The Infinite Zenith

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Tag Archives: Anime Location Hunts

The Real Life New Year’s in Minobu, Camping Grounds of Rin and Nadeshiko’s Shizuoka Excursion: An Oculus-Powered Armchair Journey of Yuru Camp△ 2, Part I

“But, rest assured, this will be the fourth time we have written one, and we have become exceedingly efficient at it.” –The Architect, The Matrix Reloaded

With Yuru Camp△ 2 now in full swing, and in the interest of not accumulating a large number of anime locations to sift through, I’ve decided to try something a little different this season. Previously, with Houkago Teibou Nisshi and Koisuru Asteroid, I had demonstrated that the Oculus Quest has been an immensely powerful tool for doing anime location hunts while I’m still in my pajamas, before my first cup of Earl Grey. Yuru Camp△ 2 continues to prove the power of VR-powered location hunting. Right out of the gates, this second season takes viewers to the Shizuoka prefecture, as Rin longs to camp by the ocean for a change of scenery. Her journey takes her to Ryukyokayo Koen Auto Camping Ground, and when an unexpected snowstorm prevents Rin from returning home to Yamanashi, she visits Nagisaen Camping Ground in Hamamatsu, near where Nadeshiko lives. By a serendipitous turn of events, Nadeshiko had been, in fact, set to visit family in Hamamatsu, and upon learning that Rin’s here, she visits a day earlier, treating Rin to some of the finest eel in the area before taking her to visit her grandmother and childhood friend, Ayano. The aesthetic of Yuru Camp△ 2 is distinct from that of its predecessor, but the lessons remain strikingly familiar, and Rin’s adventures see her visit attractions that only locals know of, including Kimikura Teahouse near Kakegawa and Shizuka Confectionery in Kanzanjicho. Concurrently with Rin’s adventures, Chiaki and Aoi visit Mount Minobu in order to check out the first sunrise of the year. Par the course with my previous location hunt posts, everything in this post was done using the Oculus Quest and Wander, which makes extensive use of the Google Maps API to retrieve Street View data and project it into a 360° environment, where the immersion makes it easy to really feel as though one were wandering the same places Rin, Nadeshiko and the others pass through. Having previously used the Oculus Quest for location hunting, I’ve found this tool to be remarkably efficient for making posts like these; unlike the location hunt for Koisuru Asteroid, where I’d spent upwards of five hours tracking down everything, this time around, locating the places Rin and Nadeshiko visit in Shizuoka (and Mount Minobu for Chiaki, Aoi, Akari and Minami) only required an hour of searching inside the Oculus Quest.

  • After my Koisuru Asteroid location hunt, I feel like I’m on a streak for location hunting, and so, I’ve opted to write this post sooner so that the locations are still fresh in my mind. This time around, I begin with a rather more ordinary location closer to the girls’ home: Minobu Post Office (2483-37 Umedaira), which is where Nadeshiko takes up a part-time job delivering letters to fund her desire to purchase some serious camping gear. This post office is located across the river from where the girls had stopped after their visit to Caribou during the first season. After the first episode aired, I swiftly found this location by doing a brief search for every post office in the Minobu area that was located near a river: my strategy this season is to locate spots as episodes air, mention them in the episodic post and then do a location hunt post afterwards, consolidating the spots under a post.

  • I appreciate that the post title for these location hunt posts sound very obtuse, but it’s done deliberately to increase search engine visibility – these posts do take a bit of effort, and so, I would like more folks to have a chance to check them out. Back in Yuru Camp△ 2, Rin begins her trip for Shizuoka and travels down Route 10 by early morning, crossing a bridge just north of Nambu while heading south. One of the pluses about the Yamanashi area is that the valley is relatively narrow, and there are fewer routes one can take going north-south. This makes it easy to trace the routes that Rin and the others take to their destinations: since Rin was heading into town here, I worked backwards and travelled north from Nambu to find this spot, located around six hundred metres north of the starting landmark.

  • After arriving in Nambu, Rin runs into Nadeshiko near New Yamazaki Daily, a convenience store at the heart of Nambu: Nadeshiko moved to Nambu from Hamamatsu at the start of term (roughly in September or October), and while she’s spent some time in the area, Yuru Camp△ has her spending a great deal of time in campsites. Heya Camp△ remedies this by having Chiaki and Aoi bring Nadeshiko to local attractions. I originally found this spot by hunting down Nambu Bridge East, which a sign had been pointing to. However, I think this post would be quite unexciting if I stayed in Yamanashi the entire time.

  • So, it’s time to kick things upstairs, and travel some 79 kilometres south south east to Cape Omaezaki, where Rin takes in the beautiful ocean sights. This is the southernmost point in Shizuoka, and there’s a lighthouse here (visible in this image): a lighthouse has existed here since 1635, although it wasn’t until the Meiji Restoration that the modern structures were built. The parking lot Rin makes use of is visible in this scene, as is the lighthouse itself: now a tourist attraction open to the public, the lighthouse had sustained damage during the Second World War, and in 1949, was re-opened with an upgraded Fresnel lens after undergoing repairs.

  • After satisfying her desire to enjoy the ocean (and taking a bunch of photos in the process), Rin travels west along Sun Road to her next destination, a tea shop. This seaside path is indeed beautiful: while Rin’s westbound path takes her away from the ocean, heading eastbound gives drivers an even nicer view of the ocean. The scenery here brings to mind gentler sections of Taiwan’s Hualien-Taitung Coastal Highway (Provincial Highway 11) on the country’s eastern coast. Overlooking the Pacific, Highway 11 passes through some of Taiwan’s best sights, running along narrow cliffs overlooking the ocean’s edge below, but other portions of the highway just north of Taitung are easier to negotiate, presenting a gentle ride along the coast to drivers.

  • After Cape Omaezaki, Rin heads for Kimikura Teahouse. This is a drive of around 30 kilometres, taking an estimated 40 or so minutes to complete. The end result is well worth it: despite being located a bit out of the way, the store sells a variety of teas (senchahojicha and matcha), along with tea sets and other items. Rin runs into a familiar face here: the hiker she’d encountered during the first season happens to work here. After Rin buys tea for her mother, the lady working her suggests that Rin check out the second floor, which is home to a tranquil teahouse that serves a range of teas and Japanese sweets, as well as ochazuke (a simple but tasty rice bowl with savoury ingredients steeped in tea). At the time of writing, it appears that a honey-strawberry parfait is their seasonal special. Kimikura’s tea shop is typically open from 1000 to 1900, and the teahouse itself opens from 1030 to 1800.

  • While Rin worries that the teahouse’s relaxing atmosphere may prevent her from leaving, the prospect of doggos sees her set off for her main event in Iwate: Mitsuke Tenjin Shrine, home of Shippeitarou III. Here, I’ve shown the position of the gate leading to the shrine, which is a 21 kilometre drive from Kimikura Teahouse (assuming Rin takes the routes without tolls, this is a 20 minute journey). Mitsuke Tenjin Shrine is open from 0830 to 1700, and as Yuru Camp△ presents, is home to the spirit of a dog that vanquishes a monkey spirit to keep the nearby village safe. The shrine is also visited by folks praying for academic success.

  • Rin’s final destination for the day is Ryuyokaiyo Koen Auto Camping Ground. Located on the eastern branks of the Tenryū river (Japan’s ninth longest), Ryuyokaiyo Koen offers a variety of camping options for visitors, ranging from RVs and cottages to sites for tents. The “free sites” that Rin camps at doesn’t mean “free of charge”, but rather, refers to an open site that allows a camper to set up their tent wherever they wish on the grounds. Renting a spot here overnight costs 3140 Yen, but since Rin is camping here on a weekday, a 900 Yen discount lowers her price to 2240 Yen.

  • While Ryuyokaiyo Koen is doubtlessly a scenic sight, and the wind farms are visible, much of the path that Rin takes while exploring the coast isn’t covered by Google Street View. As such, I’ve briefly returned the party to Minobu: this is Kaisando (常護堂), a Bhuddist Temple perched on the summit of Mount Minobu. It is here that Chiaki, Aoi, Akari and Minami pray for happiness and success in the New Year ahead of the first sunrise of the year. These are the stairs that everyone climbs en route to the temple itself, replicated faithfully to their real world counterparts.

  • At the top of the steps is the temple proper. Folks looking to visit Kaisando can do so by boarding a tram at Minobu Ropeway. Ascending to a height of 763 metres during its 1665 metre long, 7-minute trip, it would cost Chikai, Aoi and Minami 1500 Yen each for a round trip ticket (Akari’s ticket costs 750 Yen). After reaching the top station, it’s a relatively short walk to Kaisando, and behind the temple is an observation deck overlooking the valley below, perfect for enjoying the first sunrise of the year.

  • With the Minobu sunrise behind us, the next destination is Hamamatsu itself as Rin heads here ahead of Nadeshiko’s arrival. She travels down Route 301, which is adjacent to both the Tōkaidō Main Line and the Tōkaidō Shinkansen; the latter is actually visible in both Yuru Camp△ and the real-world counterpart. The Tōkaidō Shinkansen bullet train began operating in 1964 and could reach speeds of up to 285 km/h, connecting Tokyo to Osaka. The original trains had a maximum speeds of 210 km/h, but upgrades to the technology allows the trains to operate at their current speeds.

  • Because Hamamatsu has 3D buildings, I was able to utilise the Shinkansen’s placement, coupled with rudimentary of geographical features in the area, to locate most of the spots that Rin visits. Knowing that Rin’s path followed the Tōkaidō Shinkansen line, I simply followed this in Google Maps’ 3D mode until I found an underpass matching the one Rin passed by, then switched over to the Oculus Quest, allowing me to find the bridge Rin crosses en route to her next destination, Nagisaen Camping Ground.

  • Nagisaen Camping Ground is located on an artificial island on the southern edge of Lake Hamana. Rin is charged 420 to make use of a free site (again, free as in “FFA”, not “free of charge”), although the website for Nagisaen now gives the price as being 410 Yen. I imagine that the location on an artificial island means that Nagisaen is a veritable oasis amongst the urban bustle of Hamamatsu (a city of around 800 thousand people). There’s an aquarium on this island, as well, but given Rin’s funds remaining, she chooses not to visit (320 Yen per adult), instead, heading off to see the ocean. Details of the main building are faithfully replicated, right down to the placement of vending machines.

  • Kaishunro Hotel is located on the island Rin had entered earlier, being adjacent to Bentenjima Seaside Park. From this site, Bentenjima Red Gate can be easily seen: after Rin enjoys a relaxing onsen soak here for 800 Yen, she comes upon a crowd gathered to see the sunset. Visitors report that the onsen‘s waters are very pleasant, and while the hotel offers both indoor and open air baths, the latter are a mixed area, so one must bring a swimsuit to use it. Rin, on the other hand, is content to enjoy the onsen in a traditional manner through the indoor baths. After returning to her campsite, Rin begins looking at buying a little something for Nadeshiko.

  • The next morning, Rin has the instant noodles Nadeshiko had given her (they did come in handy, after all!) before setting off for Kanzanji. Upon her arrival, she’s greeted by the sight of streets full of restaurants serving unagi (eel), and in a moment reminiscent of the 1945 film The Lost Weekend, struggles with the idea that she doesn’t have enough funds to try the area’s eel out. However, she does get what she came for: here at Shizuka Confectionary, the strawberry daifuku are indeed something the shop is famous for, but should these sell out, it is fortunate that the shop’s other products are excellent, too.

  • While Rin is panicking about the crowds of shoppers equally as excited as she is about the strawberry daifuku, Nadeshiko swings by Fujita, a confectionary store near Kiga Station – this store has been around for just a shade over half a century and is very well-known in the area. Nadeshiko picks up custard cream filled imagawayaki (今川焼き), a pancake-like dessert that originated from the Edo-period. Besides a cream filling, this shop also offers imagawayaki with anko (red bean) paste. Fujita’s imagawayaki is said to be particularly delicious, being flavourful without overwhelming the palette and going for 120 Yen apiece (hence Nadeshiko’s ordering two!). Visitors should keep in mind that the shop is closed between June and September.

  • Hamanako-Sakume Station is located only twenty minutes away from Kiga Station, and it is here that Nadeshiko meets with Rin. While an otherwise unremarkable location in Yuru Camp△, the actual station is indeed home to flocks of black-headed gulls. The original station was constructed in 1938, and since 1970, the station no longer has any active staff. This station is probably one of the quietest I’ve written about, averaging around 25 passengers a day.

  • Sakume is just across the road from Hamanako-Sakume Station, and this unassuming building is home to a brilliant unagi restaurant. As Yuru Camp△ portrays, eels are prepared live in front of patrons: they are gutted, cleaned and then grilled over charcoal. The resultant eel is said to be melt-in-your mouth and has an excellent taste owing to how fresh it is: it is unsurprising that Rin finds herself in flavour heaven after taking her first bite. Yuru Camp△ appears to have changed some details slightly, having the restaurant serve different qualities of eel: in reality, Sakume offers two types, and three portion sizes for each. Further to this, the prices seen in Yuru Camp△ are a bit more conservative than they are in reality.

  • After lunch, Nadeshiko and Rin continue down the road (Route 310), past a railway crossing. The elevated freeway above is a part of the Tomei Expressway, a toll road. These small details serve to reiterate that Yuru Camp△ is very much about providing the most authentic experience possible, and with the exception of the characters’ houses, everything is rendered with a very high degree of precision, right down to the patterns on the barriers and railway signs at this crossing. Locations such as these, ordinary intersections or sections of road, are normally much trickier to find, but fortunately, this spot was located a shade under three hundred metres from Sakume, and so, proved very easy to find.

  • I’ll close off this first part with a screenshot of what the actual site of Nadeshiko’s grandmother’s house looks like compared to its anime counterpart: there’s a vacant lot here instead of a small, cozy-looking house. I found it by following Route 310 along the shores of Lake Hamana until I found this building, with its distinct x-railing guards and red roof. Because this is a vacant lot, there are no residents to hassle, but folks who visit this area for real should still be respectful of folks who live in the area. With this post in the books, I will be returning to write about Yuru Camp△ again once the fourth episode airs, and in the meantime, it’s time to focus my efforts on a reflection of Left 4 Dead 2, now that I’ve finished the original campaign, as well as my thoughts on Black Mesa‘s first act.

This post is likely to be the first of several Yuru Camp△ 2 location hunts; because the series has previously indicated it would be faithful to real-world locations, it stands to reason that the remaining episodes in the series will take viewers to hitherto-unvisited locations, all of which have their own history and special features worth sharing. Location hunt posts are always fun: in the current climate, these Oculus Quest powered ones demonstrate how a little imagination and powerful hardware can confer upon folks adventures to tide them over. Under ordinary conditions, location hunt posts give readers an idea of where everything in an anime is located, allowing folks to plan out their own excursions to Japan and experience the things that are portrayed in a given anime. Whether it be my location hunt posts, or those from other bloggers and writers, I do hope that readers will find the information contained in these posts useful for anything from creating dinner conversation to drafting out plans for an actual visit. Of course, having now seen Yuru Camp△‘s presentation of specialties in Shizuoka and Hamamatsu, viewers are better prepared for their own travels should they decide to check out Nadeshiko’s hometown: for instance, since real-life visitors won’t have the equivalent of a Nadeshiko around, they would do well to carry some extra cash if they’re interested in sitting down to a delicious eel special for lunch (it’s always useful to have a little extra cash in Japan, since some of the smaller shops and restaurants do not accept credit cards). Having showcased some of the attractions Yuru Camp△ 2 takes viewers to, I will be returning periodically to explore other locations; so as long as Google Street View or Google My Business, and its associated photographs and 360° images, are available for said locations, it would be possible to immerse oneself in Yuru Camp△ from the comfort of a good chair, without digging out one’s passport, which is the next best thing to being in Japan in person.

The Earth Science Club’s Real Life Adventures in Tsukuba, Ibaraki, and Tokyo: An Oculus-Powered Armchair Journey of Koisuru Asteroid Part II

“The screen is a window through which one sees a virtual world. The challenge is to make that world look real, act real, sound real, feel real.” –Ivan Sutherland

In the first part, I took readers along on an Oculus Quest-powered tour of Kawagoe, home of Koisuru Asteroid. Here, I highlighted the sights and sounds that Mira and Ao would find in the city they called home, and from cafés, to train stations and shops, it was evident that considerable effort had been spent towards reproducing Kawagoe faithfully within Koisuru Asteroid. However, the anime isn’t just set in Kawagoe – instructor Yuki brings her students to Tsukuba in Ibaraki, a ways north of Tokyo, on a memorable summer camp that encourages and inspires each of Ao, Mira, Mai, Mikage and Mari. Tsukuba is best known for being home to the Tsukuba Science City, a technical development center hosting numerous institutes and laboratories. Tsukuba is actually smaller than Kawagoe, with only two hundred and forty-four thousand residents. The area had been a holy site since the time of the Heian Period, but by the 1960s, the Japanese government designated the area for scientific research, and a decade later, construction on the University of Tsukuba began. Besides JAXA Tsukuba Space Center, the Science Museum of Map and Survey and the Geological Museum seen in Koisuru Asteroid, Tsukuba is also home to the High-Energy Accelerator Research Organisation, Electrotechnical Laboratory and the National Institute of Materials and Chemical Research, to name a few. More recently, Tsukuba has placed a particular emphasis on increasing the area’s livability: being originally built purely for research, Tsukuba has been counted as being a very dull, austere place to live. To get to Tsukuba from Kawagoe, one can board the Tobu Railway or F-Liner at Kawagoe Station, which will lead to the Asakadai Station. A short walk is needed to transfer to the Kita-Asaka Station, and from there, one must take the Musashino Line to Minami-Nagareyama Station. Here, it’s a straight shot to Tsukuba via the Semi-Rapid Express. The total journey requires around two fours and forty minutes by train, so folks looking to do a trip from Kawagoe could be viable, if a little rushed. Of course, since Mira and the others have Yuki driving them, the ninety or so kilometre road trip becomes a much more manageable hour and a half of time. Beyond Tsukuba, Mai, Mira and Mikage also visit Tokyo on two separate occasions: Mira and Mikage do so to attend a geological exhibit, while Mai heads to Tokyo in order to try her hand at the Earth Sciences Olympiad competition. This particular journey is a straightforward one: the Tobu-Tojo Line will allow one to get from Kawagoe into the heart of Tokyo in around an hour, ready to see the same sights that Mai, Mikage and Mira take in.

  • In this second half of my Koisuru Asteroid location hunt post, I focus exclusively on locations outside of Kawagoe. As with the first half, every single location in this post can be found in Google Maps and Street View. The journey opens in Tsukuba, Ibaraki – I started out from the JAXA Tsukuba Space Centre and found the locations seen in the fourth episode’s openings by tracing possible paths to the Space Centre from Tsukuba Station. Tsukuba is around 60 kilometres east of Kawagoe as the mole digs and some 80 kilometres by road. As instructor Yuki drives the girls through Tsukuba, Tsukuba Center Building can be seen here: this mall is located close to the station itself, and the current station was opened in August 2005, having an average ridership of around 18671 passengers as of 2019.

  • Using Google Maps, I wasn’t able to get too close to the Tsukuba School of Nursing building, which is located immediately south of Tsukuba Medical Centre. However, despite not being able to replicate the angle as accurately as someone present in-person, the similarities between Koisuru Asteroid‘s rendition and the image seen in Street View should leave no doubt that these are indeed the same buildings. Finding the real-world locations of places that the Earth Science Club visited in Tsukuba was a relatively straightforward exercise, owing to how closely everything is located relative to one another.

  • Yuki passes by Tsukuba Expo Centre and its planetarium en route to their first destination. While the Expo Centre and planetarium are not shown in Koisuru Asteroid, the full-scale H-II model on Expo grounds can clearly be seen. The Tsukuba Expo Centre is a general science centre of sorts, equivalent to the Telus SPARK Science Centre in my area (home of the second Giant Walkthrough Brain performance). Unlike Telus SPARK, where the price of admissions is 26 CAD for adults, Tsukuba Expo Centre’s admissions is a much more reasonable 1000 Yen (12.30 CAD) for adults, which includes planetarium access (and folks looking to just check out the exhibition hall only need to shell out 500 Yen). Described as being more friendly for children, it makes sense that Yuki passes by the Tsukuba Expo Centre for the day’s feature presentations.

  • Mira and the others spot one of Hitachi’s Robot for Personal Intelligent Transport System (ROPITS) near the Tsukuba Bus Centre Terminal. The ROPITS is a lithium battery-powered single seater self-driving vehicle with a maximum speed of ten kilometres per hour and a suite of sensors to keep the occupant safe. These vehicles were originally designed to help seniors get around, and are used in conjunction with a tablet that allows the passenger to specify their destination. Folks uncomfortable with the self-driving features can operate the vehicle for themselves if they so wish. These futuristic-looking vehicles have actually been around since 2013.

  • Following Route 24 past the intersection takes Yuki underneath a pedestrian bridge to an intersection: a LED road sign and apartment building on the right-hand-side of the image, as well as traffic cones on the left-hand-side, can be seen in both the anime and real-world images. Mira’s distraction causes Yuki to supposedly miss her turn here; inspection of maps will find that this is, fortunately, not the case here. Yuki’s turn should be onto Higashiodori Avenue three intersections away from this spot.

  • Travelling along Higashiodori Avenue, one eventually reaches the front gates of the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST). On its vast campus is the Geological Museum that Mira and the others visit: both a corner of the AIST Measurement Standards Management Center and the obelisk can be seen in both images. The AIST Geological Museum is a 400 metre drive into the campus grounds: while Yuki has a car, making visiting fairly straightforward, there’s also a bus line from Tsukuba Station that brings visitors close to several attractions in the area, including the Geological Museum.

  • Opened in 1980, the AIST Geological Museum houses the Geological Survey of Japan’s impressive collection of specimens, and exhibits on minerals, fossils, plate tectonics, geology and geography. Admissions is free, and the museum is normally open to visitors Tuesdays through Sunday from 0930 to 1630 (except during national holidays). Groups of fifteen or larger, and classes, are usually required to book in advance, but for a smaller group like Mira’s, it’s okay to just show up. The museum’s exhibits are entirely in Japanese, so folks such as myself will struggle with reading the exhibit text.

  • Right out of the gates, Mikage is enraptured by the sight of exhibits housing rocks and minerals as far as the eye can see; she presses herself against an exhibit and begins taking in things with what can only be described as “indecent enthusiasm”, prompting Mari to usher Mira and Ao back a few steps. Koisuru Asteroid employs the girls’ love for their chosen disciplines as a comedic device, but in the end, these traits are meant to be seen as respectable. There are no such equivalents in my area: the closest museum in my region is the Royal Tyrell Museum of Palaeontology, which specialises in fossils. Of course, ever since I bought Smithsonian Earth (2nd Edition) during a Chapters Indigo sale a few years back, I have a handy reference to all things related to earth science: this massive 2.7-kilogram book features 527 pages of pure information and would drive Mikage wild.

  • As the Earth Science Club’s members head off to check out the Geological Museum’s exhibits, Yuki looks on. She sees herself in this batch of students, and her decision to bring them to Tsukuba’s museums and institutes was motivated as much by the fact that the girls get free accommodations at Yuki’s grandparents’ place, as much as it was by the sheer concentration of research institutes and museums in the area. I definitely appreciate what such excursions can do for students – during my first year as a summer research student, my old lab’s graduate students took us undergrads to the Body Worlds exhibit at the old science centre, and this really helped to drive home what I was building for the lab. Years later, I’d become a graduate student, and I took the new undergraduate students to Body Worlds, which had returned and was being hosted at the new Telus SPARK Science Centre.

  • The joys of the sciences has never really left me, and even though I no longer read about things like astronomy or earth sciences quite to the same extent as I did as a student, these topics still fascinate me. Where time allows, I will sit down with a good reference book on these materials. In Koisuru Asteroid, Mira poses in front of a Desmostylus skeleton. Animals of this now-extinct genus would’ve resembled smaller hippopotamuses, averaging two metres in length and weighing around 200 kilograms. They were herbivorous, and fossils have been found along the Pacific Rim, from Hokkaido, Japan, to coastal California, Oregon and Washington.

  • With the AIST Geological Museum in the books, Mira, Ao and the others head towards JAXA Tsukuba Space Centre. Unlike the model H-II in front of the Tsukuba Expo Centre, which is a model, the H-II in front of JAXA’s Tsukuba headquarters is the real deal, originally being used as a test rocket. The H-II is a source of pride for Japan, being their first completely domestically-developed launch vehicle. With a maximum height of 49 metres and capable of carrying a 10060 kilogram payload to Low-Earth Orbit. During service, H-II rockets successfully carried five payloads into orbit, but in the late 1990s, the H-II suffered a series of failures and was replaced by the more reliable H-IIA, which only failed once over 43 different missions.

  • The Tsukuba Space Centre’s Space Dome is home to an array of satellites and rocket models. Access to the Space Dome is free of charge, and the Space Centre is open from 1000 to 1700 on most days (except between December 28 and January 3, and when scheduled maintenance is performed). After entering, visitors are greeted by the massive 1:10⁶ scale model of the planet. Upon their arrival, it’s Mira and Ao’s turn to go feral. Mira drops the sign she’s holding, and in a stunning bit of attention to detail, Mai retrieves it while Mikage looks on. Mira and the others visit the Space Dome after their guided tour concludes.

  • In reality, guided tours of the facilities are offered in both Japanese and English. Spanning some 70 minutes, the tour costs 500 Yen for adults, but students and instructors get in free. Mira, Ao, Mai, Mikage, Mari and Yuki thus get to check things out without cost. As Koisuru Asteroid portrays, the tour opens with a video introduction and goes into details about the JAXA astronaut selection and training programme. Every image from JAXA’s Space Dome was captured entirely using Google Street View, and I was surprised that Google Street View was available for the some parts of the JAXA Tsukuba Space Centre, including the entire Space Dome and parts of the visitor building.

  • The technology for this has been around for a while, and I imagine that JAXA staff, armed with one of Google’s Street-View ready cameras, took a walk around and captured images of everything. These days, one’s own smartphone can be used to create these 360° images without any effort: by downloading the Street View, one can use their smartphone camera, and the app will automatically stitch a panorama together to create the interior image. Technology of this level is making VR increasingly powerful: that I was able to go “visit” JAXA the same way Mira and Ao do with nothing more than a headset from halfway around the world speaks volumes to what is possible with technology, and the same drive to innovate, which sees humanity put satellites in space, drives all sorts of wonderful discoveries.

  • This is the joy of Koisuru Asteroid, and a recurring message in the anime was about keeping an optimistic outlook on things, since the path to a goal is full of discoveries. Here Ao and Mira wonder what their next move is after learning that JAXA is more about manned space missions and astronaut training than astronomy; Mira’s spirits can’t be dampened, and she suggests they’ll just have to keep on looking and learning. Here on the right, I believe is a model of the Kibō module on the International Space Station. Used for scientific experiments, Kibō was installed over three missions between 2007 and 2008.

  • The Space Dome does indeed have a space suit for visitors to check out. The real suit has the NASA emblem on it along with the American Stars-and-Stripes flag on the left shoulder. After Mira and the others finish checking out everything in the Space Dome, they head for the gift shop. The gift shop in the JAXA Tsukuba Space Centre is visible in Inside Maps, and after taking a look, the layout there is not 1:1 with what was seen in Koisuru Asteroid. With this being said, they do indeed sell JAXA hats, which makes Yuki’s grandfather happy. Mira goes on a shopping spree here, coming out of the gift shop with no fewer than six bags. While museum and science centre gift shops have always been fun to browse, I’ve always found their products a bit pricey compared to equivalent products from a conventional store.

  • The final stop for the Earth Sciences Club is the Museum of Map and Survey adjacent to the Geospatial Information Authority of Japan. It is located 3.8 kilometres from Tsukuba Station (less than ten minutes away by car), and 6.7 kilometres from the JAXA Tsukuba Space Centre. Open from 0930 to 1630 except on Mondays and sporting free admissions, the museum was the first of its kind in Japan, being wholly dedicated to mapping and surveying when it opened in 1996.

  • Being interested in cartography and surveying, Mai is overjoyed and immediately heads off to check things out: Koisuru Asteroid chooses to give Mai some space as she explores, and instead, switches things over to Yuki, who reminisces about having come here long ago when she’d been a student. While not much of the Museum of Map and Survey is shown, some of the exhibits include a machine for simulating earthquakes, and a few map-making stations.

  • Out back, there’s a peaceful park displaying parabolic antennae. Yuki remarks that there’d been a full scale antennae on-site some years previously, but it’s since been taken down. With the Museum of Map and Survey, the Earth Science Club’s exciting summer camp draws to a close. Koisuru Asteroid‘s fourth episode had an exceptionally high concentration of spots visited, and later episodes feature one or two locations of note. With this in mind, I’ve chosen not to include Mira and Ao’s high school from the proceedings: the school is evidently a fictional location, and the same holds true of the characters’ homes.

  • In Koisuru Asteroid, Mikage and Mira attend the Tokyo Mineral Show in the final days of their summer vacation. I imagined that the location would be real, and after attempting a search with the keywords “Japan rock and mineral show”, I came upon XPOpress, a Colorado based organisation that was founded to help rock and mineral vendors advertise their events, so visitors like Mikage can explore and buy things to their hearts’ content. XPOpress includes listings for Japan, and a cursory search found eight entries. Doing a linear search of this list found that the Tokyo Mineral Show, held at Sunshine City Convention Centre, matching the location seen in Koisuru Asteroid, and just like that, I’d located the spot where Mira and Mikage pass by.

  • When Mai decides to take the Geosciences Olympiad, the episode portrays her as passing through a seemingly random street somewhere. Location hunting is a matter of patience and resourcefulness, doubly so when folks like myself do not have any familiarity with more obscure locations in Japan and are therefore limited to what can be explored using resources like Google Maps. Even though Google Maps is powerful, it has its limits: I initially had no idea as to where Mai went to for the competition. However, I did know that the Japan Earth Sciences Olympiad organisation was hosting these competitions, and digging around allowed me to learn the location of one of the exams: Tokyo University.

  • Thus, armed with this knowledge, I was able to determine that Mai enters through the Yayoi Gate by the Tokyo University’s Faulty of Engineering, and doing a few searches to see what the best way of getting from Kawagoe to Tokyo University was, I eventually managed to figure out the route Mai took through trial and error: she passes by a street that she guesses to be a former river bed en route to Tokyo University and promises to explore later, once the exam is done. While there are noticeable differences (the awning over one of the buildings is red in Koisuru Asteroid and yellow in real life, for one) there was little doubt that this was the spot that Mai passed by.

  • After inheriting the responsibility of club president from Mari, Mai initially struggles to determine how to lead the club, and decides that she should following in Ao and Mira’s footsteps, to do something big and see how it turns out. This journey takes her to Tokyo, where she befriends a fellow competitor before the exam. Even though Mai would ultimately fail to make the preliminaries, the experience was a meaningful one, and one of the messages Koisuru Asteroid has is that there are cases where failure is okay.

  • Of course, failure varies depending on the context: in some cases, failing is encouraged, pushing people to step out of their comfort zones, while at other times, failure is not an option, especially where human lives are concerned. Finding anime locations falls squarely into the former, although for my readers, I still prefer to not fail in producing a good post for the reader’s sake. One of the engineering buildings on Tokyo University’s campus is plainly visible here at the gate that Mai enters through: this is the moment that gave me what I needed to work out Mai’s route, and I’m glad to have taken the effort to do so. Altogether, these location hunt posts for Koisuru Asteroid have taken around twelve hours in total to put together: around five hours to find everything, and the rest of it was writing a good post around the spots I’d located.

  • We return to Saitama with a scene from the second episode, when Yuki gives Mira and the others tickets to Saitama Seiganji Hot Spa. This spa is located about nine kilometres east of Kawagoe, and using the Kawagoe Line from Kawagoe Station, one can get here within half an hour, disembarking at Nishi-Ōmiya Station. Seiganji Hot Spa is known for its open-air baths and bamboo forests; by nightfall, the sights complement one another very nicely. Besides an onsen (and a variety of different bath types, such as the Jacuzzi that Mari capitalises on), Seiganji also offers massages and haircuts to clients. Open from 1000 to 0100, the fee for adults is 720 Yen (and 820 yen on weekends or National Holidays).

  • The waters of Seiganji are 38.3°C, weakly alkaline and flow from a chloride spring some 1500 metres underground. As Mai mentions in Koisuru Asteroid, the effects are to slow down the evaporation of sweat and retain heat. Mikage adds that hot springs have a water temperature of 25°C or greater, but strictly speaking, the definition of a hot spring is quite vague. Some definitions are very lenient and suggest that a hot spring is any spring with water temperatures warming than its surroundings, while others are stricter and require the water come from a natural source with a temperature exceeding 21.1°C.

  • That Koisuru Asteroid turned a trip to the onsen into a well-presented aside about the science behind hot springs was an early and clear indicator of where the series was headed. Indeed, Koisuru Asteroid proved to be a celebration of intellectual curiosity; Mira and Ao’s journey may have begun from a childhood promise, but it’s matured into something more, becoming a skill set of practical value. The kind of intellectual curiosity shown in Koisuru Asteroid was particularly meaningful, demonstrating how knowledge from all disciplines can be helpful towards one’s own pursuits: much as how Mari, Mira and Ao use earth science knowledge to augment their astronomy, Mikage and Mai come to recognise constellations and astronomical properties more readily, as well.

  • Koisuru Asteroid promotes life-long, interdisciplinary learning, and this is the core of the series’ strengths: even something like a hot springs visit provides something novel to the viewers. Here, I will note that for the Seiganji Hot Spa, Google has Indoor Maps available, so I was able to explore the hot baths without violating any laws. For these Koisuru Asteroid posts, I exclusively used a combination of Google Street View and Indoor Maps to look at the locations Mira and the others visit. Given these posts, I think that my approaches were reasonably successful. However, there was a single location that defeated all of my conventional means to find it.

  • The Suzuya Bakery was the single toughest spot to find in all of Koisuru Asteroid: here, geospatial awareness and the Oculus Quest proved completely inadequate, and creative searches were unyielding. So, I fell back on using computer vision techniques to hunt down the spot. The idea is that anime locations are often faithfully reproduced to the point where there are features that match a real world location’s, and then using said features as search parameters fpr a computer vision algorithm will eventually yield the place that inspired the anime location. It’s a time-consuming process, but I eventually narrowed it down to a few Western-style buildings, and determined that La Maison de Jun in Shimotsuma, Ibaraki, was the place. This delightful bakery is a favourite amongst locals, who love their baked goods and charming atmosphere.

  • That Suzuya Bakery was modelled after La Maison de Jun meant that folks trying to search around Kawagoe for the inspiration would be unsuccessful. To get here from Tsukuba, one would need to drive or take a taxi, which takes a quarter-hour: Shimotsuma is located 16 kilometres west of Tsukuba, but the train stations do not connect, and taking the train would require a three hour trip, which sees one return to Tokyo so they can get to a station that does go to Shimotsuma. I believe I’ve covered off all of the relevant locations in Koisuru Asteroid with this two-part special, which was a thrill to research for and write about. With this post in the books, I will be returning to regularly-scheduled programming with a talk on Yuru Camp△ 2‘s third episode.

Having now used the Oculus Quest to travel through the locations of Koisuru Asteroid, one thing immediately became apparent – the faithfulness of Koisuru Asteroid‘s locations to their real-world equivalent made it clear that the series was intent on telling a compelling, plausible story about Ao and Mira’s dream of discovering an asteroid together. This initially seems like a lofty goal: while Mira and Ao both have heart, the pair are still at the start of their journey and so, do not have the same level of technical expertise as a professional astronomer might. A major part of Koisuru Asteroid was demonstrating that such an ambitious goal is not only admirable, but possible. The series’ reproduction of real-world cityscapes and attractions therefore act as a clever visual metaphor: streets, cafés and institutes closely their equivalents in reality; walking along the same spots as Ao and Mira, it is possible to sense their excitement the pair have towards their goals. It really feels as though the energy and motivation channeled within Koisuru Asteroid could be seen in youth in the real world; since this anime had gone to the lengths of making certain the science had been correct, and the locations matched their real-world counterparts, the journey that Ao and Mira take together with Mari, Mai and Mikage feels very much within the realm of possibility, feeling less like a dream and more like a journey with a well-defined end goal. Different slice-of-life anime use real-world settings for different reasons. Houkago Teibou Nisshi had aimed to capture the intricacies of fishing and show how deeply tied fishing was with the Ashikita area. Flying Witch suggested that magic is all around us, using the gentle landscapes in Aomori as the backdrop for Makoto’s adventures. Yuru Camp△ brings viewers to real camp grounds to illustrate the joys of the great outdoors. The journey the Earth Science Club takes towards realising their dreams in Koisuru Asteroid is similarly reflected in the variety of different places the girls visit – besides Kawagoe, the path to discover an asteroid, and themselves, sees the Earth Science Club’s members travel to Tsukuba and Tokyo, culminating in a special programme held at Ishigakijima Astronomical Observator in Okinawa. Each of Houkago Teibou Nisshi, Yuru Camp△, Flying Witch and Koisuru Asteroid succeed for the same reasons, convincing viewers that what may appear magical and out of reach is, in fact, closer than one realises.

The Earth Science Club’s Real Life Adventures in Kawagoe and Fujimino, Saitama: An Oculus-Powered Armchair Journey of Koisuru Asteroid Part I

“What master do I serve? What am I supposed to say, Jesus?”
“You’re from Earth?”
“No, I’m not from Earth, I’m from Missouri.”
“Yeah, that’s on Earth, dipshit! What are you hassling on us for?”

–Peter Quill and Tony Stark, Avengers: Infinity War

Because Koisuru Asteroid has an emphasis on astronomy, experiencing the activities that Mira and Ao do in real-life is as simple as looking up at the night sky. With the naked eye, one can appreciate the aurora, eclipses and meteor showers. Having a pair of binocular opens one up to dimmer stars in a constellation, star clusters and some of the brighter nebulae, as well as reveal details about the moon. Finally folks with telescopes can really begin exploring the heavens in detail: the Jovian moons become visible, along with Saturn’s rings, dim nebulae, galaxies and double stars. Amateur astronomy is a flexible hobby, and regardless of where one is in the world or what equipment one has available to them, there is always wonder to be had in looking into the skies at celestial objects, whose light has travelled no small distance to reach our eyes. This aspect of Koisuru Asteroid can be conducted from the comfort of one’s own backyard for most viewers – whether one is in Japan or Canada, the northern skies share similar constellations and features. However, there is an aspect of Koisuru Asteroid one cannot so readily experience just from walking the same paths and enjoying the same events as the Earth Sciences Club do. While Mira and Ao look upwards into the same constellations that Terence Dickinson and Alan Dyer describe, the former’s everyday experiences with the Earth Sciences Club extend well behind setting up a telescope and consulting star charts as a part of their club activities. Thus, to fully experience Koisuru Asteroid as Mira, Ao, Mai, Mikage and Mari do, one would need to put some boots on the ground in Kawagoe, Saitama. Ordinarily, such an excursion is only a plane ticket away – armed with little more than a smartphone and pocket full of Yen, one can trod the same ground and take in the same sights that Mira, Ao, Mai, Mikage and Mari enjoy as they each strive towards their own goals. With its old town host to a collection of iconic buildings, including the Toki no Kane Bell Tower, Confectionary Row with its sweets shops and Kurazukuri Street’s warehouses, the town of Kawagoe is located some thirty kilometres northwest of Tokyo and has a population of around three hundred and fifty thousand. Much of Koisuru Asteroid is set in Kawagoe, and while my Oculus Quest powered tour of Kawagoe means that it’s a few flicks of the wrist to get here, once the global health crisis is well in hand, travellers may begin considering what a real trip might look like, and the first thing to do is consider ground options for reaching what is affectionately referred to as Little Edo. For this discussion, I will assume that the traveller is landing at Narita International Airport. There are several ways of getting here from Narita, with the best option being to either board an express bus for Kawagoe Station, or use trains. With the latter, one first takes the Keisei Main Line’s Rapid Express train from Terminal 2-3’s station to Nippori Station at the heart of Tokyo, which will take around forty minutes (trains run hourly). Here, one transfers to the Keihin-Tōhoku/Negishi line, which takes them to Akabane Station in fifteen minutes. Finally, Akabane to Kawagoe Station, along the Saikyō/Kawagoe line, is a fifty minute journey.

  • A small bridge over the Shingashi River on the western edge of Kawagoe kicks off this post. This spot is only seen during the opening, as the Earth Science Club never comes here during the course of their adventures. Like the location hunt for Yuru Camp△‘s first season, I’ve elected to do this post in two parts to ensure the length isn’t excessive: for this first half, I’m going to purely to focus on locations in Kawagoe itself, and the second half will showcase places in Ibaraki, Tokyo and the nearby spa the Earth Sciences Club visits towards the end of the second episode. All images for the real-world locations in this post and the second half are sourced from Google Street View and Google Places: there isn’t any place in my location hunts that cannot be visited in the comfort of one’s own home, and I will be providing links to most places for ease-of-access.

  • Koisuru Asteroid portrays Raku Raku Bakery as a mere burger joint that Mira and the others stop at to think of a good activity for the Earth Sciences Club. In real life, Raku Raku Bakery sells freshly-baked goods and Japanese kashi-pan using wheat from Hokkaido; their breads are most similar to the sorts of bread that Hong Kong-style bakeries sell, featuring sweet bean paste and even curry mixed into the dough, yielding a flavourful bread. The soft, chewy bread that is popular in Japan is equally as popular in Hong Kong, and my favourite sandwiches have always been made using thick-cut bread with a hint of mango in it.

  • The street that Mai and Mikage walk along is adjacent to Café Torocco, a café that specialises in sweet potato dishes: for over two and a half centuries, Kawagoe has been a key sweet potato producer, and Café Torocco offers a variety of sweet potato dishes on their menu. Folks can sit down to a sweet potato cake for 500 yen, or spurge on a sweet potato kaiseki for 1900 Yen. The restaurant is located adjacent to Yamawa Pottery, and although the fledgling Earth Sciences Club never visit the café or partake in any sweet potato related foods on Ao and Mira’s quest to find an asteroid, seeing these sights reproduced faithfully does indicate that Koisuru Asteroid was serious about getting the details right.

  • This area of Kawagoe is known as Kashiya Yokocho (“Confectionary Row”) owing to the high concentration of sweets and candy stores. The area’s history is an interesting one – Tozaemon Suzuki opened a shop in the area to provide candies in 1796, inspiring other shopkeepers to open their own businesses, as well. The Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923 would help cement Kashiya Yokocho‘s reputation as a candy-selling district: the earthquake destroyed other candy suppliers, leaving Kashiya Yokocho to be the main provider of candies for a time, and today, these stories continue to manufacture candies using traditional methods. Together with the stone roads and architecture, Kashiya Yokocho is a well-known point of interest.

  • Google Street View is not so extensive as to have coverage of the entire pathway located along the shores of the Iruma River. I ended up approximating the site using satellite imagery and got as close as I could to what could be a candidate site. Of course, differences are apparent in the spot I found – mountains are not visible (the location in Koisuru Asteroid suggests that the Earth Sciences Club is holding their barbeque on the eastern banks of the river, since the mountains are westward), and there’s a truss bridge for a rail line rather than a beam bridge seen in the anime. I imagine that Yuki would’ve chosen somewhere close to the Kasumigaseki East Green Space or Kawagoe Park, but lacking the Street View coverage, this is about as close as I can get.

  • On a quiet Sunday afternoon, some time after Aoi and Mira pass their do-over exams (which resulted from a comedic bit of error-making), they meet up in front of Honkawagoe Station. Ao can be seen sitting on one of the benches, and across the way is a residential area. Observant readers will note that the Google Street View images I have appear to have a higher field-of-view (FOV) than their anime counterparts. The observable world in a single frame from Google Street View is larger than that of what Koisuru Asteroid presents, feeling more zoomed-out in comparison.

  • The contrasts simultaneously result from the nature of the cameras that Google uses, as well as the studio’s desire to keep the camera focused on the subjects (i.e. the characters) – a high FOV in anime is usually done for establishing shots or B-roll type materials. For moments such as when Mira finally gets to Honkawagoe Station, the FOV chosen is appropriate, focusing on the characters. However, the Lawson on the loop by Honkawagoe Station can be seen, along with the stairwells on the side of the building here.

  • Honkawagoe Station services the Seibu Shinjuku Line; as the terminus, it is located around 47.5 kilometres from Seibu-Shinuku Station in Tokyo, and has three tracks at the ground level. Honkawagoe Station opened in 1895 as Kawagoe Station, but was renamed in 1940 after the Japanese Government Railways opened Kawagoe Station. The station averages around 48290 passengers per day as of 2013, and in 2016, underwent expansion to make it easier for passengers to transfer to Kawagoe Station.

  • After Mira spots Moe and Mai by an ice cream stand in front of the Prince Hotel, curiosity kicks in, prompting her to ditch her original plans of going shopping for a bit of Tom Clancy-style foot surveillance. The Prince Hotel is conveniently located, being built adjacent to Honkawagoe Station, and is only a short walk from Kawagoe’s attractions: Confectionary Row and the Toki no Kane bell tower are under a quarter-hour walk from Honkawagone Station. Folks visiting Kawagoe would find this to be a reasonable option for accommodations: the average rate per night is 120 CAD, although there are better-priced accommodations nearby that are only slightly further from the heart of Kawagoe.

  • The convenience store franchise Lawson is ubiquitous in Japan, and is headquartered in Tokyo. However, it has its origins in Ohio, when James Lawson started a store to sell milk in 1939. By 1959, Consolidated Foods bought his store out, and in 1974, they signed an agreement with Japanese company Daiei Inc., opening their first store in Osaka in 1975. Daiei Lawson Co. Ltd. became Lawson Japan, and today, they operate some 11384 locations across the country, being the third-largest convenience store chain after 7-Eleven and Family Mart. One of the joys about location hunts is apparent here: common sights, such as convenience stores, prompts investigation, which often yields fascinating bits about something.

  • A kilometre north of Honkawagoe Station is Kurazukuri no Machinami (蔵造りの町並み, the Warehouse District), one of the most famous sights in the whole of Kawagoe. The area’s history dates back to the Edo period, when trade resulted in merchants requiring facilities to store their wares for easy access. However, after a massive fire that leveled a third of Kawagoe in 1893 owing to the dominance of wooden materials in period Japanese architecture, a novel construction style, kurazukuri, was devised to prevent the warehouses (and their contents) from going up in smoke.

  • Kurazukuri utilises a special kind of plaster in their roofs and layering the walls with clay, the resulting buildings proved to be much more resilient to fires. Their heavy, durable construction has meant that many kurazukuri warehouses have survived to this day, appearing much as they did after their construction. While the buildings have endured, their functions have changed over the years, and many of the buildings in Kurazukuri no Machinami are now museums, restaurants and even private homes.

  • While tailing Mai and Moe, Mira and Ao pass in front of a private residence. While the residence’s gates and window grilles in the anime resemble the real world counterpart’s, subtle differences between the two frames suggest that Koisuru Asteroid has taken a few creative liberties here. Most notable, an apartment building and power lines can be seen in the anime, whereas in the real world, this residence is located adjacent to a wooden building home to Iwata, a store that sells sweet potato products.

  • In Koisuru Asteroid, Kawagoe‘s Kurazukuri no Machinami ends up being a backdrop rather than a destination: Moe and Mai are not particularly interested in stopping here for sweet potatoes, and instead, after Mai photographs a flowerbed in full bloom, the pair head off down a side street leading away from the Warehouse District. The timing of this scene suggested that the location was actually down the side street, but using the Oculus Quest to canvas said side street, I wasn’t able to find any flowerbeds of this sort, so I concluded that this would’ve been the location Mai took her photograph at.

  • The building Mira and Ao pass by is Hinomoto Hapu, a luggage store known for selling reliable canvas bags and backpacks. They remind me of the now-closed Pipestone Travel store in my area – a few years ago, I came here to buy a small travel bag for my conference in Cancún. Because I was travelling alone, and didn’t need much in the way of carry-on, my requirements were for a bag that could hold a 9.7-inch tablet, plus all of my travel documents and had space for a water bottle. I ended up picking out a bag with RFID blocking and was slash-proof. This bag has been in service for several of my travels, accompanying me to Japan back in 2017.

  • Following the side street further will find visitors back in a more ordinary side of Kawagoe: private homes and businesses line this street, but there isn’t anything too historical or noteworthy about it. In real life, attempting to re-trace the path that Moe and Mai took during their treasure hunt based purely on what was seen in Koisuru Asteroid would be a difficult endeavour: while I’ve managed to locate everything in this post, it turns out that the district marker, which Mai had been looking for, is located in Fujimino the next town over.

  • The distance between Mai’s destination and the intersection in Kawagoe is some 6.4 kilometres as the mole digs, but accounting for road distances, is closer to 7 kilometres. This is about an hour and twenty minute’s walk – folks looking to reproduce the walk could simply walk the distance, since 7 kilometres isn’t terribly far to travel on foot, and taking the train (using the Tobu-Tojo line) would require almost an hour anyways: one would need to travel back to Honkawagoe Station and ride to Kamifukuoka Station in Fujimino.

  • Mai and Moe pass through a quiet residential area, with Mira and Ao tailing closely. An awning can be seen here both in the anime and real-world location, providing cover for one of the resident’s vehicles. This neighbourhood is located in the western edge of Fujimoto, and locating it was a matter of backtracking from the district marker. Owing to the ease of finding this spot, I feel duty-bound to remind readers that folks who do travel here to replicate Mai and Moe’s walk should be respectful of the residents here and not hassle them in any way.

  • This effect brings to mind The Dark Knight Rises, during the final climactic battle when Batman faces off against Bane for a second time. As they fight, Bane delivers a kick to Batman, which sends him from Wall Street in Manhattan all the way to Carnegie Mellon Institute in Pittsburgh. Real world locations are often mashed together in fiction to create familiar, but unique spots for the story at hand, and Koisuru Asteroid is no different. I imagine that using a real-world spot for locations is to allow background artists to create locations much more quickly: it is easier to draw inspiration from a photograph than come up with a spot anew.

  • Similarities between the houses seen in Koisuru Asteroid and real life are visible in this still, which occurs moments after Moe catches on to the fact that she and Mai had been tailed. During the course of their mini-adventure, Mira had been posting to Twitter and appending なう (Hepburn nau) to everything, indicating that her observations were being made in real-time. For English speakers, the meaning appears intuitive enough (feeling like a cute way of saying “now”), but it turns out that なう is simply a shorthand for denoting a present action. This particular trend is unique to Japanese SNS, and was also seen in Yuru Camp△ when Rin was detailing her travels to Nadeshiko during a trip to Kamiina.

  • It turns out that Mira’s live-Tweeting did not go unnoticed, and Moe soon busts them, causing Mira to wilt in shame. However, Moe’s irritation vanishes instantly when Mira wonders if the pair are on a date of sorts. Their conversation takes place on this peaceful side street, and the location is identified by the fence and hedge beside one of the houses: even though my angle is different, the similarities are indisputable.

  • Mai explains that her outing had been to see an enclave of sorts, and Moe ended up accompanying her. This still was found looking northwest, and past the row of houses on the street is the edge of town. Again, inspection of details between the anime and Street View shows the impressive extent of similarities: the house on the left has a window above its front door opened slightly, and Koisuru Asteroid reproduces the detail precisely.

  • Strictly speaking, an enclave is a geographical feature in which one territory or region is entirely surrounded by another. Mai’s explanation includes regions that are partially surrounded by other territories, but this is technically incorrect. Such mistakes in an anime usually result either from the author not having a full understanding of the material, or deliberately choosing to have their characters make a factual error to show that they’re still in the process of learning. I typically give the author the benefit of the doubt and suppose that it’s the latter, since watching (and writing about) anime is not a pissing match about who’s more knowledgeable about a given topic.

  • Moe and Ao manage to find another sign indicating where the district boarders are, and Mai celebrates with a group photo to commemorate their day together. On the topic of factual pissing contests, one wonders why I do location hunt posts when dedicated fans, both in and outside of Japan, have gotten to the finish line much sooner than myself. The answer to this question is simple: other location hunt folks often write posts with low-resolution images and may decline on disclosing locations for their own reasons. However, I’ve always found location hunts to be fascinating, as they often indicate the level of effort a studio has taken in adapting an anime: location hunts are therefore a fun way of conveying this for readers.

  • To ensure that my location hunt posts offer something different, I take the pains of researching locations as to provide readers with something beyond the comparison between anime and real life. This is why I structure my posts to also include a bit of a blurb about locations, and where possible, a link to the spot in Google Street View. I believe that information such as this should be shared rather than obfuscated, and I aim to provide a post that gives readers an outline for what a potential in-person visit to anime locations could look like.

  • After a day where Mikage and Mira visit a mineral show in Tokyo (I’ll detail that in the second part to this post), they swing by a small cake shop to unwind and discuss the day’s experiences. While Koisuru Asteroid presents this as being located by Kawagoe Station, it’s actually a stone’s throw from Honkawagoe Station. The storefronts are quite different, and finding this location was probably the trickiest, involving a bit of a trial-and-error. Fortunately, Wander is not a movement intensive app, and I was able to keep my Oculus Quest plugged in while I did my search. I eventually located the cake shop: it’s known as Chouette in real life, and serves a range of cakes and pastries. Visitors describe it as being a very peaceful and quiet location with delicious cakes.

  • Inside Chouette, there is no doubt that this location inspired the cake shop Mira and Mikage stop at after their mineral fair visit. In general, my usual technique for finding a location is to use landmarks, such as local attractions and train stations, to gain my bearings, and then use the Oculus Quest to explore the area as though I were walking on foot, searching through areas based on the paths shown in the anime between different landmarks. The full immersion and spatial awareness makes it much easier to spot things than on a conventional monitor. Once I see enough features line up, I go in for a closer look, and if it’s a match, I record the location. For easily found and obscure locations alike, I use this method: the latter only differ in that they take me a little longer to search for them.

  • For the really tough spots, I use a bit of computer vision to see if the anime location matches any known photographs of the location in real life. While Chouette was the toughest spot for this first half, I did not use those techniques: locating Chouette was a brute force search of the areas surrounding Kawagoe Station (and then realising there were no candidates, I repeated a search around Honkawagoe Station). Kawagoe Station is Koisuru Asteroid‘s Hoshizaki Station: operated by Tobu Railway and East Japan Railway Company, it is the busiest station in Kawagoe, averaging 128 thousand passengers daily.

  • Kawagoe Station was opened in 1915, and the station seen today became operational in 1989. Kawagoe Station is a quarter-hour away from Honkawagoe on foot. The imagery in Google Street View shows the pedestrian walkway as undergoing constructionKoisuru Asteroid shows the same construction in place as Mikage prepares to head home after saying goodbye to Mira, suggesting that Doga Kobo may have relied on this tool extensively to provide a reference for the different locations of Koisuru Asteroid.

  • I’ll close off this first half with a comparison of Koisuru Asteroid‘s 16-metre high Toki no Kane (“Time Bell Tower”) and its real-world counterpart; this bell tower is an iconic part of old Kawagoe and was originally built between 1627 and 1634. Kawagoe was devastated by fires in 1856 and 1893: the current tower was constructed in 1894 and chimes four times a day (0600, 1200, 1500 and 1800). The 700 kilogram bell is visible in both images. With this post in the books, I will be returning to close off my virtual, Oculus Quest-powered tour of Koisuru Asteroid at some point in the near future, and in the meantime, it’s time to make progress with the other posts that were left behind as a result of this project.

Of course, the trek I’ve described is not exactly the best idea in the world at present, but fortunately, viewers can turn to the next best alternative. A good virtual reality headset, such as the Oculus Quest, will allow one to immerse themselves in iconic locations from Koisuru Asteroid. After the successes I’ve had with using the Oculus Quest in locating Heya Camp△ and Houkago Teibou Nisshi locations, Koisuru Asteroid seemed to be the next suitable anime to try my hand at finding the spots to. Unlike Houkago Teibou Nisshi, which was set largely in and around Ashikita (with a few exceptions), or Heya Camp△, whose Stamp Rally was primarily in the Minobu/Nanbu area of Yamanashi, Koisuru Asteroid sees Mira and Ao visit a host of locations. Their everyday experiences are in Kawagoe, which I identified after spotting the Toki no Kane in the ending sequence and subsequently used to find the locations seen in the first few episodes. A cursory search for JAXA’s Tsukuba Space Centre led me to swiftly determine the locations of the Earth Science Club’s summer trip with instructor Yuki (which I will cover in part two). From there, the unparalleled ability in the Oculus Quest allowed me to explore the same old-town streets that Moe and Mai wander on the latter’s quest to find a prefectural boundary marker, and see for myself the Tsukuba Space Centre’s exhibit hall (the latter will be the topic of a later post). Even more so than with Houkago Teibou Nisshi, another Doga Kobo production, doing this location hunt for Koisuru Asteroid outlined the capabilities of virtual reality technologies and how a complete 3D immersion can offer spatial advantages for certain activities. VR technology has come a long way since I was in graduate school: back then, the Oculus Rift system had been a glorified stereoscopic head-mounted display, and the CAVE remained the simplest way of entering a VR environment. In the years following, Oculus upped their game, and with HTC Vive hot on their heels, other companies stepped up to the plate. It was not until Oculus Quest, however, where VR truly became a viable technology: unbound by wires and room-mounted motion trackers, the Quest’s easy setup and usage has made it an appealing headset to use. Coupled with a powerful onboard processor and display, plus a respectable battery life, the Quest has made it possible to fully explore the same locations Ao and Mira visit in stunning detail and comfort. The size of this post attests to the UX the Oculus Quest confers; obscure and little-known locations were found without trouble – that the Oculus Quest has demonstrated itself a versatile and capable tool for anime location hunts, it is tempting to consider what locations could be next on the list of places to check out with a hitherto unmatched level of immersion. However, before then, I will be turning the Oculus Quest’s considerable powers towards one more set of locations that were shown in Koisuru Asteroid, this time, in areas outside of Kawagoe.

The Breakwater Club’s Real Life Fishing Grounds in Ashikita, Kumamoto: An Oculus-Powered Armchair Journey of Houkago Teibou Nisshi

“Virtual reality, all the AI work we do, all the robotics work we do – we’re as close to realising science fiction as it gets.” –Jensen Huang

Ashikita, Kumamoto, is the home of Houkago Teibou Nisshi, which finished airing last season. As the anime progressed, the amount of detail the series spent in presenting the different aspects of fishing became apparent, and with it, the dawning realisation that the area that Hina and the Breakwater Club spend their days fishing in would also certainly be inspired by real-world locations. However, the current global health crisis has made it much more difficult to get boots on the ground; to walk the same breakwater as Hina and the Breakwater Club is at best, a challenge, and at worst, a fool’s errand. So, one asks: how does one still check out the locations that the Breakwater Club visit in the absence of a plane ticket and a pocket full of Yen? The answer is simple enough, and armed with the very latest of technology, one can settle for the next best thing to walking the streets of Ashikita for themselves – a virtual tour of Ashikita is very much possible thanks to the unparalleled immersion that the Oculus Quest headset confers, and with the appropriate applications, one can simulate a tour of Ashikita as Hina and the Breakwater Club know it. Granted, the virtual experience will not allow one to walk into the Tenguya Fishing Tackle Shop to check out their selection of fishing implements, or taste the Neapolitan at Grill Kakashi, which serves as the model for Natsumi’s home. However, without leaving the comfort of one’s armchair, it is entirely possible to follow the path that Hina takes to school, as well as the seaside highway leading from the Breakwater Club’s headquarters to Tsurugahama Beach, where Hina catches her first Whiting. During this virtual tour, one thing becomes apparent: Doga Kobo has spared no expense to ensure that Houkago Teibou Nisshi‘s locations are faithfully rendered, and in this post, I share with readers the various places that Hina and her friends visit that I passed through using the Oculus Quest. Because of certain constraints associated with the Oculus Quest, namely limitations in easily sharing what I see with the headset to readers, I will be making use of Google Maps and Street View to match locations seen in Houkago Teibou Nisshi to their real world counterparts.

  • It makes sense to kick things off at the breakwater where Hina first learns how to cast a line: the girls are standing on the breakwater on the right hand side of the real-world image, and in both the anime and Street View images, the Tsurugiyamashuraku Community Centre (the building with the white walls and red roof) are visible. The Breakwater Club’s clubhouse and favourite fishing spot is located along Route 56, some five kilometres away from their high school, and in reality, the a small shack occupies the exact spot where their clubhouse is. Houkago Teibou Nisshi nails all of the details: there is indeed a small statue of sorts on the breakwater, which Natsumi used as cover while Hina was still learning how to cast.

  • Located some 60 kilometres south of Kumamoto, Ashikita is a town of 16306 people (as of June 2019) renowned for its fresh produce, beautiful beaches and fishing. Despite being located in a coastal area, Ashikita has a noticeable temperature variation: during the summer months, daily highs can average around 32ºC, but then drop down to lows of 0ºC during the winter. The winter months are the driest, and the spring months are the wettest, although September can also be quite rainy, as the occasional typhoon makes landfall here. While Houkago Teibou Nisshi is set in Ashikita, I’ve mentioned Sashiki frequently in my earlier posts because district is located at the heart of Ashikita, and Sashiki station is the likely the starting point for anyone curious to visit the area.

  • For this post, I’ve decided to go strictly with locations in Houkago Teibou Nisshi that could be accessed from Google Maps – the point of this exercise was to demonstrate the idea that using existing tools, one could still have a reasonably comprehensive and enjoyable stand-in for actually visiting Ashikita. Here, Hina travels down Highway 56 on her way to school: this particular intersection is near the Hakariishi Community Center, adjacent to a large field seen in the right-hand side of both images. A side-by-side comparison shows that, aside from some minor details, Houkago Teibou Nisshi has captured the real-world setting very well, from the number of garage doors on the shed, to the placement of the road sign and power lines. The actual community centre is not visible in this image, being just a ways further down the road.

  • Continuing down Highway 56 past Nanaura Orange Road, one enters the town of Ashikita proper if they continue to follow Highway 56 over the Sashiki River. However, the way to school requires one to continue straight along the road. The railway crossing here is for the Hisatsu Orange line, which connects Ashikita to Yatsushiro, and following this road until reaching Route 27 will bring one to Ashikita High School. There’s actually a Japanese restaurant, Umenoya, nearby, which serves some of the best seafood in town. Locals found Umenoya to have an excellent ambience, solid service, delicious food and reasonable prices; the ebi tempura is especially popular, but their menu offers a wide range of seafoods, from sashimi sourced from local fish, to eels.

  • Hina, Natsumi, Yūki and Makoto attend Ashikita High School, which is the only secondary school in the area. The main building is captured well, although I’m guessing that for the sake of aesthetics, Doga Kobo decided to switch out the pair of evergreen trees at the entrance for cherry trees instead, and the front parking lot has been converted into a plaza of sorts for the students to congregate in. This creates a much more idyllic school setting. I ended up using an older version of Street View to capture the image for the real-life school – the trees are much larger in the latest version, and their canopies obscure much of the school’s structures.

  • While it seems superfluous to do so, I make it a point to capture even the more unremarkable sights around town for these location hunt posts – attention to detail in anime means that every aspect of a location, right down to these low-rise office buildings, are captured. Given that the building on the right has been shuttered in all portrayals, I imagine that it is unoccupied. The building on the left, on the other hand, belongs to Ashikita Sightseeing Taxis. The crosswalk in this image leads to Sashiki Station: here, Yūki and Makoto are meeting up with Natsumi and Hina so they can help Hina pick out a new fishing jacket: as Hina requires the jacket be adorable, the girls will need to hop on a train and head North to Kumamoto, home of the largest fishing gear shop in the region.

  • Sashiki Station lies at the heart of Ashikita, right along Orange Road. A fair number of thoroughfares in Ashikita are named after oranges because the area is known for its dekopon and amanatsu oranges. During the girls’ ride up to Kumamoto, Natusmi brings some oranges for everyone to enjoy, and when I think about it, it’s actually a little bewildering as to how many different kinds of oranges there are. My go-to oranges is the navel orange and Mandarin orange – oranges are delicious, being simultaneously sweet and sour, and further to this, are fantastic sources of vitamin C, which is helpful with maintaining a good immune system (along with vitamin D) and provides other health benefits.

  • The Yamamoto Fishing Gear Centre’s Main Store is located down 631-1 Honjomachi in Kumamoto’s Chuo Ward, fifteen minutes east of Kumamoto Station. Patrons of the Yamamoto Fishing Gear Centre compliment the store for having the best selection of gear anywhere, and the store is also well-organised. Finally, the staff are knowledgable on fishing and always on hand to make recommendations to people of all skill levels, from novices to experts. While their wares can be a bit pricy (as is the case with larger stores), Yamamoto Fishing Gear Centre does have sales, during which expensive gear can see some impressive discounts; this is how Hina ends up buying her coat, when she spots one she likes that goes on for 40 percent off. Depending on the train one takes, it takes anywhere from an hour and twenty minutes to two hours for a one-way trip.

  • For local fishing needs, Hina and the Breakwater Club purchase their supplies from Tenguya, rendered as “Takohibiya” in Houkago Teibou Nisshi. Accordingly, the latter has an image of an octopus on its storefront, and in real life, the same store has a gruff-looking fellow instead. Despite the imagery, locals report that the owner and clerks are friendly people, always on hand to offer suggestions to their customers. With a sizeable selection of rigs, bait and other gear needed, having a store like the Tenguya (or Takohibiya for the Breakwater Club) is convenient: the store is located down Route 3 in Ashikita, only four kilometres from the Breakwater Club’s clubhouse. Since Houkago Teibou Nisshi‘s anime finished airing, some local fans have paid Tenguya a visit and were pleasantly surprised – since the manga’s serialisation, this particular fishing shop also stocks copies of the manga.

  • The Grill Kakashi (Scarecrow Grill) forms the inspiration for Natsumi’s house, but it was a location that gave viewers headaches when it came time to locating it: the restaurant is located on 1689-2 Shimoharadamachi in Hitoyoshi, some twenty four kilometres east of Ashikita as the mole digs. Locating this spot required a bit of digging around: Houkago Teibou Nisshi suggests it’s walkable from Ashikita, but without a car, getting to Hitoyoshi from Ashikita is no joke. The two towns are separated by a mountain range, and by train, it takes anywhere from three to four hours one way depending on which lines one takes. Conversely, with a car, one only needs to travel 31.6 kilometres, first travelling down Route 27 and then turning onto Highway 219 at a T-intersection after crossing over the Kuma River. Is this trip worth it, one asks? Some consider the Grill Kakashi to have some of the best food in the entire Kumamoto area; they serve rich, generously portioned Western style food that would be perfect for a cold day, and together with the unique atmosphere, it sounds like no Houkago Teibou Nisshi tour would be complete without a trip here.

  • Nowhere were the limitations of the Oculus Quest more apparent: I can only stand outside and appreciate the Grill Kakeshi’s distinct architecture. However, for following the Breakwater Club’s walk to a nearby bridge for prawn fishing, the Oculus Quest handles just fine; the walk from this particular Seven-Eleven to the bridge only takes about four minutes, and it became possible to really check out some of the smaller details along the way.

  • For my Oculus Quest travels, I’m using an app called Wander: developed by Parkline Interactive, Wander takes the Google Street View experience and creates a proper interface for it in a VR setting. The suite of features in Wander justify the 11 CAD price tag: Wander is easy to navigate, capitalising fully on the Quest’s hardware to deliver a highly immersive experience. After visiting numerous locations in Heya Camp△ using the Oculus Quest, I turned its powers towards location hunting in Houkago Teibou Nisshi; being fully immersed in an environment is quite unlike viewing the same locations through Google Maps’ Street View.

  • The Oculus Quest’s greatest advantage over other VR headsets is its ease-of-setup: when I tested out the HTC Vive back during 2016, I was thoroughly impressed with the visual quality and how smooth the experience was, but to get things running back then, one needed cameras set up in a room to define the play area, and one of the exhibit’s staff needed to help me equip the device. Today, wireless standalone VR headsets mean that I can set things up for myself without the need for a fixed setup. The technology has come quite far in the past four years, and at present, while the wireless headsets are sophisticated and enjoyable to use, their main limitation is a lack of variety in terms of what they can handle.

  • Today is Thanksgiving Monday: I typically have Thanksgiving Dinner on Sunday, since that gives us a bit more time to sleep off the post-dinner sense of contentment. Traditionally, the leftover turkey bones have always gone into a turkey congee: this fusion dish combines the best of both Western and Chinese cuisine to create a unique dish that is flavourful and warming. The process of further cooking turkey in congee doesn’t dry it out further, but it renders the meat tender enough to fall off the bones, allowing said meat to be picked off. For folks unfamiliar with congee preparation, turkey soup is a viable alternative: the remaining bones are tossed into a pot with tomatoes, carrots, cabbage, celery, onion, garlic, paprika and some bay leaves, plus plenty of potatoes to make a Chinese borscht in which the beef is subbed out for turkey. Both recipes are excellent for ensuring that no meat goes to waste, and in the end, one should compost the bones, as well.

  • Along Route 56, the bridge where Nanaura Orange Road crosses over the Yunoura and Sashiki River’s confluence can be seen: this cable-stayed bridge is a distinct part of Ashikita’s cityscape and is located where the rivers merge and empty into Nosakanoura Bay. The bridge that can be seen from several points during the course of Houkago Teibou Nisshi, and this is how I ended up determining that Houkago Teibou Nisshi was set in Ashikita in the absence of all other information. Moments such as these really accentuate how well the anime captures the colours and aesthetics of the real-world equivalents, right down to the grime on the guardrail and grasses growing along the roadside.

  • As it stands, the Quest and Wander succeeded in its task: the advantage about being fully immersed in an environment using VR is that I am able to simply turn my head and look at different entities, giving me a much stronger spatial awareness. In conjunction with the Street View tools that allow me to travel down roads, identifying locations of interest and important intersections was much easier than it was using a traditional mouse and keyboard. The Oculus Quest made it a trivial exercise to locate everything in Ashikita, although I will note that like all technology, it is not a substitute for practical knowledge: to locate both the Yamamoto Fishing Gear Centre and Grill Kakashi, I resorted to using computer vision to work out where they were located, using stills from the anime as the search parameters.

  • Hina bikes along Route 56 en route to the Breakwater Club’s clubhouse and Tsurugahama Beach. This particular stretch is located just around a turn a kilometre away from the Clubhouse. While quite unremarkable by all definitions, this spot provides yet another example of how details are replicated, from the placement of road signs indicating an important intersection ahead, to the markings on the road surface and houses in the distance.

  • I’ll close off the post with an image of Tsurugahama beach on a clear day. Locals love the beach for being a great fishing site, and for offering plenty of space to chuck a frisbee around or enjoying sunsets. The Kumamoto Prefectural Ashikita Youth Centre can be seen on the hill overlooking the beach, and in Houkago Teibou Nisshi, it is here that Hina catches her first Flathead and Whiting, the latter of which concluded a successful, and laid-back season of fishing. With this post in the books, I plan on spending this overcast, somewhat snowy Thanksgiving Monday unwinding, and looking ahead, it’s business as usual as we step further into the Fall 2020 anime season. I’m now set to write for both Road to Berlin and GochiUsa: BLOOM, but I’m still in the middle of working out if there are any other series that could be worth writing about on top of these two series, which have been off to an excellent start.

Houkago Teibou Nisshi marks the first time I’ve used the Oculus Quest to do location hunts, and being able to transition smoothly around at the street level was remarkably immersive. I experienced no disorientation or motion sickness at all while travelling about a virtual Ashikita. Owing to how much more detail one can see in a 3D, virtual environment over a standard screen, finding locations became much quicker. Once I was able to determine where the Breakwater Club’s preferred fishing spot and breakwater was, I simply used the Oculus Quest to travel around town and locate all of the relevant spots seen in the anime, from Hina’s high school to the bridge the Breakwater Club fishes for shrimps under. Further to this, having access to a 3D environment makes spatial identification faster, as well: two locations were quickly determined to be outside of Ashikita, sparing me the trouble of doing a more exhaustive search for what didn’t exist in the area I had been looking in. As Yuru Camp△ did before, Houkago Teibou Nisshi‘s attention to detail in reproducing real-world locations does much to speak to the series’ commitment to authenticity: much as how every door and power cable is rendered within the anime to match its real-life counterpart, viewers can be confident that the fishing techniques that Natsumi, Yūki and Makoto teach to Hina are genuine, as well. With the locations from this post, I am confident that once this global health crisis is contained, curious folks can go pick up some plane tickets and line up their very own, in-person tour of Ashikita; only this time, one would actually be able to breathe the fresh sea air and enjoy freshly-caught seafood from local restaurants. While the Oculus Quest is an immensely powerful tool that have allowed me to travel Ashikita, while sitting in my pyjamas before my first cup of Earl Grey, virtual reality still has some noticeable limitations and are not yet a substitute for the real deal.

The Real Life Camping Grounds and A Mystery Lake: An Armchair Journey of Yuru Camp△ Part Three

“A man travels the world over in search of what he needs and returns home to find it.” –George A. Moore

While this is a Yuru Camp△ post, permit me to indulge in an anecdote completely unrelated to Yuru Camp△, whose relevance will become apparent once I finish. I refer to the mockumetary series Pure Pwnage, whose unusual take on gamer culture and unique sense of humour made the series a highly memorable, timeless satire of gaming. I’ve referred to Pure Pwnage here on several occasions and have even written about the movie, which premièred in 2016. In Pure Pwnage, I’ve found a surprising depth in the series for how it handled life lessons, and another aspect that stood out is that Pure Pwnage is all-Canadian. The series predominantly features locations in Toronto, but also makes some use of locations in Montreal, Hamilton and even Calgary. The biggest query on my mind was where in Calgary FPS_Doug’s most famous scenes were shot: the streetlights seen while Doug is driving around and explaining his backstory are only found in Calgary, and the neighbourhood looked very familiar. The precise location continued to elude me, but then I realised that I could make use of a unique-looking landmark to figure things out. While Doug is driving, he passes by a school with a green, conic roof. Armed with this bit of information, the knowledge that such a school did not exist in the quadrant I am most familiar with, and Google Maps’ 3D mode, I found out that the school is called Monsignor JS Smith School, and using some additional tricks, worked out where FPS_Doug’s most infamous moment occurred. One of Pure Pwnage‘s most iconic moments was filmed in Douglasdale, a community in southeast Calgary, and it turns out that this is probably why FPS_Doug is called Doug. How is this pertinent to Yuru Camp△, one asks? The knowledge of a few basic clues, some resourcefulness and a powerful tool has allowed me to work out some of the locations behind Rin and Nadeshiko’s camping trips: unlike the previous trips, these locations proved to be more challenging to find, and without these techniques, this third and (maybe) final armchair journey post would not exist.

  • While the skies may not match up entirely between the Yuru Camp△ images and the real-world equivalent, it is clear that Yuru Camp△ has captured the moody, brown landscapes of the Nagano hills by autumn, right down to details in the road signs. Unlike many of the previous locations, however, this stretch of open road was not easy to find, since there were no major landmarks to help determine where the route was. It turns out that this is Route 194, just north of the gas station where Rin waved to the traffic camera.

  • I will outline briefly the technique for how these lonely stretches of road are found here, and reiterate the process later – quite simply, it entails knowing roughly where Rin started, where Rin is going, and the fact that Yuru Camp△‘s attention to detail has led the girls to take the shortest path to their destinations. Taken together, this means that we can at least narrow down the route to one. Having a single path to follow means a brute force search of the spots seen in Yuru Camp△ is not as painful as it otherwise would be.

  • This is one of several paths up the mountain to the Yatsugatake-Chushin Kogen. In Japan, a Quasi-National Park is a park that is managed by nearby prefectures, rather than the federal government. Yatsugatake-Chushin Kogen is a quasi-national park designated as such in 1964, managed by the Nagano and Yamanashi prefecture governments, and has a surface area of close to forty thousand hectares: it encompasses several lava plateaus and is a popular site for skiing. The area’s volcanic origins mean that onsen are also found here.

  • Here, we are looking at an ordinary roadside turnout. According to Google Maps, Rin would’ve continued on into the mountains along route 194, turned onto route 199, and then made her way back down along route 142. She would then turn right onto the Shimo-Suwa-Okaya bypass, continued on until she reached the Takabochi Skyline route and then ascend upwards into the mountains again. The entire run is around 37.1 kilometres, and back home, this distance can be traveled in roughly a third of an hour on open road. However, the winding mountain roads and area traffic slow things down.

  • The sign here (高ボッチ鉱泉) to the Takabocchi Hot Springs indicates that it is around six kilometres out, and last I checked, this hot springs has been permanently closed. While there’s the misconception that it was closed for the season, the sign seen in Yuru Camp△ indicates that this closure is indeed permanent, otherwise, the sign would indicate that it was closed seasonally. One can empathise with Rin, who’s traveled for upwards of an hour and a half outside, where it is 2ºC: while this is warm for folks of the True North Strong™, I know that being outside for this long without proper outerwear can be quite chilly.

  • Rin busts some mad moves on her way down to the Takabocchi hot springs. Six more minutes further would have seen Rin arriving at Akanejyuku Hot Springs, which visitors report to be quite comfortable and relaxing. Akanejyuku is a ryokan, but their hot springs are open to the public; admissions for adults is 700 yen, although the site asks visitors to limit themselves to sticking around only an hour to respect the accommodations for the ryokan‘s guests. Like the hot springs at Banff, the site’s water temperature may fluctuate unexpectedly.

  • With her plans to warm her bones in the onsen dashed, Rin returns up the way she came and stops in the wide open spaces of the Takabocchi highlands, which offer a sweeping view of the Japanese Alps to the northwest. Mount Fuji is also visible in the east when visibility is good. Between May and October, dairy cows also graze up here, although since it’s November by the time Rin visits, the grasslands are now quite empty.

  • The Yuru Camp△ incarnation of this field, with its cattle, seems a mirror of what I managed to find on Google Maps, and admittedly brings to mind “Bliss”, one of the most famous Windows wallpapers of all time. Featured as the default wallpaper for Windows XP, “Bliss” depicts an open field in California’s Sonoma County and was photographed by Charles O’Rear, but the site has changed considerably in the years since the photo was taken; there’s a wineyard up here now.

  • The combination of radio transmission towers and fog gives the area a distinctly Syphon Filter-like atmosphere: this series of third-person stealth shooters were released for the PlayStation and PlayStation 2 consoles of old, and when older graphics hardware meant that fog was widely used to conceal distant objects owing to limited draw distances. The towers at Takabocchi belong to NTT DoCoMo, a phone service provider whose name is a shorthand for the phrase “do communications over the mobile network” and also is phonetically similar to the phrase dokomo (どこも, “everywhere”).

  • From this entry, it’s a short 400-metre hike to the very top of Mount Takabocchi, which is 1664 metres above sea level. The ascent is actually not too arduous, as it’s quite flat up here, and, quite dejected by how her day’s turned out, Rin decides to climb up to the summit. It’s impossible not to feel bad for Rin, who wonders if it would’ve been easier to camp closer to home. Her first-ever long-range camping trip was met with a few disappointments, but from the viewers’ perspective, her day also had its high points, as well.

  • Whether it’s the sunset or midday, the view from Mount Takabocchi is spectacular. On Rin’s walk up to the summit, the dense clouds gradually give way, and she’s afforded with a spectacular view of Lake Suwa and the valley below. The density of particulates make it difficult to discern Mount Fuji from this spot, but Rin’s rewarded with a good view of Japan’s most famous stratovolcano, as well. I remark that Lake Suwa formed the inspiration for Itomori Lake in Your Name, and while I was in the area last, I was also actively avoiding spoilers about the movie.

  • As such, I did not make the connections when my travels took me close to Lake Suwa. Nonetheless, I enjoyed my travels considerably, and it was an added bonus that I did end up in the area that partially served to inspire Your Name‘s Itomori. We presently leave Lake Suwa behind and return to Hottarakashi Camping Ground, where Nadeshiko has decided to undertake a walk under the night skies. During her walk down from the campsite, she’s visibly frightened by the dark, but nonetheless persists in her walk and is rewarded for her troubles. Visible on the left is a fruit shop.

  • This viewpoint overlooking Yamanashi offers a stunning view to match the view that Rin’s got at Takabocchi; Yuru Camp△‘s deliberate choice to pick locations with beautiful night views and juxtapose Rin’s solo camping trip with Nadeshiko’s group camping with Chiaki and Aoi show that in spite of outward differences in their chosen approaches, both ways of camping have their merits and lead to a similar destination: a sense of wonder associated with the outdoors.

  • Rin’s travels come to an end with a visit to Suwa’s Takashima Castle and a proper soak in an onsen. The original castle was built in 1592, during the Edo period but was dismantled during the Meji Restoration. The current structure was the result of a reconstruction project that finished in 1970; the rebuilt castle is not entirely accurate to its original form, but it’s nonetheless a pleasant place to visit. Besides a museum, there’s also a park that provides a good view of cherry blossoms.

  • Nadeshiko accompanies Rin on her latest camping trip; after Rin expresses a desire to test her shiny new portable grill out, she invites Nadeshiko to come with her to Lake Shibire. This time, Rin and Nadeshiko receive a ride from Sakura. At the beginning of their journey, Sakura takes a route over Toyama Bridge on the Katakajima Bypass on her way to Iitomi, where the girls pick up provisions for their camping trip.

  • Google’s directions tool provides several possible routes to reach Lake Shibire: Sakura opts to take the slightly-longer but presumably more familiar Motosu-Michi route, which brings the girls by their high school. This particular stretch of road leads up to Lake Motosu, although rather than making a right onto route 412, Sakura continues along route 300 to their destination. From the concrete barriers to the retaining wall, Yuru Camp△ has lovingly illustrated the girls’ routes; at this point in the game, it is evident that intrepid adventurers can take the very same paths in Yuru Camp△, but further to this, one would likely need to rent a vehicle to begin trekking along some of these paths.

  • Sakura takes route 414, a narrow mountain road that leads up to Lake Shibire. The guard rail and narrower road indicates that this spot is deeper in the mountains, ruling out the small valleys along the way, and so, just like that, we find our location. Again, the attention to detail in Yuru Camp△ is exceptional; inspection of the real-world and anime images find considerable similarities: the same power cables can be seen in the anime screenshot as in the image from Google Maps.

  • There is only one way up to Lake Shibire from route 414, and this is up route 409. Because route 414 is down a very narrow, winding road, one imagines it would be quite easy to miss important intersections, so it makes sense that signs indicating directions of places would be placed at said intersections to help motorists out. Thus, the sign and mirror seen here were found fairly quickly. I should note that if my links break for any reason, please let me know immediately, so I can set about replacing them!

  • As much fun as it sounds, the legend of the bull that Yuru Camp△‘s narrator explains is, unfortunately, bullshit; the lake’s name in kanji is 四尾, or “Four tails”. This is said to have originated from a legend where a four-tailed dragon god resides up here. Here is the same monolith that Rin passes by en route to their campground, although the photograph does not capture the autumnal beauty of Lake Shibire in its full glory. Here, I mention that other sources have considered Yuru Camp△‘s narrator as ‘mysterious’, but I think that the narrator is Rin’s grandfather. Encountered while Chiaki is hunting for camping spots, Rin’s grandfather is an expert camper and inspired Rin to take up camping: it is only logical that he is the one explaining to audiences what the campers are up to.

  • Nadeshiko takes a walk around Lake Shibire while Rin sets up the campfire. This particular camping trip proved to be quite entertaining for viewers: Nadeshiko’s fear of the dark means that she’s reluctant to be out and about after sunset, and she decides to make the most of things while it’s light out. Rin seems unperturbed by the dark, although when returning from the bathroom, encounters a “mysterious shadow” that she bolts from. Rin is so shaken that she decides to spend the remainder of the night in Nadeshiko’s tent, and while she does not outright say it to Nadeshiko, it’s clear that in this moment, Rin is glad that she was not camping solo.

  • Prior to the events of Yuru Camp△, Nadeshiko lived at the edge of Hamamatsu, a moderately-sized city with a population of nearly eight hundred thousand people. She mentions that she was close to Hamana Lake, so this is where I began searching. Because 3D buildings are available, it was possible to fly overhead and, even though I was applying a brute force search, it was moderately quick to locate this intersection by viewing the shoreline of the lake and then working out what landmarks below looked familiar.

  • From features seen in Yuru Camp△, I eventually found this spot, located on a bridge south of Lake Hamana, connecting an island where Nagisaen Camping Ground is located to a series of reclaimed islands. As a software developer, I believe in good documentation and good step-by-step instructions. While I am of the mind that ideas and information that is worth something should definitely be protected, simple or trivial things, such as a simple “indexed table view with a search bar” or locations of an anime are not meant to be kept behind lock-and-key.

  • Nadeshiko had long admired Mount Fuji from afar, and when her family moved to Nanbu, her first decision was to see Japan’s best mountain up close and personal. Nadeshiko recalls the drive to Nanbu from Hamamatsu, so to find this spot along Nadeshiko’s route, I decided to see how one would get from Hamamatsu to Nanbu. The returned results include the Tōmei Expressway and Shin-Tōmei Expressway, a divided highway, and the image from Yuru Camp△ depicts the freeway as cutting through a forested, mountainous area with an overpass visible in the distance. The Shin-Tōmei Expressway cuts through more forest, so I looked overhead for any intersecting routes, and eventually came across the one depicted in Yuru Camp△, which is near the Maoten Shrine. While Mount Fuji is visible from this point on a good day, it is nowhere near as prominent as seen in Yuru Camp△.

  • The remainder of the locations in this post are fortunately, not so obscure: we return to the valley where Nadeshiko and the others spend their everyday lives in Yuru Camp△ here. This is Minobu station, which has been in operation since 1920. The current building dates back to 1980, and the station averages around four hundred and fifty passengers daily. From Minobu Station and the surrounding town of Minobu, the locations that Chiaki, Aoi and Nadeshiko travel along to reach the Caribou outdoors shop are easily found along route 10.

  • This crosswalk is found adjacent to Minobu Station: we are looking at a liquor store and a restaurant. A little further down the road is the confectionery store where the girls buy manju. These are apparently so good that Nadeshiko and Aoi eat their way through theirs in a heartbeat, and rush off to buy more. In their conversation, Aoi, Chiaki and Nadeshiko wonder why the manju are overlooked amidst the other offerings in Minobu. However, since Yuru Camp△ aired, this particular shop has seen an increase in sales, and visitors find that true to what the girls experience, the manju are excellent.

  • Because talking about benches is quite dull, I will deviate from what the screenshots above yield and discuss the Caribou outdoors store: in one of my reviews, I mentioned that looking around the area does not find such a store to exist. As it turns out, the actual store that Nadeshiko, Chiaki and Aoi visit is located in Hamamatsu. I imagine that like Glasslip, the change in location is intentionally so to facilitate the story: from the girls’ train station at Kai-Tokiwa to SWEN in Hamamatsu is a journey of at least three hours rather than the sixteen minutes it takes to get from Kai-Tokiwa to Minobu Station.

  • As we near the end of this third part of my Yuru Camp△ Armchair Journey mini-series, I will note that there might be a fourth part in the future as my schedule allows, but for now, readers will have at least three comprehensive parts to look through and explore. I will make a map available in the future, but for now, readers do have direct links to the Street View points for more obscure locations. For obvious locations like Minobu Station and its surroundings, I leave it to you, the reader, to explore around.

  • While landmarks such as Minobu Station and its surroundings are straightforwards to find, there are challenges encountered with more mundane, obscure locations. Fortunately, locating the last of these locations was not as tricky as finding that intersection in Hinamatsu: as we near the end of this post, we have one more ace-in-the-hole. Previously, we figured out where Rin and Nadeshiko’s school was, and judging from the lighting of the sky, it’s after school. So, the question then becomes “how does Nadeshiko get from school to Kai-Tokiwa Station?”, and knowing this, if we follow the shortest route from school to the train station, we have a relatively short walk that we can follow. Exploring this allows us to find the exact spot where Nadeshiko waves to a dog on a truck.

  • As we follow this route to its conclusion, we come across a bridge with a sign indicating that its maximum load is fourteen tonnes. It is here that Nadeshiko encounters a Google Street View vehicle, with its distinctive camera fixture. From the road sign and storefront, to the adjacent white apartment and street lamps, Yuru Camp△‘s attention to detail is visible again here. While her voice and message indicate excitement, Nadeshiko also seems a bit shocked that she’s encountered such an unusual vehicle here.

  • During the evening, Rin explores the area surrounding her school using a tablet. Google Maps was launched in 2005, and a mobile version for Android became available in 2008. The technology has come a very long way since then, and one of the features I make use of the most frequently is offline mode. This function is most useful when I’m in areas without a cell signal or WiFi, and today, Google Maps on tablets is immensely powerful, allowing me to explore areas in Street View as smoothly as I do on a desktop computer.

  • The surprise that Rin finds while exploring familiar streets is as much of a nice easter egg as the various Stan Lee cameos and the end credits sequences of MCU movies. The real world location is quite devoid of people, and I note here that while Yuru Camp△ is excellent in terms of details, they missed one thing in this Street View segment: Google routinely blurs out faces and license plates to preserve privacy. Nadeshiko’s face is not hidden here: while Google is reasonably thorough, they can sometimes miss things, and users are asked to report anything that they would like to be blurred. Of course, this is one case where realism is not of utmost importance: a blurred Nadeshiko would destroy the joke of running into her at this crosswalk.

The backroads Rin took to Mount Takabotchi, Nadeshiko and Rin’s ride to Lake Shibire, Nadeshiko’s flashbacks to Hanamatsu, and the Google Maps locations that sees Nadeshiko encountering Google’s Street View vehicle, were far more obscure than any of the locations I had previously kept track of. There are no distinguishable landmarks, street signs or other indicators of where some of these locations are. However, there is my accumulated knowledge of how Yuru Camp△ does things: two approaches were used to find the locations showcased in this final Yuru Camp△ Armchair Journey post. The first is that the anime sees the girls take the most efficient route to get from point A to point B, and so, given that we know what the optimal route is, we can trace this route and, following it, find things that are more obscure (such as the highway Nadeshiko recalls driving down while moving to Nanbu or the sign pointing to Lake Shibire). The second is that as long as the girls are on foot, we can explore nearby areas (within a one-kilometre radius) if their starting point is known. Nadeshiko’s viewpoint of Yamanashi and the hot spring Rin initially hoped to enjoy were found in this manner. The end result of this is that I find myself highly impressed with the attention to detail that Yuru Camp△ takes in depicting not just the techniques for camping, but also the journey and paths everyone takes to their destinations. By now, it’s become clear that the only way to really enjoy these locations is if one has home field advantage, or a considerable amount of vacation time on their hands – for everyone else, I again defer to the incredible capabilities that Google Maps has conferred upon us. Short of travelling to Japan in person, this tool has offered no shortage of exploration options that will serve to deepen the audiences’ appreciation of the effort that went into making Yuru Camp△. I close with the remark that, back in Pure Pwnage‘s first season’s eighth episode, Jeremy and Doug square off again DeathStriker6666 at LANageddon in Calgary. I immediately recognised the streets and hills as being in Calgary, but for the longest time, I wondered where the location was. After attending a Japanese festival at the Bowness Community Centre, I realised that the site was the one and the same for LANageddon, bringing an answer to yet another long-standing question I’ve had about Pure Pwnage. One thing’s for sure: I highly doubt that there exists anyone else out there who’ve had the audacity to mention Yuru Camp△ and Pure Pwnage in the same sentence, much less in the same blog post.