“Ours is a land of original peoples, and of newcomers. And our greatest pride is that you can come here from anywhere in the world, build a good life and be part of our community. We don’t care where you’re from, or what religion you practice, or whom you love, you are all welcome in Canada!” —The Rt Hon. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
The rest of the world knows the True North as a nation of maple syrup-loving, hockey-watching and polite folks accustomed to the second most intense winters of the world (Canada loses the crown of having the harshest winters only to Russia, for which our weak winters are no match for Real Soviet Winter™). Here’s an insider secret – only half of that is true, half of the time. What remains steadfast in our nation, however, is our multiculturalism and wonderfully diverse seasons – these are the things that I am most proud of as a Canadian, and this year also happens to be the nation’s 150th birthday. Known officially as the 150th anniversary of Confederation, Canada 150 commemorates the point in our history where Canada became an independent nation when, back in 1867, the Quebec Conference saw the unification of British Colonies into a single Dominion. Compared to other nations, such as Egypt and China, we are definitely a young nation whose name on the world stage once extended to humanitarianism, a staunch commitment to peacekeeping and a general acceptance of diversity. The vast wilderness of Canada is also something Canada is known for around the world, drawing over twenty million visitors last year. It is this side of Canada that Makoto Shinkai chooses to depict in his thirty-second advertisement, which follows Yuya Miyagi, a salaryman who’s been working for five years. Behind his stoic and practical exterior lies an adventurous side. So, when his girlfriend, Satsuki Koumi, finds herself under tremendous stress from work, Yuya decides to invite her to the True North Strong, where they visit some of Canada’s most celebrated destinations by winter.
Screenshots and Commentary
- The first moment in Warm, Winter Canada is of Cascade Mountain in Banff from Banff Avenue at Buffalo Street. The Dave White Block is visible on the left of the image, while the Clocktower Village Mall can be seen to the right hand side. A town of 7847 as of 2016, Banff is one of the most famous destinations in the Canadian Rockies and was founded in 1885, two years after William McCardell and Frank McCabe descended down a fallen tree trunk into a hole in the ground, stumbling across what is now the Cave and Basin. Knowledge of the hot springs predates these two railway workers – James Hector made the first mention of the site in 1859 while on the Palliser Expedition.
- Yuya and Satsuki enjoy a view of Rundle Mountain from the frozen surface of Lake Minnewanka. Visible from the Trans-Canada Highway, Mount Rundle has a distinct knife-like shape when seen from the Vermillion Lakes, extends twelve kilometers, and its highest point is 2949 metres. I’ve never actually been to Banff by winter before owing to winter roads, but having seen photographs (and now, this short), I’m compelled to make use of the complementary park pass and swing by come December, when Banff Avenue is adjorned with Christmas decorations and lights.
- This talk on Warm, Winter Canada now holds the distinction of having the highest screenshot density of any post I’ve ever written: the previous record belonged to Utopia (a True Tears, Hanasaku Iroha and Tari Tari crossover), with one screenshot per 6.67 seconds. Before Utopia, my talk on Cross road held the record for one screenshot every 12 seconds, and Someone’s Gaze had one screenshot every 18 seconds. However, with a runtime of thirty seconds, and the fact that I have a total of twenty screenshots here, Warm, Winter Canada utterly defeats the old numbers with one screenshot every 1.5 seconds.
- Satsuki and Yuya gaze at the “frozen bubbles” phenomenon at Abraham Lake, located alongside the David Thompson Highway between Saskatchewan River Crossing and Nordegg. Despite being an artificial lake, it has a distinct blue colouration as a result of rock flour, and the bubbles in the lake are caused by decaying plant matter from the lake bed. Of all the locations in Warm, Winter Canada, this is the only place I’ve not visited.
- On the slopes of Mount Norquay overlooking the Banff Townsite. From here, Mount Norquay Road and the Banff Fenland Recreation Center are visible immediately beside Satsuki, along with the townsite and Banff Springs Hotel. This particular location was captured from an open meadow on the Banff Viewpoint, located two-thirds of the way up the Mount Norquay Scenic Drive. Admittedly, it feels nice to be doing a talk on locations I’m very familiar with: the first part of Warm, Winter Canada is set right in my backyard, located an hour and a half from Calgary.
- Yuya and Satsuki visit the Granville Island Public Market next, with a span of the Granville Street Bridge visible in the background. The island was once an industrial area, but by 1972, the federal government invested in the area and converted it into a shopping district, adding the Public Market building in 1979. Since then, Granville Island has become one of Vancouver’s most well-known areas, renowned for an unparalleled shopping experience, offering a Farmer’s Market, street vendors and artists. The last time I visited Granville Island was back in 2001, and I still vividly recall the atmosphere.
- JJ Bean is a coffee company that was established in 1996 by John Neate Jr. Headquartered in Vancouver, this coffee shop prides itself on using the best coffee beans and roasting techniques to create their coffee, although I’ve never tried their beverages out before, as they only have locations in Vancouver and Toronto.
- Of the vendors at Granville Island Market, the Four Seasons Farms, Sunlight Farms and Granville Island Produce sell produce. Warm, Winter Canada depicts these items in extensive detail: fruits are especially appealing to render because of their rich colours and the play of light on them: this single frame showcases the sort of details that Shinkai’s team can render. With this in mind, I think that seafood, especially grilled Pacific Salmon with a maple syrup glaze, would be more reflective of Vancouver’s cuisine.
- Yuya and Satsuki browse through the wares inside the Granville Island Market: Duso’s is visible to the left, and from this frame, it would appear the still of fresh blueberries, grapes, raspberries and apples are from Granville Island Produce. Duso’s is a store that specialises in Italian products, from cheese and cooking oil to marinara sauces and pasta. Established in the 1960s by the Duso family, this is one of the oldest establishments on Granville Island. The nature of the market reminds me somewhat of Sha Tin’s wet market, which I visited back in May.
- Here, Yuya and Satsuki sample nuts at The Nut Merchant, a speciality shop that sells nuts of all manner. In addition to conventional salted nuts, The Nut Merchant also has amongst its offerings, maple almond. One must admire the attention to details in Warm, Winter Canada – I’ve taken a look at Japanese border laws, and it states that boiled, roasted, dried or salted nuts (save walnuts) can be brought back into Japan. Canadian customs allow nuts to be brought back if they have been commercially packaged, although being an agricultural nation, things like fresh produce, meat and dairy products must be declared and not exceed a certain amount.
- Canada Place is a convention centre and cruise ship terminal on the Burrard Inlet at the heart of Vancouver. Completed in 1985, the site was expanded in 2001, and in 2003, I departed from here on a family vacation, a cruise with Celebrity Cruises to Alaska’s Inside Passage. In 2003, the distinct sculpture, The Drop, had not been available at the site yet: this addition was made in 2009. I’ve not been to Vancouver proper since 2003 – my last four visits were merely stop-overs at their airport.
- Compared to Calgary, Vancouver has a warmer climate, more opportunity in technology and software and superior culture all around, but the caveat is that being the nicest city in Canada has also driven up the cost of living. While much less sophisticated, Calgary has the advantage of shorter commutes, a slightly lower cost of living and more weather diversity (we’re one of the few places in the world where it goes from -20ºC to 15ºC because of the Chinook). I’m at that stage in my life where I’m wondering about whether or not I should put down roots in my home town or if I should pack it up and go where the opportunity is – so far, I’m inclined to put down roots here.
- In the summer of 2008, I went to Eastern Canada, which encompassed Toronto, Niagara Falls, Ottawa, Montreal and Quebec City. Seeing the Canadian side of Niagara Falls was wonderful, and we were able to ride the Maid of the Mist, seen here by winter. In the summer, the mist coming from the falls is most comfortable, and we were treated to the full tour on our visit, encompassing history of the falls, interesting figures and even a trip up the Skylon tower. Come the summer of 2011, I visited the American side of the falls, where we donned ponchos and walked along a walkway close to the American falls.
- The only thing that surpasses Makoto Shinkai’s rendering of Horseshoe Falls is an actual photograph of the falls. The page quote comes from Canada’s current Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau. Politics is something I tend not to discuss here, since my beliefs are my own. On the whole, I find that Prime Minister Trudeau to have a ways to go in fulfilling his campaign promises, and although he may hold different beliefs than his predecessor, Steven Harper, things have not changed too substantially since Trudeau took office back in 2015.
- This is the Nathan Phillips Square in Toronto. The largest public square of its kind in Canada, it was completed in 1965, covers 4.85 hectares and is located adjacent to Toronto’s city hall. Like Calgary’s Olympic Plaza, becomes a skating rink in winter. The large TORONTO sign was an addition from the 2015 Pan-American games, and once the events were over, the sign was intended to be moved to another location. However, it’s since remained at the location.
- The Toronto City Hall is visible in the background here: it’s one of Toronto’s most distinct landmarks, with its twin curved towers and space-age design. I admit that I’ve never been too much of a skater, and ever since an accident where I split my chin open while skating about some years back, I’ve not been too keen in skating. I still have the scars. Back in Warm, Winter Canada, another Canadian skater helps prevent Satsuki from falling. This simple moment captures what people abroad think of Canadians – a polite people. It’s probably not the case, but we do tend to apologise proportionately more than our neighbours down south.
- If I had to guess, this particular location would be somewhere close to the Ward Island Ferry Dock. The Toronto skyline by night is beautiful, and being Canada’s largest city, is considered to be top-tier with respect to dining, entertainment and culture. I know Toronto best for being the home of Pure Pwnage, a hilarious mockumentary about gamer culture that culminated in last year’s movie. Despite its whacky premise and zany characters, Pure Pwnage provides numerous life lessons within its outlandish narrative, being both fun and somewhat instructive during its run.
- The last location in Warm, Winter Canada is not given on screen – Yuya and Satsuki are enjoying the Aurora Borealis: one of the greatest misconceptions out there is that the northern lights can only occur by winter, when in fact, they can be visible any time of year depending on solar activity. Having said this, the winter months are better for chasing the northern lights because the hours of darkness are longer: the further up north one goes by summer, the longer daylight hours become.The Yukon, Nunavut and Northwest Territories are the best places in the country for viewing northern lights, as are the northern reaches of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
- While the technical explanation would be very long and involve math I do not understand, I can offer the layman’s explanation for what causes the aurora borealis. Highly charged, energised particles from solar ejecta interact with atoms in our atmosphere, causing electrons to change orbitals (electrons tend to occupy specific orbitals). When the electrons lose their energy and return from a high energy orbit to a lower one, they emit photons with an energy corresponding with which orbits they return to, in turn affecting the wavelength of the light. In oxygen, green is the most common colour, while nitrogen usually exudes a red light (or more rarely, blue).
- This was a surprisingly fun post to write for, especially for the fact that I don’t get to talk about places from my homeland very often. What isn’t shown in Warm, Winter Canada is that Real Canadian Winter™ is not all fun and games: snowy days can shut down whole cities, making roads impassible or uncommonly slippery, while heavy storms can knock out the power and plunge neighbourhoods into the winter chill. Wind chill can drop temperatures below -40ºC, and vehicles become reluctant to start if left outside during the night. Having said this, the commercial is a beautiful one that goes quite a way in reminding me that I live in a majestic nation of great beauty.
In the thirty second short, Yuya and Satsuki experience the Canadian winter, but far from being the frigid wastelands that might be expected of a nation who spends more than half the year locked under short days, grey skies and icy roads, they find Canada to be a welcoming, majestic and warm nation whose people and landscapes do much to offset the harshness of a Canadian winter. Produced in a collaboration with the Japanese branch of Destination Canada (a Crown Corporation responsible for promoting tourism in Canada), this short is a part of a contest for Japanese citizens involving a trivia quiz. Participants are eligible for prizes, which include travel guides, Aboriginal crafts and Canadian perfumes, with the grand prize being a trip to Canada. The short itself was produced by the same team who worked on Makoto Shinkai’s Your Name, one of the biggest animated films in Japanese history: animation itself is attributed to Hisayuki Tabata. Its short length belies the beauty that is Canada, and while Shinkai may have a predisposition towards stories of distance and the like, his animation team’s works outside of film retain all of the quality found in his films. With Your Name in the books, I’ve long expressed a wish for Shinkai and his team to work on a story set outside of Japan: the landscapes and stories of Canada, from the Fur Trade to the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway, the discovery of hot springs in what is now Banff National Park and the gold rush in the Yukon are all worth exploring with the visual fidelity that few can match. Of course, such a project is unlikely, but it nonetheless remains impressive that the same team that created Your Name now lend their talents bringing parts of my homeland to life in anime form, vividly capturing the sights and places with the detail and attention befitting some of the nation’s greatest attractions. As for the contest behind this advertisement, I can say that whoever wins the grand prize is in for a fantastic treat when they visit Canada.