The Infinite Zenith

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Tag Archives: Japanese Animation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Higurashi: When They Cry, Collaborating with Dewbond, and Solving The Enigma of Agent H173 Nano Desu

“Hōjō brainwashed you, but Takano had plans of her own. He was never in Hinamizawa. The real defector with the H-173 dossier died during the attack on U-731. He was never at the Cotton-drifting Festival. He was never at Irie Clinic. Satoshi Hōjō’s been dead for five years. He died at Harbin during the escape! All the years you thought he was with you, that was just in your mind!” –Jason Hudson

As Higurashi revealed that the Curse of Oyashiro-sama was the consequence of a pathogen that resulted in what was known as Hinamizawa Syndrome, the series transitioned away from a supernatural horror mystery into a science-fiction thriller. In Higurashi‘s final moments, Rena discovers that Curse of Oyashiro-sama had a scientific origin, and moreover, Miyo Takano had been researching the phenomenon extensively. In the process, Rena becomes a person of interest and develops increasing paranoia, eventually holding her school hostage. Rika, unfortunately does not bear witness to what happens after Keiichi manages to save Rena: she dies yet again. Higurashi: Kai continued on with the story and really began delving into Hinamizawa Syndrome and Tokyo, a shadowy organisation, coveting it as a biological weapon. From here on out, Higurashi ventures into the realm of military conspiracies and a race against time to overcome fate itself. Having set the table with the previous season, and illustrating the consequences of acting upon incomplete information, Higurashi: Kai has its characters acting with some knowledge of what might happen should they make unwise decisions, choosing the things that favour their friendship and ultimately, with the aim of preventing Tokyo from achieving their ends and destroying Hinamizawa in the process. It is no surprise that Kai is very much up my wheelhouse, and I could write a small book on how well Kai was executed with regard to compelling viewers through the thriller aspects. However, characters remain the heart of Higurashi, and so, I welcome Dewbond back to continue on with our coverage of the characters, traits and significance to the unfolding events.

  • There’s nothing like a little healthy discussion to really gain a solid appreciation of a series and its aims: Higurashi was one of those works that I’d greatly enjoyed, but never really found the right words to describe and discuss. I believe that this is the sixth collaborative post I’ve done with Dewbond, which cover contents from four different series. However, with Higurashi, it marks the first time where I’ve hosted anything related to this series: collaborations are a wonderful way of pushing the envelope and stepping outside my comfort zone, so for me, they’re always a joy to work on.

In our previous part, Dewbond, we covered Rena, Mion, Shion and Satoko’s stories, as well as their significance in creating the iconic atmosphere that cemented Higurashi as a mystery-horror. We had chosen to save Rika and Miyo’s roles in Higurashi because it is in Kai that they become truly significant. Rika’s deaths in various timelines, and Miyo’s involvement in some of her deaths have ramifications on the choices Rika makes, as well as the fate of the entire village. Should Miyo kill Rika, it’s game over for Hinamizawa: a disaster befalls the village, and the government typically covers it up with reports of a hydrogen sulfide release from the nearby Onigafuchi Swamp as the cause of total casualties in the town. Coverups and conspiracies notwithstanding, let’s get started with the characters most critical to Kai, the season that acts as the answer arc to the first season’s question arc!


Before we start that, I want to comment on the shifting narratives for Higurashi.

Changing the nature of a story, or anime is a difficult thing to do. Often times it doesn’t work, and can feel out of place, or even worse, damage the series. We saw this with Darling in the Franxx where the last minute addition of aliens ruined what had been, at that point, a very interesting story. Babylon completely shit the bed by trying to switch up its story and go too big. Even Re:Zero was able to shift it’s paradigms in the first season to a story about redemption and admitting your flaws, and while the shift back has been good, there has been some bumps in the road.

Higurashi in my view, doesn’t have this problem. While I did greatly enjoy the ‘horror of the week’ aspect of its first season, I was floored by just how effective and deep the second season changes things. Everything we suspect about what is happening turns on its head. From Rika ending up being the heroine, stuck in a constant time-loop, fated to die. To Miyo’s backstory and the revelations that everything we’ve seen is the result of a virus run amok, and and a military and governmental conspiracy that stretches out decades. All at once we see that Keiichi and the rest of the gang are just pawns in a much larger world, bystanders caught up in things they shouldn’t have.

And what is the most terrifying in this terror-filled anime is that Higurashi makes it work. It all just falls into place so damn well. Everything makes sense, everything checks out, and when you see everything that has happened and why it did, you find yourself going “Holy shit.”

It is a very rare thing, to have a show completely change direction and still maintain viewer interest. Yes, the second season is lighter on the blood and gore, but the story, especially Miyo and Rika’s pulls you in all the same. What did you think of the shifting paradigms Zen? Did Higurashi need to do this? Could it have all fallen apart?


I’m getting ahead of myself here. The transition in Higurashi from a frightening look at human nature’s dark side to a Clancy-esque thriller was so fluid that I never found it to be jarring or unexpected – the writers had been setting us viewers up for this, and the first season saw Rena beginning to discover hints of the truth. Thus, by the events of Kai, with the big reveal, things fall into place in an elegant fashion. I’m no stranger to dramatic changes in where a story is going – Half-Life initially began its story as a story about a scientist trying to contain a disaster at a research facility, only to be whisked away to an alien dimension with the task of defeating an alien overlord. Halo felt like a classic space marine story, and the Master Chief’s initial goal was helping to support allied forces after they crash land on a ring world and resist the alien Covenant forces. However, when the Covenant release the ancient horror known as the Flood, it becomes a rush to destroy Halo before the Flood can escape the ring world and spread.

In both Half-Life and Halo, the unexpected twist caught me by surprise on first glance, but upon closer inspection, it speaks to the strength of the writing. YU-NO surprises players in a manner reminiscent to that of Half-Life, and I find that Higurashi joins the ranks of these giants in being a work to successfully turn things around and run with it. I imagine that in each case, the story and gameplay was written in advance, so the element of surprise lay in timing. From the sounds of it, Darling in the Franxx and Babylon may have had a new idea come up after the initial story was written, and revisions were made to accommodate these new ideas.

While it is conceivable to have Higurashi succumb to failure, this seems unlikely. For me, I feel that there are hints that Higurashi had always been intended to be a thriller rather than a horror: historically, the supernatural had always been used to explain phenomenon that we humans did not fully understand. In the context of Hinamizawa Syndrome, a mysterious disease in a world where pathology was not well-characterised would seem like a curse. I would hazard a guess that the thriller was written as the underlying cause, and then around this central piece, horror could be introduced in a measured manner. To Keiichi, Rena, the Sonozakis and others, Hinamizawa Syndrome’s mechanisms and the mysteries surrounding the village do seem as mysterious as a supernatural curse. With this in mind, by deliberately withholding the explanation, Higurashi could successfully use this unknown to terrify viewers. In this, the series is completely successful.


That is a pretty in depth way to view it, but you always like to dive into the real meat of an issue. Stories are always evolving, and some of the best often either keep in their lane, or change to take on bigger and better ideas. Higurashi is the latter for sure, and we see that with the revelation that Rika is in fact the main character, a girl caught in a time-loop, force to relive the same two weeks over and over again. We saw hints of this in the first season, but now it has come into full force.

Before I give my take, what are your thoughts on Rika?


Rika was a bit of a surprise, to be sure: the first season did not really give us much in the way of story, save the fact that Rika would see a gruesome end at the hands of Hinamizawa Syndrome induced madness. However, over time, as it became clear Rika was trapped in an unending cycle, desperate for a way to break her fate and live life on her own terms, her mannerisms and traits became clear. Rika represents optimism and determination, in that no matter how many times she’s forced to die or watch her friends fall, she continues to return, making use of her previous knowledge to sway events away from a course leading to calamity. While she would fail, the accumulated knowledge leaves Rika incrementally more prepared to handle her new timeline, even if the exhaustion from reliving a timeline over and over again begins to weigh heavily on Rika.

I found that this was probably one of the most well-designed, clever narrative approaches I’d seen in a given work of fiction – Rika’s experiences are immensely encouraging from a thematic perspective, but from a gameplay perspective, do a vivid job of standing in for us viewers: by going through the different arcs, we are, in effect, experiencing things as Rika does. Initially, it’s a mystery as to what’s happening, but as we read more perspectives and beginning drawing our own conclusions, more of the story becomes clear. The mysteries of Hinamizawa become apparent, and much as how we would develop a desire to see the characters find happiness, Rika herself begins visibly demonstrating her yearning for the same.

Of course, no discussion of Rika would be complete without her signature phrases, mii (みぃ〜) and nipah (にぱ〜), which are an iconic part of her character. Her incredible wisdom, a consequence of her knowledge and experiences, leads her to act in ways to be consistent with that of someone who’s eleven, and in this way, she’s a reassuring character to have around – while knowing the story behind Hinamizawa Syndrome and determined to defeat her own curse, Rika gets along with the characters and adds joy to a story that has otherwise seen so much suffering. These are, however, merely my thoughts: Dewbond, if you wouldn’t mind sharing your thoughts on Rika?


Rika is judged on her NPE or “Nipah‘s per Episode”

But in all seriousness, the switch of Rika to the main character, or rather having been the main heroine all the time is a terrific change. We had moments where our blue haired lady seemed to know more about what was going on, but now we see it come into full force. And when you look back, you see the hints being dropped left and right. She was always an enigma among the cast, asking more questions than giving answers, and always seeming to get killed. You don’t really think much about her until the final few episodes, especially the knife scene with Shion. Rika is as you said, stuck in a time loop, and it begins to weigh heavily on her. Forced to relive the same days over and over, constantly stuck in a nowhere village with friends who might go insane at a moments notice, it’s not hard to see how much she starts to hate it. Hanyū, doesn’t do much to help either, offering empty encouragement and not much else. Rika is a character of incredible strength, and despite being put through horror after horror, still attempts to break her curse.

I was particularly struck by how well Rika’s seiyuu was able to switch from little kid, to deep adult voice as well. It’s always a terrific thing to see, and it shows both how long, and how tired she is. It’s a great performance, one of the best in what is overall a solid cast. Though that final scene of the series with Miyo always confuses me. Can she jump dimensions? Time travel? Why is she older? Did everything just get negated. It’s weird man…


The dramatic contrast between Yukari Tamura’s portrayal of the easygoing and happy Rika, and the jaded, mature Rika is pronounced. This speaks to Tamura’s skill as a voice actress, and over the course of Higurashi, it becomes impossible not to root for Rika, even as she attempts to understand her nemesis, Miyo. I believe that Rika’s final confrontation with Miyo here was meant to be symbolic – Miyo’s insecurities from her childhood form the bulk of her drive as an adult, and by the events of Higurashi, Miyo is so convinced of her own righteousness, that it would be nigh-impossible to talk her down from executing Manual 34’s contents. I would believe that one of two things is happening; either Rika uses her connection with Hanyū to return to Miyo’s childhood and reassure the young Miyo, preventing her from going down a destructive path, or otherwise, is appealing to the part of Miyo that is clinging to the past. The latter is a device that other anime have used to show what characters are behind their façades, often to great effect.

This does mean, then, that it’s time to take on the elephant in the room that is Miyo Takano. When we first meet her, she seems an air-headed character accompanying Tomitake Jirō, although even early in, Miyo exudes an aura of mystery to her. Even though she appears to possess some knowledge and exhibits a clear interest in Hinamizawa and its ancient customs in the original Higurashi, her status as the villain never becomes openly so until Kai, which proved to be a game-changer. Giving an antagonist human form in stories always diminishes the mystery, and all too often, it becomes a matter of having the individual defeated to give the protagonist their happy ending. This is the part where Higurashi truly excels: it is not often that I empathise with an antagonist, but in Miyo and the desire to prove herself in the face of adversity is a feeling I relate to. In short, I feel bad for her, and I understand that she had hoped to accomplish in Hinamizawa.

Having said this, I appreciate that this comes at odds with Rika, Keiichi and the remainder of their friends: this conflict that Higurashi creates thus serves as a very interesting representation of things in real life: the world is grey, and not so readily divided into the good guys and bad guys. Of course, these are merely my thoughts on Miyo, and Dewbond, I’d like to hear what you made of Miyo.


Miyo is a character that you forget about in the first half of the series. She isn’t really there, and when she is, it’s mostly comedic or mentioning that she was apparently killed. It is only when the second half comes that we get to realize who she is and what she represents for the story. And like you said, it’s damn effective.

Miyo’s story is tragic, marked with moments of horror and joy. She goes from being abused in an orphanage, to being welcomed into a loving family with her grandfather, only then to watch as the scientific community destroys everything her grandfather had worked for. It is there where she decides to claim vengeance, and it sets her on a path that will end up turning Hinamizawa into her own little ant farm. She cares little for the life in the city, and in the moments where we see that she actually succeeds, it only after gassing and killing the entire population.

Yet despite those actions, I can’t help but feel sympathetic to her. Miyo had a hard a life, and all she wanted was to show the world that her grandfather was right, and he was. The syndrome was a real thing and much of the first half of showing just what insane things it can end up doing. So in many ways, I don’t blame Miyo for her actions, even though they are wrong.

You are right Zen, that creating a villain you can understand and feel that sympathy for can make a story great, and it absolutely does so for Miyo. Even the story thinks that, as the final moments show Rika, or Bernkastel going back in time to prevent Miyo from losing her parents.


This human aspect of Higurashi really hits the viewers hard, and despite the horror of the first season, humanising everyone in Kai really helped to remind viewers that, yes, we as people are capable of committing acts of unspeakable depravity, but when we take a step back to understand our foe, more often than not, we see ourselves in our enemies: they’re people too, with their own beliefs, intents and desires. Yes, it is conceivably possible to send a black ops team over to Hinamizawa and sort out Miyo and the Yamainu by force (which, incidentally, is the summary of every Western first-person shooter ever), but the opportunity to understand a different perspective and history thus becomes lost. This is where I find that Japanese games excel in particular. Whereas the stories I’m accustomed to favour use of overwhelming force to dominate an enemy (I’ve never been given an option to take in someone quietly in my games), there is rarely the sort of understanding and compassion that Higurashi conveys to its viewers.

Consequently, even though Miyo is supposed to be the villain, we come to worry about her instead of hating her: it might even be appropriate to say that Higurashi‘s true antagonist isn’t necessarily a person or a disease, but rather, the darkness that lies within each and every one of us. Alone, isolated and desperate, people lash out at the world from a fear of the unknown. United and finding strength in one another, people begin finding sustainable, long-term solutions for their problems. It is with support that Rika is able to weather the storm and leads to the final push in Kai‘s story, which I found to be absolutely uplifting and encouraging. Before we get there, however, there’s still the small matter of Hanyū, a deity whose desire to save Rika is what created the time loops, and whose presence answers the mysterious phenomenon that people often hear. When introduced in Kai, I felt that her presence to be a soothing one that gave the Rika and the others strength. Of course, this is scratching the surface, Dewbond: how does Hanyū fit into the larger story within Higurashi?


Hanyū is in my mind, the weak link of the Higurashi. After watching the whole thing, I honestly don’t feel she added much to the overall plot. She’s pretty much Rika’s version of Navi, offering helpful words of encouragement that long ago lost their value. She seems to be a spirit who hates that she can’t really do anything to help Rika. Yet even when she does decide to take action, jumping into the final timeline with her, there is little that she seems to do.

I don’t know, maybe I missed something, but I can’t really remember Hanyū doing anything that really stood out to me. It may have been better if Higurashi had dropped more hints about her throughout the series, like if Rika was muttering to herself more, but that’s just me trying to Monday-morning quarterback the series. What did you think of her Zen?


For me, Hanyū’s arrival in Kai was, more than anything, a bit of moral support that hinted at where things were eventually headed – Rika’s situation had gotten to the cusp of breaking free of her curse, and while yes, Hanyū can’t really impact the physical world or its outcomes, she does act as another resource to Rika, whose resolve to overcome her fate strengthened with every passing moment as Kai continued. I believe that the visual novel has a deeper explanation of her precise relation to Rika, but as it was in the anime, I took Hanyū’s presence as a sign that things were changing for Rika.

It really is in the final chapter of Kai where everything comes together for us viewers – the mysterious Tokyo is interested in Hinamizawa Syndrome and intends to weaponise it as a WMD, and even Miyo becomes little more than a pawn in the grand scheme of things. All the while, Kai has Rika guiding her friends down different paths. Here, the two concurrent stories were sufficiently detailed such that, despite knowing the series is ultimately about Rika freeing herself from a curse, the machinations that Tokyo have planned out, as well as all of the inter-factional infighting, I found myself wishing to see a side story surrounding the political techno-thriller pieces to Higurashi.

The implications of Tokyo are that, at the end of the day, while Rika, Keiichi and the others have their own battles to fight, they are merely parts of a much larger and more sinister evil. This creates a sense of intrigue: while yes, Rika’s consciousness is able to save even Miyo from a terrible fate, and Keiichi and the others find happiness in Hinamizawa after prevailing, it remains the case that there is a shadowy organisation with nearly unlimited resources, able to bring trouble back to Hinamizawa whenever they choose. This is not to downplay Rika and the others’ victory over the Yamainu at the end of Kai, but it always felt like, in a given timeline, the continued existence of Tokyo means that Keiichi and his friends, the residents of Hinamizawa and even the people of the world, live under the threat of an organisation possessing a powerful biological weapon that could be turned towards extortion, political manipulation and other nefarious schemes. I could probably go on about this all day, but Dewbond, it’s time that I turn the floor over to you on the not-so-small matter of Tokyo!


This is going to be the part Zen where we differ, and our views of the show and how we watch it separate. I know you love to dig into the little things, while I prefer more broad strokes and character actions, how they feel and how they act. It’s for that reason that I honestly didn’t care much for the Tokyo stuff at all. It was good, and it is credit to Higurashi and it’s ability to paradigm shift so well, but I just didn’t really get pulled in by it.

It felt like fluff, good fluff that expanded the world, but at this point I was so invested in Miyo and Rika as characters that I didn’t really care for the shadowy cabal. It makes sense when the syndrome is expanded upon, and adds to the world, but it wasn’t keeping me at the edge of my seat like it did for you.


World building is always something that fascinates me, especially where it is done to create a compelling world for the characters’ experiences. I’ve long been a fan of the Cold War’s secrets, and truth be told, Hinamizawa Syndrome and Tokyo would not be out of place in a hidden conspiracy of sorts. Having said this, we would be going off-mission to delve too deeply there; I’ll save this for another time! We thus return back to the matter at hand, the central themes of Higurashi.

In the first season, the themes were not always clear, especially when every arc concluded in a bloody manner. However, as Higurashi entered the last moments of its first season, we viewers began to get an inkling of where things were going. By the time Kai fully introduced Rika and Miyo’s stories, the themes were all but out in the open – Rika’s monologues about overcoming fate, Miyo’s desire to clear her adopted grandfather’s name, and Keiichi and his friends’ determination to do right made it clear that Higurashi is about compassion: understanding a situation before acting, making choices while being mindful of those around oneself, and acting on empathy. The sum of these things is what is needed to break a curse resulting from impulsiveness and incomplete information.

For me, I got the impression that Higurashi intentionally paints the picture that having Miyo eat a bullet is one possible solution to Rika’s problems, but it is meeting violence with violence, a quick and dirty solution that does nothing to answer the underlying reason behind why Miyo had been so intent on enacting Article 34. Instead, it is allowing the authorities to sort things out, while keeping her friends alive, that gives Rika the outcome she desires in Kai. If there was one takeaway from Higurashi, it would be that taking shortcuts only begets more suffering in the long term. The first season had given viewers a taste of despair and hopelessness, but Kai comes around, suggesting that through the proper channels and means, people can find their happy endings no matter the odds. I believe that this is what made Higurashi as a whole so strong: it pulls no punches in depicting the worst of humanity, but then goes on to show what is possible when we put our best selves forwards, as well. What about you, Dewbond? The themes of Higurashi are varied, and many, so I’d love to hear what you make of the themes spanning both seasons.


I think when it comes to themes, I think Higurashi, both of its seasons is about violence, and how kneejerk reactions don’t solve anything. While they are influenced by the syndrome, Keiichi and everyone else in the village often act without thinking, jumping to conclusion and taking things to the next level without really thinking things through. We see this when Keiichi murders Sakoto’s uncle, or when Shion goes on her rampage, or when Rena believes that aliens have invaded the village. People don’t think, they just feel, they just act. And that often leads to violence.

That violence is central to what I think Higurashi is about. Even with the cutesy anime designs, we see that all of these characters, many of them young children are capable of extreme hatred and bloodshed. We see it time and again in the first season, and Miyo, despite being rescued from violence, views it as the only way to get her goals accomplished.

The answer is a, what Rika does. You have to keep trying, you have to work together, and no matter the odds, keep persevering. It may be slow, it may be grueling and frustrating, but you can in the end, change fate. Pressure and protest and real dedication can move the needle, and learning from your mistakes is key to that.


The consequences resulting from this lack of patience and perseverance can be dramatic; in Higurashi, Keiichi, Rena and Shion pay dearly for rushing into things in search of an easy answer, and each arc where this occurs, the bad ends, viewers are left with a sense of revulsion and shock. What happens next is never shown, adding to the horror of their situation as our minds go into overdrive. The strength of the writing in Higurashi is such that it fully captures actions and their consequences in a very convincing manner: tangible, positive change has, historically, always been effected by a determined and resolute group of people playing the long game, working within the rules of a system to build a new system. As you’ve said, Dewbond, rather than subverting a system, it is important to understand the existing system and then determine where to go about laying down the groundwork for a better future.

Higurashi Kai ended up on a very strong note because of its themes, and when I finished the series, I left it immensely satisfied. Horror and violence to pull viewers in, a mystery that kept us guessing, and a way forward that gave us every reason to root for Rika, Keiichi and their friends all came together for a titanic finish. Higurashi Kai could not have ended any other way, and upon finishing, it was a conclusive ending that seemingly left no stone unturned. Hence, imagine my surprise at Higurashi Gou‘s announcement! This series initially left as many mysteries as Higurashi‘s first season did, and with it airing now, I’d like to hear your thoughts on what Gou‘s directions are insofar, Dewbond.


Higurashi Gou has had a strange start, mostly because the author was frustratingly numb and deceiving on what the show was. A sequel? A remake, a mid-quel? A series of stories that happened when Rika was jumping timelines? At the start it seemed to have elements of it all, but there was also a noticable lack of the horror that Higurashi was known for, and moments where the series seemed to be spinning its wheels. It was rather strange to see the series not have a strong heading, especially when the first outing was so good at weaving it’s world, even when things felt episodic. In the initial run, I kept watching because the show was so fresh with me, and I wanted to see what it would do, but it was only when we reached the second half that it, very much like before, the real truths were revealed.

Before I talk about that, I should make sure that you are ok with discussing the series at that part. Are you current with what has been happening as of the latest episode?


I’m at the part where Satoko spends a nostalgic day with the old crew before being ported into middle of nowhere; I believe that’s the latest episode.


It is! And man, now that Higurashi has seemed to have revealed it’s hand, what an absolute genius way to take the series. I’ll be honest, very, very few anime sequels have ever worked, and Higurashi seemed like it was going to go down the same path. Instead we get a really cool direction that actually moves the characters forward instead of nostalgia minded coddling.

Gou, at least at this point, and we should mention that this story is not over yet, is about one thing: a fear of change. We see it with Sakoto, who now seems to have made a deal with a new devil (who I believe is a character from another one of the author’s visual novels) it return herself back to when she was a child. The reasons? Because people grow and move on, and Rika, after all she has suffered wants to move on in her life. She wants out of the hick village and into a world of prim and proper ladyship. And while Sakoto goes with her, not everyone can fit into that world, and her struggles to keep up, along with the changes that come from growing up and growing apart seems to have set her on a dangerous path.

I’ve absolutely loved this new direction Gou has taken, it feels authentic to the characters, especially Sakoto. We have to remember that she really has no one else but Rika, her brother is still in a coma, and the other members of the gang have grown up as well. To have Rika move on with her life and (deservedly in my view) seize a world that she clearly wants, is Sakoto’s worst fear, because it may very well be a world she can’t fit into anymore.

Again, we don’t know how it is going to end, but what do you think of things so far Zen?


The first bit of Gou was maddeningly inconsistent with its direction; old mistakes were both repeated and done better, and it felt like a condensed retelling of the originals. Beyond this, I had no idea what Gou had intended to do. I don’t mind admitting that I continued watching because Higurashi had a previous track record of surprising viewers. Surprising us, it did: when Rika began lamenting her cursed fate, and when Hanyū leaves Rika, things suddenly became more captivating. It reaches one of the most disturbing episodes, where a good half of the runtime was watching Satoko disembowel Rika while remarking that Rika’s sin was yearning for a life outside of Hinamizawa. I’d never once recalled Rika stating this in the originals, but as the episodes passed by, it began to make sense. Trapped in a loop for upwards of a century, it made sense that Rika wanted to grow up, see the world and realise her potential.

With the most recent episodes and Satoko’s struggles, the fact that she’s unable to keep up academically and fit in with the upper echelons of society despite her efforts, gave me an incredible sense of unease. Given her previous love of traps and tricks, it felt a matter of time before Satoko became overwhelmed, and recalling what Hinamizawa Syndrome does to people, there was always the old possibility of Satoko going on a rampage, too. Once Gou began depicting what a post-1983 world was like, the series’ themes suddenly come out into the open. Change is indeed terrifying to think about, and even for people who thrive on change, constantly readjusting to new environments, meeting new people and facing new challenges represents a considerable burden.

I think that the fear of change also can bring about a secondary theme: what it takes to choose one’s own path in life. Rika has chosen her path, and St. Lucia represents a decision of her own volition. Conversely, Satoko’s unhappiness comes from this being Rika’s path; as she so viscerally states, Satoko had given up everything to be with Rika, and because of the conflicts this creates, Satoko finds herself increasingly isolated. We have seen the consequences of isolation in Higurashi, so Gou‘s setting us up for something big, and I am quite glad to have stuck it out. In retrospect, the weaker beginning might’ve been deliberately chosen to welcome viewers back to the format and style that is Higurashi.


I won’t make any final conclusions on the theme just yet, the show could very well go in a whole new direction, as is the case for Higurashi, but so far, I like that we are in agreement. A weak first half, that only gets better when the real story kicks into gear.

As of right now, I think Gou will do fine, but it won’t touch the original in terms of legacy, quality and sheer enjoyment. Higurashi: When they Cry is the rare show that earns all the accolades and adoration people have heaped on it for years. Brutal, violent, and horrific, it doesn’t forget to have a good cast of characters, and makes you care the villain once the story gets fully revealed. It could have easily been just a simple horror of the week set-up, but the author clearly had the ambition, and more importantly, the skill to go further. There is a mystery in every corner, one fully explained, with clues and hints expertly dropped even in the most minor of moments. If anything I credit Higurashi for having, and landing one of the best paradigm shifts ever done in anime, completely transforming itself and still making you come back for more. I thought YU-NO did it great, but Higurashi absolutely did it best.

As we put a pin on this discussion for now. Zen, what are your final thoughts on the series?


For Higurashi‘s original two seasons, it was a veritable masterpiece of an ending that closed off everything neatly, providing viewers with full closure and a sense of satisfaction that Rika found the means of escaping her fate through persistence, faith and trust in her friends. As you’ve said, Dewbond, it is the perfect blend of horror, supernatural mystery and even political thriller, wrapped up into a vivid tale of friendship and resilience. I left Higurashi with a smile on my face, knowing that no matter the odds, the human spirit can prevail.

As for Higurashi Gou, we’re still a ways from the finish line. Like you, I’ll reserve my judgment for when the entire series concludes and we can see what its contributions are to Higurashi. There is one thing that I will touch briefly on that we’ve not discussed: Kenji Kawaii (Gundam 00, Ip Man) does a phenomenal job with the music. He’s had an excellent track record with scoring horror movies, writing the incidental music to things like Dark Water and The Ring. The heavy instrumentation he uses creates a sense of suffocation, and light piano notes play on tensions in a moment. However, at the opposite end of the spectrum, Kawaii also composes the most easygoing and laid-back slice-of-life songs in the soundtrack, too. The dramatic contrasts in the music add greatly to the atmosphere in Higurashi, and with Kawaii’s music in Gou, I am glad they’ve opted to bring him back, as I’ve found the music to be an integral part of Higurashi.

  • With this post in the books, it should be clear that I am watching Gou on a weekly basis, and while the series initially was a tricky one to write about, recent developments have made Gou a lot more compelling. My schedule is absolutely insane at the present, so I will remark that it is a minor miracle that this collaboration was as on time as it was, and similarly, the fact that #TheJCS is in a minimally presentable state is also something of a miracle considering what’s been happening these past few weeks. I’ll explain what’s been going on this month that’s made it so tricky in due course, but for now, readers are assured that I am still (mostly) on target for everything I need to deliver, both for real life and for the esteemed community.

Dewbond and I have now covered the whole of Higurashi‘s original run, and even ventured into the realm of Gou to see how this story has been doing so far. Higurashi is a vividly rich and detailed story, capable of surprising and intimidating at every turn. Having said this, the scale and scope of the story in Higurashi has been a bit tricky for me to work with, and with this here collaboration between Dewbond and myself coming to a close, this is only my second proper post on Higurashi (with the first being our earlier collaboration). I do briefly mention Higurashi in my post about Call of Duty: Black Ops; the story in Higurashi would not feel out of place in a shooter about deadly biological weapons, government conspiracies and shadowy political dealings. At least for the time being, I don’t have any more Higurashi posts (I may return to write about Gou depending on how my schedule plays out), and for folks looking to read insightful discussions of Higurashi, Dewbond has thankfully risen to the occasion and then some!

More of Dewbond’s Higurashi Posts