are free-roaming and friendly towards humans. One can even purchase animal food and feed the animals here, and for visitors looking for a change of scenery, Izu Shaboten Zoo also has a pleasant botanical garden.

  • It’s a 32.6 kilometre drive from Izu Shoboten Zoo back to Darumayama Kogen Rest House, the same roadside stop with the observation deck and gorgeous view of Mount Fuji that Rin and the Outdoor Activities Club had visited in episode eleven. Rin had parked her moped here for the day and accepted a ride from Minami, and now that the time has come to head home, the group returns here to retrieve Rin’s bike before preparing for the hundred-kilometre drive back to Yamanashi. I imagine that Rin and the others also grab a light lunch here before heading back: there’s a snack bar that serves everything from ice cream and pancakes to noodles and curry rice.

  • The way back home to Yamanashi is presented as a very gentle and peaceful drive: here, a frame portrays Sirkanogawao Bridge on the Izu-Jūkan Expressway (E70) just outside of Ōhito, a small town north of Izu. E70 has a short tolled section and runs for 57.3 kilometres: it opened in 1992, but sections of it are still incomplete. With speed limits of 100 km/h depending on road conditions, expressways generally are only open to motor vehicles that can maintain 50 km/h or greater: mopeds like Rin’s are generally not permitted.

  • As such, Rin takes a slightly different way home on her moped: this intersection is where Rin and the Outdoor Activities Club part ways. Minami will head east down this road back to Prefectural Route 18 and make for the intersection linking them to E70, while Rin heads north for Prefectural Route 129. Because Rin’s journey is much slower, she has a few moments to herself, while the other girls (save Nadeshiko) fall asleep and find themselves back home in Yamanashi before they know it. The slope up this road looks much steeper in Yuru Camp△ 2 than it does in real life.

  • Yuru Camp△ 2 portrays a sign on the grassy slop adjacent to the road indicating the direction of Shuzenji Hot Spring, and sure enough, the signs can be seen in the real-world spot on the right hand side of the image. In this post, I’ve chosen not to go hunting for all of the various spots that Rin and the Outdoor Activities Club separately pass through: at the journey’s end, there isn’t much that can be said about freeway overpasses and coastal roads that is useful for readers. Visitors will only likely pass along these spots if they’re in Japan, and I don’t feel a particular need to compare stretches of road Yuru Camp△ 2 with real life, not when other comparisons do a compelling job of conveying how faithful the anime is to real life.

  • Back in Yamanashi, Rin runs into Nadeshiko, who’d gone out with Sakura to see if she’d been alright. Yuru Camp△ 2 ends with a conversation between the two, and here, Rin shares her first-ever camping trip with Nadeshiko. The series elegantly wraps things up towards its ending, and so, for this post, I’ve decided to go looking for the road Rin takes to get back home during her first year of middle school, where her love for camping began. Here, she walks along a road lining the Hanki River, just off Route 400. I’d long known that Rin lived somewhere near the Tokiwa River, so finding this spot was a matter of looking for bridges near the Tokiwa River along Route 300. Inspection of the Google Street View image and location from Yuru Camp△ 2 finds that I’ve got a match, right down to the red utility box and T-intersection road sign.

  • Much as how I ended the first Yuru Camp△ 2 location hunt post with a screenshot of an instance where the real-world location has a vacant lot, here, I’ve found the spot where Takeda Bookstore is located. The presence of a distinct-looking garage besides a house indicates that, as with Nadeshiko’s grandmother’s house, C-Station remains true to real life even if certain locations were created to accommodate the story, and as before, while visiting a vacant lot isn’t likely too troublesome, folks should still take care not to disturb residents if they are visiting for real. With this in mind, folks using virtual means of exploration can check things out to their heart’s content. I believe with this, I’ve covered off most of the relevant locations of Yuru Camp△ 2 and therefore, can conclude this post now.

I imagine that this will be the second last Yuru Camp△ 2 and location hunt post I write about in the foreseeable future, as I’ve covered almost all of the locations and content to the best of my ability. As per usual, having the Oculus Quest has made the location hunt process much more engaging and immersive, and in no time at all, I’d found everything of note. While this means that until Yuru Camp△: The Movie is released, I won’t be doing too many location hunts with the Oculus Quest. However, having said this, I have caught wind of an experimental VR app called Laid-Back Camp Virtual, which allows players to step into the world of Yuru Camp△. Insofar, I’ve been using Wander for Oculus Quest to visit the real-world locations of Yuru Camp△, but the developers at Gemdrops have successfully brought the world of Yuru Camp△ to life, complete with the talking pine cones. At the time of writing, only the Lake Motosu version is out, but there are plans for a Fumoto version as well. Individually, each cost 24.99 CAD for the Oculus Quest, and appear to be a guided tour of the experience that Rin and Nadeshiko have in their earliest experiences together, allowing players to really become a part of Yuru Camp△. While the experiences are quite short, totalling only forty minutes each, this could be a fun demo that adds another dimensionality to having an Oculus Quest: it’s been two years since the Oculus Quest released, and save for SUPERHOT VR and Wander, I’ve not really found other apps to be worth the price of admissions. Having a few additional titles in my library would really allow me to get the most out of the Oculus Quest; while I’ve greatly enjoyed its usability with only two titles so far, it would be nice to experience other games and see what’s possible in VR.

The Real Life Izu Peninsula and Birthday Camping, Seaside-style: An Oculus-Powered Armchair Journey of Yuru Camp△ 2, Part III

“Wherever you go, go with all your heart” –Confucius

While Rin was denied the opportunity to camp in and explore Izu Peninsula during the New Year’s, circumstances have shifted, allowing Rin to accompany the Outdoors Activity Club to the Izu Peninsula for the biggest camping adventure seen in Yuru Camp△. Izu Peninsula (伊豆半島, Hepburn Izu-hantō) was formed from Philippine Sea Plate, Okhotsk Plate and Amurian Plate meeting in a triple junction, creating intense tectonic activity that results in volcanism and frequent earthquakes. Izu Peninsula is home to a number of fictional series; Amanchu is set on Izu’s eastern edge, and Koji Suzuki’s The Ring (along with the film adaptation) uses Izu’s remote but stunning natural beauty as the backdrop for a series of terrifying events. Although perhaps iconic for its setting in The Ring, the actual Izu Peninsula possesses none of the terror – it is a prefecture famous for its hot springs and natural features, which drives tourism, as well as wasabi production. With a population of some four hundred and seventy-three thousand people, and covering an area of 1421.24 km², it is here that Rin and the Outdoor Activities Club have their grandest experience yet, which has spanned three whole episodes so far. While Izu itself has a surface area nearly six times larger than the largest search space I’ve looked at for Yuru Camp△, the mountainous topography, narrow coastal roads and limited pathing options, together with the fact that Yuru Camp△ 2 has been very kind with showing routes and destinations, has meant that for this location hunt, finding the exact places that Rin, Nadeshiko, Chiaki, Aoi, Ena, Minami and Akari visit has presented no trouble at all. With virtually every spot well-covered by Google Maps, it became trivially easy to tread along the same paths and marvel at the same sights that this close-knit group of friends experiences on their adventures when the information in Yuru Camp△ 2 is so complete, and the Oculus Quest’s capabilities are used to further augment the rate at which things can be found. Using the full immersion that the Oculus Quest provides, the peninsula’s beauty is apparent as I travelled along the virtual representation of Izu’s coastal highways and mountain trails. In this post, then, the aim is simple enough: as with previous location hunts, my aim is to share the locations seen in Yuru Camp△ 2, and provide an adequate amount of detail so that folks can appreciate the effort than went into Yuru Camp△ 2. I am aware that location hunting with Yuru Camp△ is a popular activity; I do hope that this post is able to help folks find what they seek, and perhaps, even use this post as a starting point for planning out their own trip to Izu Peninsula.

  • I’ll open with a stretch of road Rin travels along during the first leg of her Izu Peninsula tour and assure readers that most of the remaining destinations in this post will be more exciting than various stretches of road. To share a bit of a story for fun: when I was younger, 半島 always gave me trouble: it translates directly to “peninsula”, but breaking the word apart, 半 (jyutping bun3, Hepburn han) means “half”, and 島 (jyutping dou2, Hepburn with the on’yomi reading) is island. Hence, my interpretation of 半島 was “half-island”. When I first visited Hong Kong at the age of four, the reading of Kowloon Peninsula (九龍半島, jyutping gau2 lung4 bun3 dou2) would always confuse me, since Kowloon wasn’t an island by any definition, and I struggled with the idea of what a “half-island” was until learning it was equivalent to a Peninsula.

  • While Rin’s soaking up a variety of geospots around the northwestern side of Izu, the Outdoor Activities Club travels down route 414 from Yamanashi into the heart of Izu, passing along the Michi-no-eki Amagi-goe roadside stop. There’s a small market here, Amagi Wasabi no Sato,  that the the Outdoor Activities Club stop by to get some wasabi ice cream: because of Izu’s climate and soil, the peninsula is well-suited for growing wasabi plants, and there’s actually a small field by the shop that grows wasabi. Visitors can even pick wasabi for themselves here; while the Outdoor Activities Club don’t see many geospots on their first leg of the journey, wasabi is an integral part of the Izu experience, so I felt that such a visit would be a reasonable tradeoff.

  • Fourteen minutes and 10.4 kilometres south of Amagi Wasabi no Sato is the Kawazu Nandaru Spiral Bridge, a feat of engineering that was completed in 1982 in order to ascend a steep mountain passage where building switchbacks was not possible. Because of the tight turn, the speed limit here is restricted to 30 km/h, and the total road distance this spiral bridge covers is 1100 metres to accommodate for a 45 metre elevation difference between road surfaces. As Yuru Camp△ 2 indicates, it’s certainly a fun experience for drivers and passengers alike.

  • While Chiaki and the others are riding the Kawazu Nandaru Spiral Bridge, Rin visits Ryugu Sea Cave, which is located a stone’s throw (7.1 kilometres down the shortest route, totalling about 12 minutes) from their rendezvous point. The Izu Peninsula isn’t particularly large, but Yuru Camp△ 2 demonstrates that there’s no shortage of natural attractions and local specialties to check out; it’s taken a full three episodes to even scratch the surface, and there’s still a few more spots Rin and the Outdoor Activities Club have on their itinerary for their last day. In this location hunt post, I’ve opted to show locations in order simply to keep things consistent.

  • At the parking lot for Ryugu Sea Cave, the shadows cast by the morning light shroud half of this frame in shadows. At this hour in the morning, Rin has the entire place to herself: only her moped is visible from this position, and to the left is the Healing Dragon, a small rental bungalow that acts as accommodation for visitors. It is across the street from Ryugu Park and features a full kitchen, barbeque pit and a washing machine. However, in order to make use of these facilities, one must register for a Healing Dragon membership, which is 1000 Yen per person.

  • As Rin discovers, the Ryugu Sea Cave is absolutely beautiful: originally an enclosed cave, the terrain above collapsed, creating a forty-metre wide opening that allows for the cavern to be fully illuminated. From the sky, Ryugu Sea Cave looks like heart, and so, is counted as a power spot, a place where nature is especially sublime and wondrous, sufficiently to recharge one’s spirits, hence the moniker. There are equivalent spots here in Canada: Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, the Maritime provinces, have especially beautiful coasts, and the Bay of Fundy’s features are world-famous for their beauty.

  • After Rin meets up with everyone, the group heads on over to Shimoda’s Ra-Maru, a restaurant that serves some of what locals consider to be the best burger this side of Japan: their iconic Shimoda burgers comes with a gigantic slice of camembert cheese on top of the regular cheese slice, which, in conjunction with the sauce and generous helping of fried Alfonsino, is said to create a flavour experience that’s out of this world. While the burgers themselves are 1100 Yen (about 12.59 CAD), a full meal with a drink and side of fries or onion rings costs 1500 Yen (17.17 CAD). On the topic of burgers, I have mentioned that I am a bit of a burger connoisseur (although not to the same extent as poutine!), and my favourite burgers combine ingredients that play well together and super-combine for a veritable flavour explosion.

  • If and when I’m asked, the best burger in town for me is Kilkenny’s “Stuffed Bacon Cheddar” burger, a mouth-watering tower of bacon and cheddar cooked into the half-pound patty, paired with a fried egg, mango avocado salsa and back bacon. With this being said, I don’t see it on their menu anymore, and it’s been some four years since I’ve visited Kilkenny’s, so it is possible that the burger has been retired from the menu. Back in this location hunt, I’ve taken a few steps back here to show Ra-Maru from a different angle, to include the remainder of the building, which also houses a tourist centre, museum and seafood restaurant. Just visible in both the real life and anime incarnations are concrete pillars: the main floor is used as a dedicated parking space that Minami and Rin make use of, chosen for its proximity to Ra-Maru: the services and amenities here make this a solid place to act as a starting point for exploring Shimoda and its surroundings.

  • After lunch, the Outdoor Activities Club and Rin head into town to pick up ingredients for dinner. They pass over the Inouzawa River on Route 135: here, the cables for the Shimoda Ropeway, a cable car that takes visitors to an observation deck 156 metres up. The cable car runs every quarter hour and takes three-and-a-half minute one way; the sights up here are supposed to be great, especially when flowers are blooming, and there’s also a Buddhist shrine at the top of the mountain (Aizendo), but this isn’t a part of the Outdoor Activities Club or Rin’s itinerary.

  • Instead, for groceries, the group swings by MaxValu by Aeon. As the sign out front indicates, this supermarket is open twenty-four hours a day and has a solid selection of fruits and vegetables, everything that Aoi and Nadeshiko need to whip up their evening meal for their first night. In Yuru Camp△ 2, the store is called MaxPower, but otherwise, matches its real-world equivalent right down to the “open 24 hours” sign out front. However, it appears they’ve swapped out the Mister Donut place for what looks like a substitution for Starbucks. Incidentally, donuts are very popular in Japan, to the point where the only country on earth with both a larger number of donut shops and donuts consumed per capita is my homeland, Canada.

  • Manpo is a seafood restaurant and market rolled into one, being the place that the group stops at to pick up seafood for their evening meal. Located seven minutes (3.5 kilometres) east of MaxValu Izushimoda by car, Manpo (Manpuku in-show) is not mentioned by name in Yuru Camp△ 2, but finding it proved unexpectedly straightforward: I knew that Minami and the others had a short car trip between the MaxValu and Manpo. Further to this, Manpo was located prior to the group’s stop at Cape Tsumeki. Doing a search for seafood restaurants in the area quickly narrowed down the candidate locations, and Manpo was a perfect match. Visitors typically do as the gentleman does, sitting down to enjoy the charcoal-grilled seafood and excellent service. Minami is tempted to join, but ultimately, her students persuade her to keep going.

  • I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Google Street View extended down to the foot paths at Cape Tsumeki, a geospot renowned for its narcissus flowers and tranquil beaches. In March, Nadeshiko and the others won’t be able to see the narcissus flowers, and it’s a little too early for swimming, but the landscape remains inviting for a walk. With Street View available to me, I dropped onto the path on the grassy plains and traced it to Rin and the Outdoor Activities Club’s first stop, Tsumekizaki Lighthouse.

  • Tsumekizaki Lighthouse is perched at the edge of a cliff, creating a scene that’s simultaneously beautiful and melancholy: it does feel like the edge of the world here. A short way from the lighthouse are a collection of hexagonal rocks called the Tsumezaki Columnar Joints. Reminiscent of Northern Ireland’s Giant’s Causeway, volcanic activity caused the formation of columnar basalts, which form their distinct hexagonal patterns when thick lava flows cool quickly, causing vertical fractures to form. While exploring Cape Tsumeki, Minami learns that camping on the beaches here is actually prohibited.

  • With Cape Tsumeki done, and their problem of finding a new campsite solved, the Outdoor Activities Club and Rin head next to the Hosono Plateau. Like Manpo, finding this distinct-looking tunnel carved into the cliff adjacent to the coast initially seemed a daunting task, since I’d have to trace through some 17.5 kilometres of coast to find it, but as it turns out, traits in the landscape allowed me to locate this spot without too much difficulty. Google Street View shows that the drive along route 135 would be an immensely enjoyable one, and I am immediately reminded of Taiwan’s Provincial Highway 11, which travels along the island’s eastern edge between Taitung and Hualien and had similarly stunning views where the coastal highway would hug sheer cliffs that dropped into the ocean below.

  • The narrow coastal highway widens by the time it reaches Kawazu, a town located in a valley. This town will serve as an important intersection when the Outdoor Activities Club and Rin return here on their second day, but with their destination, they pass through the town and head for Inatori, which is where the road leading to Hosono Plateau is located. Here, a faint haze can be seen in Yuru Camp△ 2, and more impressively, Google Street View displays smoke in roughly the same spot. It is not lost on me that C-Station could have thoroughly researched most of their locations with Google Street View alone if they so chose: the amount of detail is impressive, and equipped with the Oculus Quest, I was able to replicate the drives with near-perfect accuracy to what Yuru Camp△ 2 presented.

  • Here, the Outdoors Activity Club and Rin reach Hosono Plateau Tree House Village, a delightful campground located a short 3.8 kilometres north of Inatori. Featuring actual tree-houses and nestled in a forest, visitors report that this campground is a particularly pleasant one. The managers are very attentive, the facilities are well-maintained, and the location makes it suited for stargazing. Not shown in Yuru Camp△ is the fact there’s a golf course adjacent to the Tree House Village.

  • This segment of the drive reminds me a great deal of Bragg Creek, a hamlet half an hour west of the city situated at the confluence between the creek the hamlet is named after and the Elbow River. Bragg Creek boasts to have the freshest air this side of Alberta, and is located in a forested area. As Minami and Rin travel down this road, the vegetation thins, and soon, the forests give way to wide open fields.

  • The grassy plains of Hosono Highland are located just a few hundred metres from the Tree House Village: the area is evidently windy, as there is a wind farm just on the hill. Known as Kawazu Wind Farm, this installation belongs to Eurus Energy, a Japanese company dedicated to clean energy production with wind and solar farms in five continents. Kawazu entered operations in May 2015 and generates 16.7 MW of energy. Rin and the Outdoor Activities Club’s final destination lies close to the wind farms, being the Mount Musujiyama trail that takes viewers right to the summit in fifteen minutes. Because Google Street View doesn’t extend far enough, I’ve chosen not to provide screenshots of the view from the summit.

  • The general rule for my posts are that I can only showcase locations retrieved from Google Street View or Google Places: this is to remain as faithful as possible to my Oculus Quest-only searches: for the foreseeable future, I would not count it a responsible decision to put boots on the ground for the sake of a few more photos and comparisons, and to be as fair as possible to readers, I’ve restricted my location hunts to what is available to everyone. Here, I’ve fast forwarded a little, after the group prepares to head to their campsite. According to Google Maps, to reach this spot, one will need to undergo a 44.5 kilometre drive that cuts across Izu’s mountains along route 15 on a lonely road. The intersection above is indeed located two kilometres from their destination, in the town of Nishiizu.

  • After Minami gives the girls the go-ahead to find an onsen (on the condition that it be nearby and close to the campsite so Rin doesn’t freeze or fall asleep from the drive), the group stops at Dōgashima. There are three hotels here home to onsen, making it easy to determine that Seiryu Hotel is where the girls go to unwind after a long day’s drive. With beautiful views from each room (in addition to the bath) and friendly staff, Seiryu Hotel accommodates English speakers and is located mere minutes away from Dōgashima, as well as the Sanshirō Island Tombolo. From here, Camp Koganezaki is an eleven minute (eight kilometre) drive to the north. I’ve got no comparisons of Camp Koganezaki simply because by the time Rin and the others arrive, it’s dark (and darkness makes it difficult to really pick out details in comparative screenshots).

  • Instead, I will jump ahead to Sawada Park, which is located on the northern side of Nishiizu and offers a gorgeous view of the sea. The smooth rocks at the edge of the parking lot are reminiscent of the hoodoos in Southern Alberta and were presumably formed by erosion. However, the scenery isn’t the main attraction: there’s an open-air bath here that costs 600 Yen for adults. While the baths are tiny, only allowing four to five occupants at a time in their calcium and sodium sulfate waters, the view is unmatched: in March and September, the sunset lines up perfectly with the baths, creating a one-of-a-kind experience. When Rin arrives in the morning, it’s much too early for such a treat, but in exchange, she’s early enough to have the whole place to herself.

  • Google Street View does offer viewers a chance to climb onto the footpath at Sawada Park and check things out for themselves, which was a fantastic experience within the Oculus Quest: I was able to drop myself to the same spot Rin passes through without any difficulty. It is amazing that some places do have complete Google Street View coverage, whether they be smaller parks or the interior of museums: Indoor Street View has made it possible for me to explore locations that would otherwise require an in-person visit, and it was with such coverage that I was able to get the images needed for Tsukuba’s JAXA Space Centre Exhibition Hall for my Koisuru Asteroid location hunt. I do note that while the technology exists, there is no substitute for being there in person: I imagine that this technology is primary intended to give visitors an idea of a spot’s layout and help out in planning out group excursions.

  • For brunch the next morning, Rin and the Outdoor Activities Club hit Dōgashima Dining Hall, a seafood restaurant just north of Nishiizu, twelve minutes south of Camp Koganezaki. Despite its unassuming appearance, Dōgashima Dining Hall has a pleasant atmosphere and delicious fare: the fish is supposed to be amazing. When I watched the twelfth episode of Yuru Camp△ 2, I hadn’t bothered to locate this restaurant, but now that I’ve found it, I can identify what everyone has. It appears that Aoi ordered the 俺のぶっかけ丼 (Hepburn ore no bukkake donburi), a delicious rice bowl with sashimi and egg. Minami’s gone with the 地魚刺身定食 (Hepburn jizakana sashimi teishoku, literally “Local fish sashimi set meal”). Akari is seen eating tokoroten (a sort of jelly made from seaweed); Dōgashima Dining Hall offers all-you-can-eat tokoroten with every meal, serving it with either black honey or vinegar and soy sauce.

  • Dōgashima itself has a striking coastline, and here, the group visits the hiking trail surrounding the Dōgashima Sea Cave: similar to Ryugu Sea Cave, erosion and weathering eventually caused a segment of the land to sink and collapse into the caverns below. While Chiaki mentions it’d be nice to hop right in to cool off during the summer, and Rin counters that there’s probably no way out. In reality canoe tours are offered, allowing one to actually get into the flooded caverns below to see the natural skylight. There’s a dock near the parking lot where visitors can register for the cave tour. While Rin and the Outdoor Activities Club don’t do such a tour, they do make use of the hiking trail to take in the unique scenery at Dōgashima.

  • Sanshirō Island displaces the onsen-enjoying capybaras as the most long-awaited destination for Akari: it’s located ten minutes north of Dōgashima on foot (totally 650 metres of road distance), and this island chain consists of three islands (Denbei, Nakano, Okinose and Taka). While there are no grilled meat vendors here per Aoi’s suggestion, the site is incredibly beautiful, and at low tide, enough of the water recedes so that one could walk to the islands without getting their feet wet. I imagine that Akari and the others arrived a little before the tide was lowest (one hour before and one hour after low tide), so they ditch their shoes and wade across. As Yuru Camp△ 2 states, the islands are so-named because depending on the perspective, there are either three or four islands.

  • With the list of geospots to visit for the day finished, the Outdoor Activities Club and Rin head back into Nishiizu to pick up some ingredients at Food Store Aoki, which is located right beside Nishina River. Rin and Minami had actually passed by Aoki earlier en route to Seiryu Hotel, so it makes sense for the group to swing by here for groceries. Visitors note that while things are a little pricier here, the quality and selection is solid, so the Outdoor Activities Club have no trouble finding the materials they need to whip up an impressive birthday dinner for Aoi and Nadeshiko at Aoki before heading off for their final destination of the day: Darumayama-Kogen Campground.

  • The route that Rin and the Outdoor Activities Club take to reach the campground is the same one that Google Maps recommends: they travel back up Route 136 past Camp Koganezaki and make a right onto Route 410. This particular crosswalk is located near a fork between the Ugusu and Ohisasu rivers – it is quite unremarkable save for the fact that it took a little bit of effort to locate. In this location hunt for Yuru Camp△ 2, I’ve chosen not to go with too many road shots because there’s also a considerable number of attractions to highlight. With this being said, the attractions and stops are generally easy to find, since they’re named after their real-world counterparts or offer identifying characteristics. Conversely, various stretches of road require a bit more patience to find and may not always allow for the most exciting of remarks to be made.

  • With this being said, every location for a location hunt post, I’ve found independently using only Google Maps, Google Street View and the Places API, plus a handful of computer vision techniques that are available to me. The reason for not delving further into pilgrimages on Japanese SNS for interior shots and the like is because those experiences aren’t always readily accessible for folks overseas: the aim of these Oculus Quest powered location hunt posts is to provide starting points that readers can check out straightaway. Thus, the only rule I have is that my location hunts must be something readers can also access. Here, Rin and Minami ascend a switchback, passing by Nishi-Amagi Plateau Branch House, a guesthouse that is known for its soft-serve ice cream and soba.

  • The West Izu Skyline is a stretch of road that cuts across the highlands and that offers unparalleled views: Izu also has the Izu Skyline, a toll road located to the east. Both roads are frequented by folks looking for a phenomenal drive or cycling adventure. Before setting off, Minami asks Rin to be careful and not be too distracted by the scenery – this is a known problem for drivers, and on the road trips I’ve done, I usually have another driver so we can take turns driving and checking out the scenery. Of course, when there are sights that call for it, sometimes, it’s a better idea to stop and really take a closer look. This particular spot on the road, facing south, is located quite close to the Nishi-Amagi Plateau Branch House, and I found it simply by following the West Izu Skyline a ways, using the curvature of the road and the Oculus Quest’s ability to let me look around in 360º to confirm I’d found the spot. I realise that the Google Street View version of the West Izu Skyline doesn’t have the road markings seen in Yuru Camp△ 2 – the latter clearly denote one-way traffic and no passing, whereas in the Street View images, I get the impression that one can change lanes.

  • I’ll conclude this post with a view from Darumayama Observatory, located just half a kilometre from the Daruyama-Kogen Campground. This marks the end of the twelfth episode’s travels, as the remainder of the day is dedicated to preparations ahead of Aoi and Nadeshiko’s birthday. As Yuru Camp△ 2 shows, Mount Fuji can easily be spotted from this viewpoint. While I’d originally intended to write this post after the finale to showcase all of the locations of Yuru Camp△ 2, the revelation that there’d be a thirteenth episode in conjunction with the large number of spots visited during Rin and the Outdoor Activities Club’s excursion to the Izu Peninsula meant it made more sense to cover off some of the locations now before their number made writing a post too daunting. With this done, I plan on writing one final location hunt post for Yuru Camp△ 2 once the finale is in the books to check off any remaining locations, as well as some sights in and around the Minobu valley to round out the season.

With this latest set of locations in the books, I think that readers now have enough information to draft out a complete Yuru Camp△ 2 tour: attesting to Rin and the Outdoor Activities Club maturing, the scope and scale of their travels has increased considerably since Yuru Camp△. Whereas Yuru Camp△‘s settings remained largely within Yamanashi and Nagano, oftentimes within the range of mass transit options, Yuru Camp△ 2 represents a much bolder series of adventures that requires more extensive planning, and perhaps private transportation to make reaching said locations easier. While such a trip is not the most responsible decision I could make right now, I will note that the Oculus Quest has again come through here; several locations in Yuru Camp△ 2‘s final third were found by capitalising on the 360º view that a VR headset offers. With Yuru Camp△ 2 providing the locations Rin and the Outdoor Activities Club visits, the key attractions were found without difficulty, and the superior spatial awareness that VR provides meant being able to very easily travel up and down a stretch of road to find nearby spots that were unnamed in the anime. In this way, from the segment of road travelling through a cave, to the restaurant that everyone stops for sashimi at and even the shop where Minami picks up a spiny lobster, each and every spot within this post was located without difficulty. Having now fielded the Oculus Quest on no fewer than seven location hunts, I finally feel like I’ve gotten proper use out of the complementary headset that I received from F8 2019. For the longest time, the Oculus Quest sat unused because VR still felt like a very niche function, being more of a novelty than a practicality. However, after demonstrating the Oculus Quest’s versatility with the Houkago Teibou Nisshi location hunt, it’s become evident that this headset’s very much become an indispensable part of my anime location hunting arsenal: while I lack familiarity with locations in Japan as a resident would and do not possess a strong enough command of the Japanese language to hunt for locations with the same speed as a local, advanced technology has certainly helped to close this gap, enough for me to hopefully have created a post that is interesting and useful for readers.

The Real Life Locations of The Outdoor Activities Club, Rin and Nadeshiko’s Excellent Adventures: An Oculus-Powered Armchair Journey of Yuru Camp△ 2, Part II

“The journey not the arrival matters.” –T.S. Eliot

For Yuru Camp△ 2‘s second third, the Outdoor Activities Club, Rin and Nadeshiko explore a plethora of locations in Yamanashi and Shizuoka as they continue to respectively carry out club activities and explore new horizons. During the course of the girls’ travels, they cover a vast amount of turf: a grand total of 247 square kilometres of map data was scoured to put this post together, and during the course of compiling a list of all locations, it become clear that each of the Outdoor Activities Club, Nadeshiko and Rin each have their own unique footprints as a result of how they choose to travel and have fun, using the modes of transportation available to them. With Chiaki, Aoi and Ena, their trip to Lake Yamanaka is primarily driven by whatever places they can reach by bus and on foot. Finding the spots they visited proved to be the easiest of everyone because Chiaki had organised their itinerary such that they’d be able to hoof it for the most part, using the bus to reach Camp Misaki as their first day drew to a close. Nadeshiko’s first-ever solo camping trip was similarly small-scale – thanks to Rin’s advice, Nadeshiko is keeping it simple for her excursion to Fujinomiya and Nodayama Health Green Space Park in Fujikawa sees her walking to most places, and taking the train to get close to her chosen campsite. Being more inquisitive and armed with Sakura’s suggestion, Nadeshiko’s footprint is slightly larger than that of the other girls, but the places she visits are still relatively easy to find. Conversely, with her experience and moped, the area of the minimum bounding box for the area Rin visits is the largest of everyone’s, and correspondingly, pinpointing where Rin visited proved to be the most time-consuming. However, because Yuru Camp△ 2 continues in its predecessor’s footsteps in using (mostly) real-world locations, even the most remote corners of Yamanashi can be easily found: the narrow mountain roads Rin travels along limits the search space, and with a bit of patience, I’ve been able to identify enough of the places for Yuru Camp△ 2‘s second third to have a post worthy of readers.

  • When Sakura invites Nadeshiko out to dinner one evening, Nadeshiko is seen sprinting past Caribou to reach this restaurant, but a cursory look around Minobu shows no such place. Instead, it’s set at Fujiyoshi Pure Handmade Soba in Kofu – like Caribou, which was modelled after Sven in Hamamatsu and named after Elk (which is fifteen minutes south). Minobu is a little too small to host things, so I’m guessing that Yuru Camp△ has taken a few liberties with its locations to make it easier for Nadeshiko and her friends. In real life, Fujiyoshi makes solid, homemade soba noodles and chicken, but as Yuru Camp△ shows, they do in fact have a prawn tempura dinner set, as well. Customers are generally impressed with both the food and the service, making this a worthwhile destination to visit.

  • I’ve fast-forwarded ahead to the Outdoor Activities Club’s visit to Fujiyoshida, which is the starting point for their camping trip to the shores of Lake Yamanaka. With its distinct glass façade, Mount Fuji Station is the terminal for the Fujikyuko Line and was given its current name in 2011. It services about fourteen hundred passengers daily, but for Chiaki, Aoi and Ena, I imagine they would’ve taken a bus to get here from Kofu: this is the fastest way, entailing a one-and-a-half hour long bus trip.

  • Here, as Ena, Aoi and Chiaki run for their bus, a roller-coaster can be seen in the background. This rollercoaster belongs to Fuji-Q, an amusement park that opened in 1968 and is particularly well-known for its roller-coasters. Beyond this, Fuji-Q also has several themed attractions, including one for Gundam and Neon Genesis Evangelion. However, amusement parks are not the objective in Yuru Camp△, speaking volumes to what’s on Chiaki, Aoi and Ena’s mind for this camping trip.

  • I did attempt to capture a screenshot of the building where Chiaki, Ena and Aoi grab their transit passes, but because of limitations in Google Street View, I was not able to get close enough to get a clean image. Like my previous Yuru Camp△ location hunts, I’ve exclusively used the Oculus Quest and Wander: its API hooks into Google Street View and its awesome capabilities, allowing me to find everything for these posts much faster than using a desktop or mobile version of Google Maps. My general rule is that if a location cannot be reached on Google Maps and has no information from Google Business, then I cannot feature the spot in these location hunts.

  • The large Caribou store in Yuru Camp△ 2 is actually a Montbell, and sells branded Mount Fuji gear that cannot be purchased at any other Montbell locations. Unlike Yuru Camp△, however, there is no Caribou-kun standing watch at the doorway – instead, there’s a giant bear at the doorway instead. Customers report an impressive selection of outdoors products, and its proximity to Mount Fuji makes it a fantastic place to pick up any last minute gear before continuing on a hike or camping trip.

  • Yamanakako Onsen (Benifuji no Yu) is a hot springs located 5.3 kilometres southeast of Montbell. It’s a 55-minute walk to get here on foot from Montbell, but since Chiaki, Aoi and Ena picked up transit passes, they can simply board a bus and arrive within fourteen minutes. Visitors are have nothing but good things to say about Yamanakako Onsen: although the staff aren’t too familiar with English, the best experience is to be had if one has a Japanese speaker in their group. The onsen are comfortable and peaceful, offering beautiful scenery, and the cafeteria itself is also excellent. offering meals in addition to ice cream.

  • Admissions to Yamanakako Onsen is 800 yen per adult, but one can get a ten percent off discount if they bring in a special flier handed out by the tourism office. Credit cards aren’t accepted, so one should bring cash if they wish to visit. Beyond the outdoor pools seen in Yuru Camp△ 2, Yamanakako Onsen also has indoor pools, a sauna and steam room on site. This onsen is open every day of the week except for Monday and Tuesday, from 1000 to 2100, and while not shown in Yuru Camp△ 2, there’s also a small gift shop here, as well. From what I’ve read of Yamanakako Onsen, one could comfortably spend a half day here just taking in everything, although reception closes after 2030.

  • Ogino Supermarket is only 800 metres away from Yamanakako Onsen: it’s under ten minutes to walk here from Yamanakako Onsen. Yuru Camp△ 2 renders the supermarket as Hagino. I’ve previously mentioned that my thoughts immediately strayed to Hinako Note because Hagino happens to be the surname of the landlady to Hitotose, and in a curious coincidence, her first name happens to be Chiaki, as well. Unlike Chiaki Ōgaki of Yuru Camp△, who is energetic and spirited, Chiaki Hagino is soft-spoken and reserved, although also quite kind. Looking around Ogino, it looks like they sell locally made wines, and generally speaking, they have a wide selection of fresh produce and ready-to-go meals that are less pricey than their counterparts in the Tokyo area.

  • Misaki Camping Ground is located 4.9 kilometres east of Ogino, at the eastern edge of Lake Yamanaka. There aren’t too many attractions nearby (everything is located on the southern side of the lake), and the nearest convenience store is a 7-Eleven about 1.8 kilometres away, the camp ground itself is quite beautiful. Yuru Camp△ has traditionally presented the campsite managers as being friendly people, so it was a little surprising to see Yuru Camp△ 2 present the manager as being more intimidating. Having said this, visitors report the camp’s staff are friendly, and during the summer, the camp’s location makes it great for swimming. The site’s facilities, while not extensive, are adequate, and campers generally have an excellent time here.

  • Yuru Camp△‘s sixth episode remained largely on the shores of Lake Yamanaka and didn’t take viewers to new destinations, but by the seventh episode, things felt more like an episode of Rick Steves’ Europe: between Nadeshiko and Rin’s travels, a lot of turf was covered. With the pair’s solo adventures kicking off, Rin visits Akasawa Village, a centuries-old stopping point for visitors visiting Keishin Temple. Today, Akasawa is a quiet place: the narrow mountain roads are too narrow for larger vehicles, and Akasawa itself is perched on the mountainside between fields of tea trees. Here, Rin travels down a side street leading into Akasawa’s old town.

  • The aesthetic of Akasawa is reminiscent of Magome, the forty-third of the Nakasendō’s sixty nine stations, rest areas located along the route between Kyoto and Edo. Prosperous in its heyday, Magome briefly fell to ruin after the Chūō Main Line railway opened in 1889, but has since been restored to its former glory. Unlike Magome, which is now a popular spot for tourists, Akasawa remains tranquil: the owner of Shimizuya remarks that the average day sees about a hundred visitors at most, and even during the afternoon, when the sun bathes the village in a strong light, the place remained peaceful. This viewpoint overlooks the old town, and to the right, Shimizu-ya can be seen.

  • Shimizu-ya is the cafe that Rin visits while in Akasawa, where she sits down underneath the kotatsu and begins melting from the comfort. She ends up ordering a mamemochi (豆餅) and amazake: the former is, per its name, a mochi with soybeans inside, whereas the latter is a sweet drink made from fermented rice. I’ve always found that Japanese sweets have a gentler flavour to them compared to confections I’m used to, and this allows for more subtle flavours to be tasted, as well. Unlike most places, Shimizu-ya’s staff are fluent in English.

  • After her stop in Akasawa, Rin travels north up route 37 towards the westernmost reaches of Yamanashi. Route 37 runs along a narrow valley deep in the Minami Alps, and there are very few intersections or alternate routes, making it relatively easy to find everything. For Yushima Great Cedar Tree and Naradanosato Hot Springs that Rin visits up here, it was a matter of following the route north and doing a search for these attractions. Thus, even without precisely knowing the names of the places Rin visited, I was able to find everything without too much difficulty. Here is the same bridge Rin passes over from Akasawa en route to her next stop.

  • Yushima Great Cedar Tree is thought to be the oldest tree in Japan: scientists estimate that it is anywhere from two to seven thousand years old, and despite not being particularly tall, its trunk is five metres across. Rin only stops to check out the most famous of the cedars here, which was spared from the axe on account of its impressive dimensions. The area is host to numerous other noteworthy trees, but a full hike takes up to ten hours. After swinging by, Rin heads off for her next destination and spots Sakura’s car after she reaches the trailhead, which is marked by a sign visible both in anime and real life.

  • Rin subsequently heads north and stops at Sotoryo Temple, seven kilometres north of the trailhead leading to Yushima Great Cedar Tree. This temple, however, is not Rin’s final destination: she’s making use of the parking lot out front, and subsequently takes a walk around Hayakawa, the small village where Naradanosato Hot Spring is located. Adjacent to this hot springs is Cafe Kagiya. Tucked away on the forest’s edge, Cafe Kagiya offers a selection of sweets: Rin ends up trying their Shiso cheesecake, which has a sharp, citrus-like taste.

  • Sakura’s decision to take a dip at Naradanosato Hot Springs was meant to accentuate her similarities to Rin. Because of its remoteness, the price of entry to Naradanosato Hot Springs is 550 Yen for adults, and as Sakura notes, the waters here are a bit cooler than the typical onsen‘s. Moreover, the facilities are a bit older and not wheelchair-accessible. Having said this, the atmosphere at Naradanosato is unparalleled, and much as Sakura had experienced in Yuru Camp△, the scenery from the baths are fantastic. Locals note that the lower intensity of the onsen‘s temperatures means that one can bathe for longer, allowing for the scenery of the mountain valley below to really be enjoyed.

  • Forty seven and a half kilometres from Naradanosato Hot Springs as the mole digs, is Fujisan Hongū Sengen Taisha Shrine. Here, Nadeshiko passes by the torii at the front gates, having disembarked from Fujinomiya Station, which is only ten minutes away on foot. Located on the Minobu Line, Fujinomiya Station opened in 1903 and serves about 2400 passengers daily. From Ide Station in Nanbu, it’s a half-hour ride costing 320 Yen to Fujinomiya. Nadeshiko’s first solo camping trip isn’t particularly challenging: to go from Ide Station in Nanbu to Fujikawa Station only requires a single transfer from the Minobu Line to the Tkaido Line, and takes around 72 minutes in total one way.

  • Dating back to 806 AD, Fujisan Hongū Sengen Taisha is a Shintō shrine that is said to have been built to appease the gods during a time when Mount Fuji was an active volcano. Although historical records for this shrine only date back to the ninth century, Mount Fuji only went dormant in 1707, giving this legend some basis in scientific fact. The shrine is intensely associated with Mount Fuji, and people visit here prior to ascending the mountain to pray for a safe journey. Fujisan Hongū Sengen Taisha’s hongen (main hall, seen here) was constructed in 1604, but has since undergone several renovations and repairs.

  • After finishing her shrine visit and praying for a safe solo camping experience, Nadeshiko heads off for lunch. Right at the doorsteps of Fujisan Hongū Sengen Taisha, she finds a yakisoba place called Fujinomiya Yakisoba Antenna Shop – with a regular plate of noodles going for 450 Yen, portions are generous, and the noodles themselves are delicious. This does look like a pleasant place to stop, but Nadeshiko resists the temptation to have lunch here and head off – Sakura had left her with a recommendation from a place she likely visited previously on her own road trips.

  • This recommendation is for a place called Okonomishokudō Itō (お好み食堂伊東, literally “Favourite Restaurant”), where Nadeshiko finds a lineup upon her arrival, which is located three kilometres away from Fujisan Hongū Sengen Taisha. The special she orders here is the Gomoku Shigure-yaki, a variation on the Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki where the yakisoba noodles are swapped out for Fujinomiya-style yakisoba noodles, and nikukatsu (rendered pork fat) is added, resulting in an incredibly rich and hearty okonomiyaki. Despite the generous portion sizes, okonomiyaki here only cost around 750 Yen, and so, Nadeshiko is able to order a little something extra, too. Credit cards are not accepted here, so visitors should be mindful of this and bring cash (which is never a problem for Nadeshiko and her friends).

  • With lunch done, and shopping taken care of, Nadeshiko disembarks from Fujikawa Station and sets off for her campsite at Nodayama Health Green Space Park. Fujikawa Station would be a station one would pass by if they were headed for Hamamatsu, but Nadeshiko’s destination is a bit closer this time around. The station opened in 1889 as Iwabuchi, but was renamed in 1970, and today, it averages around 1500 passengers daily.

  • The underpass that Nadeshiko uses is about four hundred metres west of Fujikawa Station and are known as “subways” in the United Kingdom and Hong Kong. This creates a bit of confusion for folks from North America. In Hong Kong, whenever I saw such signs during my earliest visits, I imagined they were for the MTR, which is the underground rail mass transit system: upon coming down the steps to these subways, I was always confused that there was no entrance to the MTR. Underpasses are a bit rarer in my neck of the woods, but I am glad that the nearby park uses these to make it easier to get here without crossing a busy road.

  • Nadeshiko soon ascends up a switchback that offers a stunning view of Fujikawa below. Because there’s only one way to ascend from Fujikawa Station to Nodayama Health Green Space Park, following the most optimal route will allow one to retrace Nadeshiko’s route with perfect accuracy, allowing one to gaze upon the same scenery that Nadeshiko gazes upon. This walk is no joke, being 5.5 kilometres in length and seeing an elevation gain of around 477 metres. On its own, this would be a decent entry-level hike, but considering Nadeshiko is carrying a full complement of camping gear totally between 20-30 pounds, it speaks to her incredible endurance and stamina that she’s able to make it up here and continue to sing without becoming short of breath at any point.

  • In both the anime frame and the real-world equivalent, Mount Fuji can be seen behind the solar array at the intersection. From here on out, the path isn’t provided with Google Street View: Nadeshiko makes her way onto a trail to finish the climb, and it’s about 2.8 kilometres up to the campsite from here. As the mole digs, it’s only 1.8 kilometres up, but the switchbacks, intended to lessen the slope, adds distance. Drivers need to take an alternate route to get up to Nodayama Health Green Space Park, accessible north of the E1 Expressway, although with a vehicle, the elevation gain wouldn’t be noticeable at all.

  • This pair of tunnels proved to be the trickiest spots to find for this Yuru Camp△ 2 location hunt: I initially thought they were located on a mountain pass on the edge of a cliff, but another frame later revealed that the tunnels were actually located at the base of the mountain. With this in mind, I decided to search for bridges alongside the Haya River, and ended up at the Yamanashi Hayakawa Hydroelectric Station. This is actually as far as Google Street View goes, but unlike the closed main tunnel Rin finds, the Street View imagery shows the tunnel is open, with the secondary tunnel being closed instead.

  • Yuru Camp△ 2 presents Rin as having a very abbreviated drive from the tunnels back down to Amehata, which is thirty kilometres (forty minutes) away. Thanks to Yuru Camp△ 2 providing a hint here, I was able to pin down the last set of locations for this post, which is located on the shores of Lake Amehata. It does strike me that the locations Rin visits on her latest trip are quite out of the way, and for folks without their own scooters or cars, reproducing this trip could prove to be more challenging: as far as I can tell, there are no public transit options into this part of the mountains.

  • The consequence of this is that the Amehata area is remarkably calming, a perfect visual representation of Rin’s own personality. Like Rin, I greatly enjoy visiting obscure, relatively out-of-the-way places that few would visit: last year, I drove out to a remote grain elevator and abandoned mining town in the prairies for fun, knowing that the mountains would be busy. In Yuru Camp△ 2, Rin marvels at the calm beauty that is Lake Amehata here: she’s got clear skies and turquiose lake waters, whereas in the Google Street View equivalent of the same spot, the lake’s got a mirror-like surface instead.

  • The suspension bridge over the Amehata River is about 120 metres in length, and according to the satellite images, leads into a dense forest. One cannot fault Rin for wanting to turn back, since the trail does look a bit tricky. Rin’s reaction to the swaying span of the suspension bridge was an endearing one, and I’ve always found the best way to cross them without being overwhelmed by the motion is to plant one’s feet firmly before taking the next step.

  • This is Villa Amehata, the onsen that Rin ends up stopping at while in Amehata, an older mountain inn with friendly staff and a cozy atmosphere, but more limited amenities. Like Naradanosato, the location means that the cost of admissions is reduced compare to facilities in more well-travelled areas: getting into the onsen at Villa Amehata is 550 Yen for adults, and the baths are open from 1100 to 2000 on weekends. This time around, Rin’s not shown enjoying her soak in the waters, which are sulfur-rich and of a neutral pH.

  • Instead, Rin is shown hanging out in the common area’s massage chairs: like the real-world equivalent, Yuru Camp△ 2 faithfully portrays the busy interior of this space, bringing it to life, right down to the cat who’s fond of staring at patrons inside the room from outside. With Villa Amehata covered off, I believe I’ve checked off all of the more notable Google Street View-accessible spots for Yuru Camp△ 2‘s second third. I will be returning once the second season’s come to a close to deal with the final third’s locations, and in the meantime, I hope readers do enjoy this post, which kicks off the month of March.

The sheer variety of places that Yuru Camp△ 2‘s covered between its fourth and eighth episodes is impressive: from hot springs and tea shops, to train stations and remote mountain roads, Yuru Camp△ 2‘s given off the distinct vibes of a food and travel show – the gentle vibes and incredibly faithful portrayal of real world locations gives Yuru Camp△ 2 a feel not unlike that of Rick Steves’ Europe and Man v. Food, with a hint of Great Continental Railway Journeys and You Gotta Eat Here!. The end result is an anime that, on top of conveying an incredibly cathartic and meaningful thematic piece, also doubles as a light travel show that highlights some of the best that Yamanashi and Shizuoka have to offer. The pacing in Yuru Camp△ 2 suggest that while some truly spectacular locations can be visited if one had a vehicle, there’s still an impressive range of destinations that can be reached on foot and via public transit – the visitor without a moped or car will therefore still be able to enjoy the okonomiyaki that Nadeshiko tries, and enjoy an ice cream following a blissful soak in the onsen near Lake Yamanaka, while folks with access to a vehicle will really be able to drive right into the narrow switchbacks of the Minami Alps to check out Hayakawa. As Sakura so elegantly puts it, travel shows do often inspire people to check out local attractions, and Yuru Camp△ 2 has done a fantastic job of showing off some of the best places in the area, to the point of inspiring readers to visit for themselves. With two thirds of the Yuru Camp△ 2 in the books, I am looking forwards to one final location hunt as the series gears up for its big finish.

The Real Life Hawaii of Japan and Beach Volleyball on the Shores of Okinawa: An Oculus-Powered Armchair Journey of Harukana Receive

“It takes a lot of hard work and dedication just like any pro sport. Especially for beach volleyball, you don’t have to be tall or as fast as other sports. You just have to have the skills.” –Misty May

We’re now deep into the winter, and this is the most miserable time of year in my area for weather – where I am, February has an average daily temperature of -6ºC, and is the second cloudiest month of the year. Hence, the goal of this post is to provide a bit of light in response to those dreary-looking statistics, which sees a return to Harukana Receive – when Haruka Oozora transfers to the island of Okinawa from Tokyo, she reunites with her cousin, Kanata, and begins to develop an interest in beach volleyball. On the beautiful white sands beaches and blue skies of Okinawa, Haruka and Kanata hone their skills with the sights on the National Tournament. Harukana Receive originally aired during the summer of 2018, and during its run, highlighted a variety of locations in Okinawa: this southern island is famously known as the Hawaii of Japan thanks to its warm, tropical climate, extensive beaches and unique cuisine. Numerous anime, ranging from Azumanga Daioh to Non Non BiyoriAno Natsu de Matteru and even Koisuru Asteroid, have visited Okinawa, capitalising on the island’s beautiful sights as the backdrop for vacationing – white sands, turquoise waters and palm trees are all quintessential aspects of what one would imagine a vacation to be like, after all. With a population of 1.5 million, Okinawa officially became a part of Japan in 1879, and in World War Two, saw some of the fiercest fighting as the American forces invaded during the Battle of Okinawa, resulting in casualties to a third of the island’s population. Today, the island retains its distinct culture and cuisine: common places to visit include Shuri Castle and the numerous beaches the line the island’s coasts. Karate also has its origins in Okinawa: I practise Gōjū-ryū (the hard soft style), which was developed from the Naha-te style, named for its origins in the city of Naha and characterised by the fact we chamber our off hand tight to the armpit (in contrast with martial art styles that chamber the off hand by the hip). However, because Haruka has moved to Okinawa, more touristy aspects of the island have been set aside, as focus is on Haruka and Kanata’s experiences around beach volleyball.

  • I break tradition with an anime and real life pairing that isn’t 1:1 with one another in order to discuss how I originally determined where the early events of Harukana Receive were set: on Gushikawa Beach in Uruma. I appreciate Haruka’s best assets as much as the next person, but what is useful about the image above is the presence of a red tower and what appears to be a cable-stayed bridge in the left-hand side of the image. While Harukana Receive initially does not give up its location easily, with this red tower as a landmark, I have a starting point to go from. I subsequently found that this belonged to the Kaichu Doro Bridge, which is visible from the beach Haruka and Kanata train on. This bridge is a 4.7 kilometre long causeway that links several smaller islands with its span. Originally constructed in 1972 as a two-lane road, it was expanded in 1999 to accommodate four lanes of traffic.

  • Gushikawa Beach, being located a ways away from more populated and well-travelled areas, is counted as being a peaceful, secluded beach. The trade-off for the lack of crowds is that there aren’t any amenities on the beach, and the beach is not quite as picturesque as it appears in Harukana Receive during low tide: seaweed and algae line the shore, making it a bit unpleasant to swim in. Whereas the beach in Harukana Receive is pristine, resembling the white-sands beaches and turquoise waters of Cancún, in reality, the beach could prove a little disappointing if one is looking to take a dip in the warm waters of Okinawa here.

  • Initially, even knowing which side of Okinawa Gushikawa Beach was on did not prove to be too helpful: there’s still a bit of shore to search, even with the power of Google Maps’ satellite view. However, as it turns out, there was one more landmark I could use: a chimney in the background when Narumi is getting ready to practise. This chimney is belongs to Gushikawa Thermal Power Station, and incidentally, water discharge from the plant elevates water temperatures even further, which explains the algal growth. Fortunately, for Haruka and Kanata, their beach remains pristine and unspoiled. This was, at least, the process I took – it is by no means a proprietary technique, although I will note that a few weeks after I wrote my post, the same methodology appeared, verbatim, in another location hunt post done elsewhere.

  • Here is about as close as I can to the ramp leading down from the side of the road to Gushikawa Beach. I have noticed that folks who do location hunts are often secretive about the locations they find: beyond images comparing anime with real life, they do not offer addresses or links to Google Maps. This is especially true for Japanese bloggers who write location hunts, and I get why this is the case – if locations were given away, then there’s always the chance that hordes of eager visitors might show up at a spot, and depending on where said spot is, create a hassle for the residents. With this being said, I write for English-language speakers: the goal of these posts are to allow readers to recreate the experience in Google Street View or help them to organise a trip to these locations for themselves.

  • Haikyo explorers operate along a similar credos: the location of an abandoned building or structure are usually not disclosed to prevent vandals from desecrating the site. In anime location hunts, however, the locations I feature are generally open to the public and easy to access (such as attractions and roads). As for locations like Kanata’s house, anime studios tend to place them in familiar areas, but use fictional structures. There is, simply put, a vacant field where Kanata’s house should be, and so, there is no chance of people flocking to the real world location to cause any grief for residents.

  • After Haruka becomes fired up about beach volleyball following their encounter with Ayase and Narumi, the pair walk back home along the seawall. Because Gushikawa Beach and its surroundings are comparatively out-of-the-way, one might need to rent a car to get around more easily. Fortunately, there is a few places for renting vehicles close to the airport, so folks really looking to explore Okinawa beyond the tourist spots might benefit from having a vehicle. Folks from North America may struggle with driving on the left hand side of the road, however: it takes around two weeks to get used to the switch.

  • Haruka, Kanata, Emily and Claire attend Maehara High School (Uruma High in Harukana Receive), located about fifteen minutes away from Gushikawa Beach on foot. Finding this location was a simple exercise: given that I had Gushikawa Beach as a starting point, I simply did a linear search for all schools within walking distance (under an hour) of the beach. Aside from minor differences in Maehara High Shcool’s façade and colours, it is clear that we have a match. A fifteen minute walk to school isn’t too bad – for me, it would’ve been a twenty-minute walk to my elementary school, and thirty five minutes to reach my high school on foot. While this doesn’t seem too bad, the thought of carrying twenty pounds of textbooks in -20ºC weather that distance would be nightmarish, and hence, taking the bus had always been my way of getting to school.

  • To purchase new bikinis as their team uniform, Haruka and Kanata visit the Aeon Mall Okinawa Rycom, the single largest shopping centre in Okinawa. This mall is very friendly for English-speakers, mirroring how in Okinawa in the aftermath of World War Two, the American military was stationed here. To accommodate them, the locals learnt English, and despite being reluctant to use it, there are plenty of English signs. On top of this, major hotels, shops and restaurants, especially those near a military installation, will be English-friendly, and signs around the island are also written in English, as well.

  • In front of the Aeon Mall Okinawa Rycom, are shisa, an Okinawan cultural artifact derived from Chinese guardian lions (石獅, pinyin shí shī, literally “rock lion”). These particular shisa were crafted by ceramists from Yomitan. Much as in Chinese culture, shisa are placed in pairs – some folklore suggests that one statue sports an open mouth to ward off evil spirits, while the other has a closed mouth to keep in benevolent spirits, whereas in other variations, the statue with the closed mouth is keeping out evil spirits, and the open-mouthed statue is inviting in benevolent spirits. Shisa are ubiquitous in Okinawa, and here, aspects of Okinawan architecture can be seen: distinct red-tiled roofs and stone walls of dwellings in Okinawa are a result of constructing buildings to resist typhoons.

  • With four floors, over two hundred shops and restaurants, Aeon Mall Okinawa Rycom also features a movie theatre and a small aquarium, home to a thousand tropical fishes. Foreign visitors report having no trouble with navigation, as the mall possesses English signage. Both Japanese and American brands can be found here at Aeon Mall Okinawa Rycom, which opened in 2015 and is built on the site of the former Ryukyu Command base’s golf course that occupied the site previously. Some shops will offer a ten percent discount to visitors with a foreign passport. The mall is open all days of the year, and most shops open from 1000 to 2200.

  • To get to Aeon Mall Okinawa Rycom, one can always drive there: the mall is located at the intersections of routes 85 and 330. For folks like Haruka, Kanata, Claire and Emily, mass transit options exist, as well: there are a variety of buses that stop here. Folks from Naha can board buses at Naha Terminal, which is about an hour’s journey from the mall. Buses 21 and 92 stop directly outside the mall, whereas the 23, 27, 31, 77, 80, 90, and 110 buses stop at Higairibaru, which is located about five minutes away on foot from the nearby stations.

  • While Harukana Receive might be an anime with beach volleyball at its focus, its locations are vividly rendered, faithful to their real-world counterparts. No matter how often I do these location hunts, there’s always something novel to discover (and share) with readers. Here, I will note that it was starting with Yuru Camp△‘s location hunts that I used images sourced from Google Street View: prior to that, friends from my dōjō, interested in sharing their travels in an incognito fashion, sent their photos to me for location hunts. These posts still manage to capture the spirit of the anime, but because traditional cameras didn’t have latitude and longitude data, I wasn’t quite able to provide links to the corresponding spots. While using Google Maps means not being able to get the same precise angle, it does offers me the ability to share locations more easily with readers.

  • Haruka and Kanata compete at Nishihara Kira Kira Beach, located in Nishihara Marine Park. With a beach 550 metres in length, this beach has full access to amenities such as showers, changing rooms and equipment rental shops, as well as a concession stand. Unlike Gushikawa Beach, the waters here are much clearer and conducive towards swimming – the combination of its location (about half an hour from Naha Airport) and amenities means that Nishihara Kira Kira Beach is a ways more crowded than the more private beach that Haruka and Kanata train at.

  • Visitors to Nishihara Marine Park (free admissions!) are not limited to just beach activities like building sand castles or chucking a Frisbee around: swimming and water-skiiing are also an option. The site is indeed set up for beach volleyball, as well – nets are visible in the Google Street View image, and folks can rent courts for 540 Yen per hour if they wish to play beach volleyball as Kanata and Haruka do. From the air, the beach is divided into two sides: one is dedicated for marine sports and the like, while the other is for beach-goers.

  • Finding Nishihara Marine Park was a simple exercise because the location name was given in the anime. Coupled with the fact that Google Street View extends from the pavilion entrance right down to the beach itself, I was able to trace the path that Haruka and Kanata walk down on their first match against Ai and Mai: the VR experience means that I cannot feel the tropical sun beating down on me, or here the crowd noises as a beach volleyball match is in session, but I am now able to wander the area for myself with unprecedented freedom far surpassing what photographs alone can do.

  • Another part of the island can be seen across the harbour. In my more recent posts, I remarked that camera properties mean that the Google Street View photographs I use have a larger field-of-view, resulting in a more zoomed-out image. The end result is that Street View makes landmarks and objects feel more distant, whereas in the anime itself (and real life), things comparatively feel closer. This is one of the disadvantages about using something like Google Street View for location hunts, since there will inevitably be some variance between the spot from the anime, and its real-world equivalent.

  • While the Nishihara Marine Park building is much quieter on my virtual tour of the area, it is brimming with activity on the day of Haruka and Kanata’s tournaments. The major competitions both happen here: in their first attempt, they manage to best Ai and Mai before being knocked out by a more experienced team, while towards the season’s end, Haruka and Kanata inevitably face off against their friends, Claire and Emily. This final match spanned two-and-a-half episodes, corresponding to a full volume of the manga. After Harukana Receive‘s airing, the English-translated mangas became available for purchase at my local bookstores, and at the time of writing, I have five of the six available volumes.

  • Given that the manga’s tenth volume features Haruka on the cover, and sees her squaring off against Narumi and Ayase with Kanata at the national level, I imagine that this is going to be the finale. With this in mind, a second season of Harukana Receive would not be unwelcome: the anime had grown on me very quickly after I began watching it, with its simple but sincere and honest messages about friendship, competition and sportsmanship. Unfortunately, even a full two years after its airing, an official animation guidebook was never released. I’m particularly fond of these guidebooks because they show concept art and storyboards, as well as the cast and director’s commentary.

  • As the tournament draws to a close, the sun sets over Okinawa, casting the land in shadows and the skies in vivid hues of red, orange and yellow. The last light of day does not obscure the Nishihara Marine Park pavilion, whose distinct round structure and railings are still visible here. My image is framed a little lower: in the anime, the sign in front of the building (on the lower left of the Google Street View image) can just barely be seen.

  • While Haruka and Kanata’s performance is not competition-ready yet, as the pair are still working on adjusting to one another as partners, Haruka indicates that this experience was fantastic: she’s all sparkles after the competition. The single biggest joy in Harukana Receive was found in Haruka, who consistently brought optimism, positivity and energy into the series. Kanata herself struggles with her short stature and the loss of her parents, and this originally led her to quit beach volleyball. However, with Haruka, Kanata begins to rediscover her old love of the sport and begins to move forwards, spurred on by Haruka.

  • The building immediately behind Emily and Claire is home to a few businesses that sell beach toys and equipment, and adjacent to this shop, are a pair of cafés, Moon Terrance Café and Café Solesta. I imagine that for visitors who’ve spent an entire day playing beach volleyball or watching a tournament, these would be great places to wind down: Café Solesta offers several delicious-looking rice bowls on top of coffees and teas, while Moon Terrance sells salads, pastas and desserts with their coffees and teas. While Haruka, Kanata, Emily and Claire don’t swing by, I imagine that for visitors, having a late lunch here could always be an option.

  • Behind the group, the corner of Dolphin Park is visible. It is named for the Dolphin-themed playground, but also features plenty of green space. This site also has bathrooms available, which is especially good if one intends to spend a morning or afternoon with children. The actual playground is not visible from this image, but instead, is located a hundred metres northeast of this spot. The park itself is not dog-friendly, and on that token, Nishihara Marine Park also prohibits pets.

  • The last bit of the Nishihara Marine World pavilion I will showcase is the interior: Google Street View even allows viewers to see what it looks like from the inside. In the corresponding moment in Harukana Receive, Akari looks on at the group, seemingly too anxious to approach them and strike up a conversation. Akari was a bit of a mystery throughout the first parts of Harukana Receive, and I imagined her to be a coach of sorts. However, as it turns out, she was a child actress in a well-known drink commercial (“waku waku shequasar!”) and wanted to join the beach volleyball club to become more idol-like, but eventually takes on a managerial role and comes greatly treasure her friendship with everyone.

  • This still has Akari standing in front of the seawall by Gushikawa Beach. Perspective means the seawall looks much larger in the anime than it does in the equivalent spot in Street View. Looking back, since it has been a shade more than two years since Harukana Receive‘s airing, I imagine that intrepid folks could have already visited Okinawa and tread on the same beaches that Haruka, Kanata, Emily and Claire train on: I had ascertained the locations in this anime while watching it back during the summer of ’18, but one thing led to another, and I never found the time to compile a locations hunt post. This post thus comes to the party two years too late, but I’d figure it would be easier to get it done now, while I’ve got that location hunt momentum going from Koisuru Asteroid and Yuru Camp△.

  • For the New Year, the Beach Volleyball Club visits Futenma Shrine, which sees upwards of a hundred thousand visitors on New Year’s Day. The shrine itself dates back to the Ryukyu era and is estimated to have been built in 1450. Besides being a popular spot for New Year’s, Futenma Shrine is also home to a 280 metre long limestone cave system. Cave tours are run by Futenma’s miko (shrine maidens) and last about half an hour. The first tour begins at 1000, and tours end at 1700. The caves are said to be especially beautiful on sunny days, when sunlight streams into the cave from openings in the ground above, and folks interested in visiting must register to do so.

  • Besides the caves, Futenma also offers ema, wooden plaques visitors write wishes onto. It is here that Akari’s got a surprise for her friends, and despite having drawn bad luck earlier, she’s still in fine spirits: it turns out that bought enough ema for everyone (they’re 300 Yen each). However, during the shrine visit, Kanata catches wind that Ayase and Narumi are preparing to fly out. Not wanting to miss this, Claire asks her mother, Marissa, for some support: moments later, she arrives in a hummer, rearing to take Claire and her friends to the airport to catch up with Ayase and Narumi.

  • Here is a comparison of Harukana Receive‘s portrayal of the gate to Futenma Shrine, with its tori gate. The real world path leading up to the shrine is a bit more ornate, whereas Harukana Receive uses a simpler stone tiling for the floor. However, beyond this minor difference, the commonalities between Harukana Receive‘s portrayal of the real Futenma Shrine are apparent. Futenma Shrine is located sixteen kilometers north of the heart of Naha, near Camp Foster and Camp Buckner.

  • Marissa’s driving takes the girls through the heart of Naha, but despite her efforts, they get caught in a traffic jam. An Eneos Gas Station (“Emcos” in Harukana Receive) can be seen on the right hand side of both images. Initially, finding this spot was tricky, but I ended up working out where it was based on which bridge Kanata sprints across: she is seen running alongside Prefectural Road 221 en route to the airport. In my original post for the eighth episode, I highlighted the methodology for how I came to locate everything. Naha Airport is the constant here, and backtracking from the airport, I ended up using Google Maps’ 3D photogrammetry to check bridges over the Kokuba River to find a match. Once I had the bridge, working backwards allowed me to find the gas station.

  • As far as I can tell, the bridge is not named, but the railings and the fact that another bridge can be seen to the east means I’ve found my mark. The methodology I’d utilised back in ’18 also allowed me to quickly plot out how long the run for each of Kanata, Haruka, Claire, Emily and Akari would’ve been. From the Enos Gas Station to the entrance at Naha airport is a 3.9 kilometre distance, and since the girls are in reasonable shape, it is not difficult to imagine that they could run the distance in under half an hour – as I noted in the original post after episode eight’s airing, 8 km/h is the average jogging speed, and 13 km/h is the average running speed, so covering this distance within the span of 20 minutes or so to reach Narumi and Ayase is not particularly remarkable or implausible.

  • I’ll wrap this post up with a screenshot of the overhead rail line belonging to Yui Rail, which leads to Naha Airport: Emily and Claire can be seen running underneath here. The parkade seen in the background of the real-world location belongs to Toyota Rent-a-Car, and there’s a Nissan adjacent: some visitors looking to do their own tour of Okinawa with a Harukana Receive flair to it might find that driving could be easier than mass transit, on account of how spread out the different locations are. With this in mind, it’s great to finally have my latest location hunt post come to an end, During my original run through Harukana Receive, I’d already located the central locations, but never got around to consolidating everything into a single post for readers until now. It did appear that the locations I found were compiled by another site some time later (they’re dated after my episodic posts) without attribution, but this is completely fine – Google Maps is available to all users, and it’s not as though anime locations should be regarded with the same secrecy as something like launch codes!

Rather than taking viewers to popular destinations, Harukana Receive takes viewers to places that locals know about; as with slice-of-life anime that make extensive use of real world locations, Harukana Receive‘s faithful reproduction of Okinawa serves an important purpose in the anime, namely, to accentuate that the path Haruka and Kanata take towards reaching the National Tournament is framed in reality. Having Kanata and Kanata compete at real venues gives credence to the idea that, with the right mindset and training, promises can be renewed, and dreams can be pursued with one’s fullest efforts. With this in mind, location hunting for Harukana Receive was not a particularly easy task – while the island’s relatively small size and the presence of 3D photogrammetry data makes it straightforwards to find all of the locations without difficulty, I concede that Harukana Receive‘s chosen activity made it challenging to focus on the background and locations: I’d originally made the decision to watch and write about this series entirely on the basis that Haruka had been an interesting character, and I had been curious to see her journey throughout the series. The fact that she has a stunning figure certainly helped, and by the time she and Kanata participate in a smaller tournament, Harukana Receive had definitely made a strong showing with its portrayal of beach volleyball. However, as with my previous location hunts, a desire to push my Oculus Quest further led me to return to the shores of Okinawa. This time, with a renewed determination to find the locations, I believe I have succeeded in laying the groundwork for folks who wish to see for themselves what locations Haruka and Kanata make use of as a part of their journey to fulfil a longstanding promise and reach the National Tournament.