The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games, academia and life dare to converge

Tag Archives: Japan

Reflections on visiting the Land of the Rising Sun and Pearl of the Orient

“All right, okay, now we’re in the quiet safe room where none of the stuff that I bought from various shops can be lost in transit. Now, let’s look at all the stuff we got. We got a Kimi no na wa Official Visual Guide, that’s sixteen hundred yen. We got a Mount Fuji fridge magnet, that’s four hundred and eighty yen. We got, uh, a…some bells from the Hong Kong airport. Seventy Hong Kong dollars.” —Stealy, Rick and Morty

I’m back from my travels across the ocean to Japan and Hong Kong after two weeks; having returned for a week now, the effects of jet lag and a persistent cough picked up on the flight back are no longer felt, and the time is appropriate to do a short reflection at my travels through a section of Japan, which encompassed a journey from Tokyo to Osaka over a four-day period. It’s the first trip I’ve done in some time that did not involve my graduate work, and during the course of my travels, I noticed that time moved at a much more relaxing, casual pace than it does when I’m at work. After brief stay in Tokyo and an overnight at the Hotel Heritage Resort (where I had a fantastic evening dinner and soaked in the onsen) on the first day, we travelled to Mount Fuji and toured Oshino village nearby before ascending to the Fifth Station located on the side of the mountain for a closer look at Japan’s most famous mountain for day two. The day ended at the Ikenotaira Resort, located in the Kirigamine Highland. On the third day, after enjoying some fresh strawberries at the Enakyo Observatory overlooking the Kiso River, we strolled down the walk at Magome Village and sat down to a Japanese-style lunch before visiting Nagoya’s ​Atsuta Shrine. On the final day, Kyoto’s legendary Kinkakuji was first on the list of things to take in, followed by Nara’s ​Tōdai temple in the afternoon. The day concluded in Osaka, bringing the lightning tour of Japan to a close. Subsequently, I flew to Hong Kong and spent a week there with family, doing a self-guided tour by day and sitting down to dinner with relatives and family friends by night. It’s been a most pleasant experience, and by the end of things, I was quite ready to return to the True North Strong and begin working again.

The experience in Japan was a wondrous one, an opportunity to visit the Land of the Rising Sun for myself: it’s definitely a fine destination for visiting, striking a fine balance between modernity and history. Most of my travels saw me visit more traditional locations, such as Tokyo’s Meiji Jinju Shrine and Imperial Palace, but a glimpse of the Tokyo Skytree and drive through Tokyo’s metro area also showcased Japan’s urban aspects. Most of the trip was actually spent exploring historical and rural attractions: Magome and Oshino Village were located a ways from urban centers, offering a quiet respite from the hustle and bustle of the city that is a far cry from images of a busy, never-sleeping nation. I greatly enjoyed these places, where the pacing was calm and easygoing; it is one thing to see these things from behind a screen or written on a page, so to have experienced a diverse array of places and foods in Japan personally was most illuminating and enjoyable: besides Japanese snow crab, Kobe beef was also to be savoured. As with France last year, the Japan component of my vacation was also a humbling one: compared to Hong Kong, where I can get by moderately well on account of fluency in spoken Cantonese, my command of the Japanese language is not particularly good, so even though I can wield enough of the basics to order food and ask for directions, travelling in a foreign country serves as a constant reminder that the world is vast, and complex societies that have developed reflect on the sheer diversity on our planet. Overall, this vacation to Japan was superb in all ways, and while only scratching the surface of things, afforded me a chance to explore and experience a plethora of elements in Japan.

Image Gallery

  • Last I did a post featuring photographs with anime vectors superimposed was back for the Cancún ALIFE XV Conference last July, and this post will feature thirty images on top of the standard issue discussion. The vectors are deliberately placed, to liven up the images, although some images lack these vectors, since placing them would seem illogical. The photographs begin on the full first day in Tokyo: we had arrived in the early evening on the previous day and stayed close to the hotel, being exhausted from the flight and dissuaded from exploring the nearby plains on account of a shower. This image was taken from the open area besides the Imperial Palace in Tokyo’s Chiyoda district.

  • Driving into Tokyo from Narita, then visiting the Meiji Jinju Shrine and Imperial Palace took up most of the morning of the first day. We stopped by a nabe place that featured a hot pot already set up with cabbage, shiitake mushrooms and bean sprouts, with an egg, fried chicken and thinly-sliced beef strips and udon noodles. It was quite fun to cook the meats for myself, and lunch was a highly delicious affair. Following lunch, we spent some time in the Ginza district, browsing around the shops in the area.

  • The Wako building in the Ginza district is visible in this image, being dwarfed by the other developments along the road. The building was constructed in 1932, and I know it best from the film King Kong vs. Godzilla. It houses the Wako department store, selling fancier items like jewellery and designer clothing. I suddenly recall that I’ve yet to actually beat Go! Go! Nippon! – having visited Japan in person before finishing a simulated visit is perhaps one of the strongest reminders of just how big of a procrastinator I am when it comes to entertainment.

  • Owing to time constraints, we did not actually go inside the Tokyo Skytree, and instead, stopped on a promenade along the Sumida River about a klick and some away from the Skytree. The heavy cloud cover would have made it difficult to get a good view of Tokyo that day. With a height of 634 meters, it is the second tallest structure in the world, bested only by Dubai’s Burj Khalifa. While a broadcasting and communications tower for several Japanese television stations, there are also two observation decks, a larger capacity one at 350 meters and a smaller one at 450 meters. By comparison, Taipei 101’s observation deck is 391.8 meters above the surface, and the International Commerce Center in Hong Kong’s observation decks is 387.8 meters above the surface.

  • The Koganji temple is located around seven klicks ways from the Skytree as the mole digs in a shopping district. It is a popular destination, as the temple is a place where people can purify and heal minor ailments. On the fourth, fourteenth and twenty-fourth day of each month, a small festival is also held here. This image was captured facing south from the temple grounds.

  • On the second day, we headed for Mount Fuji, visiting three different locations that each offered a unique view of Japan’s most famous mountain. We began at the Fuji Bhuddist Temple in Gotemba: Mount Fuji is just across the way, and while that morning was beautiful, the mountain itself was enveloped in cloud, almost as though it was still preparing itself to be seen. Here, the views of the mountain would have been spectacular, although despite not being able to see the mountain itself, I nonetheless enjoyed the cool, fresh air here.

  • The main reason for why I’ve been able to document my travels over the past two years is because of my iPhone: the combination of a powerful camera and a good set of offline maps allowed me to chronicle every destination visited. I note that Google Maps does not provide offline areas in Japan owing to laws and regulations, so I went with Having good maps is essential to travel and takes away a bit of the guesswork in estimating where I am in relation to a destination, and in the aftermath of a vacation, also has the benefit of providing exceptionally precise recollections of where I went.

  • We made our way to Yamanakako shortly after, where we stopped at a yakiniku restaurant besides Lake Yamanaka for lunch. Plates of beef, chicken and pork awaited us, and I drank miso soup while waiting for my lunch to cook. There was a shared grill that we used to bring the meat to perfection, and I chose to grill the pork and chicken first, leaving the beef for last. I do love a good grill, and this lunch was as fun to eat as it was to cook.

  • Yamanakako is situated right beside Lake Yamanaka, and our stopping point was on the lake’s western shore, so I was not able to get any photographs of Mount Fuji and the lake. Largest of the Fuji lakes in surface area, it is also the shallowest and is a popular spot for water sports. In the moments after lunch, there was sufficient time to purchase some souvenirs, so I picked up a fridge magnet and was on my way.

  • Next on our destination was the village of Oshino, where we visited Shibokusa. The quiet and tranquil of the village gave way to a bit of a crowd as we neared the Nigoriike pool and sourvenir shop. I ordered an ice cream: the weather that day had remained quite pleasant and warm, hence my wish for something cool. In a bit of carelessness, I had forgotten my hat back home, but a good supply of sunscreen and mercifully cooler weather on the trip meant that this mistake was not too much of an issue.

  • While I was walking the streets of Shibokusa and marvelling at a water wheel driving a traditional mill, some folks in my social media feed were deep into the Kantai Collection Spring Event, fighting the impossible Random Number Generator in the hopes of besting the Abyssals and unlocking ships. From their remarks and those of other Kantai Collection players, the game seems to be more trouble than it’s worth (the setup alone requires a doctorate in computer science, from what I hear), so between Shimushu, get! or eating an ice cream in a peaceful village thirteen klicks from Mount Fuji, Mount Fuji would win every time.

  • Although the season for hanami has passed, some trees were still in blossom at Shibokusa. As this image attests, the area is quite popular amongst tourists, being a ways livelier than the quieter reaches of the village. One of the locals handed out some peanuts to us while we were walking en route to Shibokusa, and I immediately wondered that, had I chosen to eat the peanuts, where would the shells go? One of the challenges about Japan is the relative lack of trash cans: the broken window theory is offered as the reason why, suggesting that forcing people to hold onto their trash means a decreased inclination to throw refuse out at random.

  • The clouds around Mount Fuji had lifted somewhat by afternoon, and here, I caught a glimpse of the mountain before it was engulfed by clouds again. We had reached the end of the shops on the street and found ourselves looking into someone’s backyard at this point, hence the decision to turn back, revealing the mountain. Another aspect of Japan that I was unaccustomed to were the presence of toilet seats that seem more advanced than the seat of a fighter aircraft even in public facilities. Found at our hotels, I admit that heated toilet seats were quite nice, but I never bothered using their additional functions, which seem quite intimidating. By comparison, the toilets in Hong Kong were rather more familiar and straightforwards to use. One of the things I noticed while in Japan was the lack of soap dispensers in public restrooms: carrying a small bottle of hand sanitizer rectifies this.

  • The final destination for the second day was the Fifth Station, located 2400 meters above sea level. Being the highest point that climbers can begin making their ascent from, the site is home to some shops and restaurants, and the mountain itself is vividly visible. Up here, the conditions are rather different than the warm temperatures of the surrounding regions: there is a distinct chill in the air, and having a nice jacket makes it more comfortable to wander about here.

  • By the time we finished the descent Mount Fuji and travelled out to Ikenotaira Hotel, on the shores of Shirakaba Lake. While utterly exhausted, I was reawakened by the buffet dinner at the hotel. I enjoyed their tempura and snow crab to a great extent and did not partake in the onsen, preferring to hit the hay almost straightway. The next morning was the third day: I woke up early and walked out to the lake’s edge to capture this image, before exploring the resort connected to our hotel. It’s an older facility that bring to mind some of the haikyo I’ve seen, but is still well-maintained and comfortable.

  • There’s no anime character vector here because I took this photograph with my phone over the railing of the Enakyo Lookout point over the Kiso River, and it simply won’t make sense to obscure the image 😉 It was shaping up to be a warm day, and we puchased some strawberries from a vendor on the roadside, savouring their sweetness before moving on. There’s an amusement park, Enakyo Wonderland, adjacent to the observation point, and unlike the legendary Nara Dreamland, this one is still active: open most days from 9:30 AM to 5:00 PM, admissions start at 1100 yen.

  • This house carries with it a very Takehara-like feel to it, overlooking Magome-juku. Forty-third of the Nakasendõ‘s sixty-nine stations that were located along the ancient road between Kyoto and Tokyo, Magome-juku’s old town is well preserved, featuring buildings from the eighteenth century. It was a thrill to walk down the town’s main road and take in all of the buildings, among them a water mill.

  • Mount Ena is just visible on the left-hand side of the image here, being partially covered by some trees. The walk through Magome-juku brought to mind Taiwan’s Jiufen Old Street, which I had visited back during 2014. Not quite as busy or crowded, but exuding an equal amount of atmosphere, it was a pleasant experience to be treading the a path that’s existing since the Edo period, and here, I reach a point in the street where Mount Ena is visible.

  • Upon reaching the bottom of the hill and the end of the walk, lunch was served in a bento form: picked daikon, vegetables, fish, fried chicken, Japanese omelettes and large, sweet red beans. We also had a bowl of freshly-prepared noodle soup accompanying lunch, and a recurring theme is that while portion sizes appear smaller in Japan, that’s an illusion. Finishing everything provides plenty of food energy and of course, is an adventure in and of itself.

  • By the time lunch ended, the skies had turned overcast, and I took a short walk around the area. During the course of this trip, I’ve spent more time in the inaka than I did in urban areas, and this was a wonderful surprise; the Japanese countryside has always held a certain draw for me, as I’ve taken a keen interest in the languid, slower-paced feeling from the rural areas conveyed by anime such as Please Teacher!Ano Natsu De MatteruNon Non BiyoriFlying Witch and Sakura Quest. Not quite as remote or empty as the Canadian Prairies, the inaka offer a sense of quiet while at the same time, give a warm, inviting sense that is absent when I drive through the parts of my provinces outside of any towns or hamlets.

  • Leaving Magome-juku, our next destination was Atsuta Shrine in Nagoya. A location steeped in history and interesting architecture, I have no photographs here to show because most of them were quite dark as a result of the large cypress trees in the park. There is a museum here housing upwards of four thousand Japanese artifacts, among them a dagger that is one of Japan’s National Treasures. With this location checked off, it was off to Gifu, where our hotel was. After checking in, I had ramen at a nearby shop: although the owners did not speak English, I spoke enough to place my order, a savoury, piping hot pork ramen. The restaurant shortly filled with Chinese tourists, and for a brief moment, it felt like I was in a Hong Kong noodle shop.

  • On our final full day in Japan, the first destination was the Kinkaku-ji in Kyoto. One of the city’s most famous landmarks, the building we see today is a reconstruction: after a monk torched the original in 1950, it was rebuilt in 1955 and given an extensive gold-leaf exterior that confers the temple’s distinct colour. Yui and her classmates visit the Kinkaku-ji in K-On!‘s second season, stopping to take photographs in the exact same spot that we visited, and whereas I bought a matcha ice cream to enjoy, K-On! has Yui and the others order a more traditional matcha desert and tea.

  • After lunch in a park whose location and name I can’t quite remember (that lunch was notable for being a nabe with tempura on the side, in addition to being the only place where we had to kneel rather than sit), we made our way to Nara Park and ended the day in Osaka. Spent from the travelling, we had omurice for dinner (I ordered the curry katsu omurice, which was delicious) and I browsed around at Tsutaya, a Japanese bookstore, coming upon a volume of Your Name. Our journey in Japan concluded here, and we left Osaka for Hong Kong at the Kansai International Airport, where I bought the Your Name Official Guidebook for a mere 1600 yen.

  • On the flight to Hong Kong from Osaka, our Cathay Pacific flight featured Your Name, so I watched that before dozing off on the flight. It was midnight when we arrived in Hong Kong, and on day one, we visited the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen museum in Central Hong Kong, before stopping by the Western market to window shop and have lunch. There’s a delightful bistro on the first floor that I ordered a prawn spaghetti from, and the day closed with a family dinner. The next day, Repulse Bay and Aberdeen were on the list of places to visit. Despite having went to Hong Kong previously, we’d only gone to Stanley, so this time, I figured it was time to try something different. Repulse Bay is rather quieter than Stanley, and has a beautiful beach that was featured in the first moments of Roman Tam’s “幾許風雨” music video.

  • While my trip in Hong Kong was largely oriented around spending time with family over there, we had plenty of time to go sightseeing because this time around, we were visiting during the regular season, during which everyone is working. I myself took two weeks off work for this vacation, and previously, one of my coworkers noted that leaving for any period of time meant coming back to what felt like a completely different company. While on vacation, I did keep an eye on things occasionally, so I was roughly in the loop for comings and goings, so I can’t say that coming back felt like too much of a shock. Here is a photograph of Hong Kong’s central district, where I rode the Hong Kong Observation Wheel and got a nice discount on admissions on account of it being the twentieth anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover to China.

  • While we did not ride any junks across Hong Kong Harbour, we did ride the Star Ferry over to Kowloon to walk the streets, and I spent an afternoon at the Tsim Sha Tsui Clocktower, the Avenue of Stars and iSquare adjacent to the infamous Chung King mansions. While there are three cross-harbour tunnels and the MTR linking Victoria Island to Kowloon, taking the Star Ferry from Central (or any ferry from North Point) has more character. Ferries are also a pleasant way of visiting Discovery Bay, a quiet resort town with a nice beach and mall. I’m a little envious of the quality of sandwiches that Hong Kong fast food joints make — their burgers are about as nice as the burgers I can get at pubs back home for a fraction of the price.

  • This is the Hong Kong Heritage Museum in Sha Tin, a city just north of Kowloon. There’s an indoor wet market at the far side of Sha Tin in Sunshine City Plaza; it’s one of the cleanest wet markets I’ve ever seen and has a very solid ambiance, bringing to mind locales from Deus Ex: Human Revolution and Deus Ex: Mankind Divided: it’s filled with people browsing the stalls selling fresh cuts of fish, shellfish and squid, as well as siu laap and baozi. There’s a profound beauty in the cacophony, as folks order fish to take home and slurp noodles in streetside stalls.

  • Eating in Hong Kong represented a world of difference from Japan: whereas Japan was all about trying Japanese cuisine, Hong Kong wasn’t too different from home, although definitely delicious, to be sure. I went out for dim sum on two occasions, and had dinner at 嘉豪酒家 in Shau Kei Wan with family during some of the evenings. Cantonese food in Hong Kong is about the same as it is in Canada, so I’m familiar with what restaurants serve. There were some nights where we ate elsewhere: here, I’ve got a close-up of an Italian style seafood rice (scallops, mussels, calamari rings and a large prawn) at the Itamomo in Shau Kei Wan, and on another evening, I had a chicken-and-beef steak sizzling hot plate at Taikoo Shing Mall. During another evening, we had dinner at the Harbour Plaza Hotel, whose seafood buffet was simply fabulous. While being advertised as a seafood buffet, they had pork ribs, prime rib, rack of lamb, siu mei, chicken and veal in addition to whole fried crab, crayfish, large prawns, scallops and sushi. With family, we stayed from opening until closing, partaking in both the buffet and conversation as the skies grew dark.

  • The biological sciences building of Hong Kong University is visible here. This vacation was, for the lack of a better adjective, incredible, and looking back, I can understand why folks undergo a bit of a change after visiting Japan. While going to Japan did broaden my perspectives, fear not, I’m not going anywhere: it’s not sufficient to lead me to drop my career and attempt to move there. By comparison, Hong Kong feels like home, minus the exceptional humidity and crowds. With this last image, my reflections come to an end, and this means that it’s back to business as usual both in reality and at this blog: the upcoming Call of Duty posts won’t write themselves, and I’ve got an eye on Koe no Katachi, which I may write about later in June as time permits.

In Hong Kong, on the other hand, my wonder and amazement gave way to a sense of familiarity and belonging, being a world of difference from Japan. Although I am naturally most at home in Canada, my background means that if there were a place in the world that feels to me like a second home, Hong Kong would be it. Making my way around Hong Kong is remarkably straightforwards: the MTR allows one to reach almost anywhere in Hong Kong quickly, and on Victoria Island, a tram links the island’s eastern and western reaches together. Finding directions and ordering food is as straightforward as it is back home. The incredible contrast between Japan and Hong Kong was thus another aspect of this vacation I enjoyed greatly. Aside from visiting attractions in Hong Kong, such as the Observation Wheel in Central and the Antique Street in the mid-levels, I spent a considerable amount of time with family there, as well as browsing through their shopping centres. Dim Sum was invariably to be had when visiting family and friends, as were large evening meals, although there were some evenings where we dined out at smaller establishments, too. With this vacation now over, I leave feeling refreshed, a bit more learned, and will definitely anticipate a return trip at some point in the future. For the present, as a part of returning to my typical routine outside of writing Swift 3.1 code and architecting apps, I will be easing back into the swing of things for blogging, as well as reading through the various Your Name books I picked up, playing Battlefield 1 and generally making the most of what is shaping up to be a fabulous entry into yet another beautiful summer.

Hirosaki Region, Aomori: Home of Flying Witch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ōarai, Ibaraki: Home of Girls und Panzer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sakuchu, Enoshima Island: Home of Tari Tari

Enoshima is the setting of Tari Tari. A small island at the mouth of the Katase River, it is part of the city of Fujisawa and is linked to the Katase section of the same city on the mainland by a 600 meter-long bridge. Adjacent to some of the closest beaches to Tokyo and Yokohama, the island and the nearby coast are the hub of a local resort area. As per typical procedure, I’ve provided some comparison shots between Enoshima as depicted in the anime and Enoshima as it appears in reality.

  • The nearest train stations to Enoshima island are are Katase Enoshima station of Odakyu Enoshima Line, Enoshima station of Enoshima Dentetsu, and Shounan Enoshima station of Shounan Monorail. This bridge connects the island to the mainland; Wakana rides her bike along here on multiple occasions.

  • Wakana’s home and her family’s souvenir shop is featured prominently in the anime. Its real-world equivalent serves a similar function and has seen a marked increase in business since the release of Tari Tari.

  • The rocky tide pools are found on the island’s south western side. Konatsu finds Wakana here after asking the latter’s father about her whereabouts.

  • This pavilion is featured twice in the anime: it is first seen when Wakana and Konatsu discuss Kokoro no Senritsu in episode four, and later, the entire Choral and Sometimes Badminton Club convene here to hear Sawa’s plans for the future, that she will be departing to study at an equestrian institution abroad.

It seems almost foolish to state this again, but from these four comparisons, it should be apparent that PA Works takes great efforts to replicate their surroundings. I’m sure it won’t be long before some inquisitive visitor visits the area and finds the school, cafe and waterfront for where the events in Tari Tari happen.

Nishinomiya, Hyogo: Home of The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi

The events of Suzumiya Haruhi are set in Nishinomiya, Hyōgo, Japan. This city is where Kwansei Gakuin University is located; Nagaru Tanigawa (the author) graduated from this university. As such, the anime series’ locale is set directly in this region; the scenery is immediately recognisable to residents living in the area, although a few semantics have been altered in the anime. Such alterations include:

  • The Kitaguchi Station seen in the anime which is actually the Hankyu Nishinomiya-Kitaguchi Station
  • The Kōyōen Station (光陽園駅, Kōyōen Station) is named after the real Hankyu Kōyōen Station (甲陽園駅, Kōyōen Station) : it only differs in the kanji
  • Similarly, the baseball team Kamigahara Pirates (上ヶ原パイレーツ, Kamigahara Pirates), has the same name of its real life counterpart, Uegahara Pirates of the Kwansei Gakuin University and only differs in its first kanji (上).
  • North High School where Kyon, Haruhi, and the rest of the SOS Brigade members attend is the real life location of Nishinomiya Kita High School.
Anime Location Real-world equivalent

The similarities become clear upon inspection of these images. I’ve also included another set of images that further illustrate other locations that inspired the anime locations.

  • Nagato Yuki’s apartment is located near Hankyu Kouyou Line Kouyouen station, which is in Kouyouen-Honjou-cho, Nishinomiya-shi (Hyogo prefecture). As mentioned earlier, the station in the anime uses different kanji.

  • There is a small park outside of the Nishinomiya-Kitaguchi Station; this is where the SOS brigade convened during their weekend excusion for paranormal activity.

  • Shukugawa Park is where Mikuru explains her role as a time traveller to Kyon during the morning session of their first SOS-brigade outing. The park lines both banks of the Shukugawa river in Nishinomiya-shi (Hyogo prefecture) and is particuarly well-known its cherry blossoms in spring.

  • One of the side streets near the Nishinomiya-Kitaguchi station that Haruhi,  Koizumi and Mikuru travel down during the afternoon session of their weekend excursion.

  • The Nishinomiya-shi Central Library is located in Kawazoe-cho, Nishinomiya-shi, (Hyogo prefecture). Kyon brings Yuki here during the afternoon session to kill time, and is reprimanded by Haruhi in the most amusing way possible.

  • Haruhi discusses her past to Kyon at this railroad crossing, revealing that her desire to be unique stemmed from her realisation that she was but one in a faceless crowd during a baseball game her father took her to.

  • Koizumi brings Kyon to Osaka Station to demonstrate to the latter his capabilities and responsibilities as an esper. They stop in the middle of this crosswalk and prepare to enter closed space from here.

  • The Nankai ferry route facilitates travel between Wakayama-kou (Wakayama prefecture) and Tokushima-kou (Tokushima prefecture). One way trips require about 2 hours on average. The particular ferry depicted in the anime is named “Kumano”: this is the upper deck where Koizumi converses with Kyon.

  • The interior of the Kumano’s middle deck. The vending machines seen in the right side of the image are the same vending machines where Kyon purchases refreshments for everyone after he gets dominated in a card game.

  • The anime replicates the details on the ferry almost down to the pixel, although being anime, the main difference is that the real world settings feel distinctly gritter compared to the clean textures present in the anime.

  • Shukugawa Shopping Street is inspired by the Chuou Shopping Street and Sanwa Hondoori Shopping Street in Amagasaki-shi (Hyogo prefecture), just outside the Hanshin Amagasaki Rail Station. These two streets are designed such that they converge in a shape similar to a crossbow: Sanwa Hondoori Shopping Street forms the bow, while Chuou Shopping Street forms the arrow. The SOS-brigade come here to purchase supplies for their film, and also make a short commerical here for one of the camera shop owners as gratitude for assisting them.

  • Ginsui Bridge is located near Nishinomiya North High School (the real world equivalent of North High). The high school itself is found in Kurakuen-bancho, Nishinomiya-shi (Hyogo prefecture)and is roughly 2 km uphill from the nearest train station, Hankyu Kouyou Line Kouyouen Station.

Nagaru Tanigawa described his hometown of Nishinomiya in great detail within his novels, the setting of all of the events in Haruhi Suzumiya. These novels formed the basis for the anime: the animators at KyoAni merely needed to spend a few weekends designing the locations, given that Nishinomiya is only an hour from Kyoto by train.