A Must-See for Anime Lovers! Real Locations that Appear in the Films of Mamoru Hosoda
Mamoru Hosoda is considered by many to be the successor to anime director Hayao Miyazaki. He is getting a lot of attention for his newest film, Mirai, which releases in the summer of 2018. This article will introduce some of the real-life locations that appear in his previous films, so please take a look!
About Mamoru Hosoda
Mamoru Hosoda got his start working as an animator for a leading Japanese animation studio. He debuted as a producer in 1997, a director in 1999, and then started working as a director on a freelance basis from then on. He first caught widespread attention both in Japan and abroad for his hit film The Girl Who Leapt Through Time. After that he released the film Summer Wars, which his first totally original work. He started his own animation studio called Studio Chizu in 2011, through which he has released two films, Wolf Children and The Boy and the Beast. His newest film, Mirai, was selected as part of the Directors’ Fortnight of the 71st Cannes Film Festival.
Locations from Summer Wars
The protagonist of Summer Wars is the timid 17 year-old Kenji Koiso. As a short-term part time job, he travels with his friend and elder student Natsuki to her family’s home in rural Nagano Prefecture, at which point he discovers that she is the descendant of the ancient Jinnouchi samurai clan. During his first night with the Jinnouchi family, Kenji receives a coded message via email. That message carries world-changing consequences that reveal themselves by the next morning, when cyber attacks in the digital world of OZ start to throw real-world systems into chaos. Kenji works together with Natsuki and other members of the Jinnouchi family to save a world suddenly under put in great danger, and the familial bonds they form in the process become the theme of the film.
Ueda Railway Bessho Line
The heroine Natsuki’s hometown in the film is the real city of Ueda, Nagano. Kenji and Natsuki travel to Ueda via shinkansen (bullet train), and then meet up with Natsuki’s family members to head to the Jinnouchi house. The local train they use at that time is the Ueda Railway Bessho Line. However, while in the film the train is marked as heading toward Kakuma Onsen (hot spring), the real train heads toward Bessho Onsen. The specific train they ride in the film is the “Marumadorimu-Go,” which is famous for its characteristic circular windows (this name is a pun, as “marumado” means “circular window” and “dorimu” is the Japanese pronunciation of the English word “dream”).
Ueda Castle Ruins Park
When the two protagonists arrive at the Jinnouchi residence they are greeted by the sight of a magnificent gate. The inspiration for that gate was the Higashi Koguchiyagura Gate in Ueda Castle Ruins Park.
Incidentally, the inspiration for the location estate itself is not Ueda Castle Ruins Park, but somewhere else. The location for the Jinnouchi estate was inspired by a spot near the Toishi and Komeyama Castle ruins where one can see all the whole of Ueda in a single view, and in fact such a view can be seen in the movie itself.
Ueda Castle Ruins Park Entrance Fee: (adults) 300 yen, (high school or university students) 200 yen, (junior high school students and under) 100 yen
Locations from Wolf Children
The protagonist of this film is Hana, who falls in love with a werewolf. Hana and the werewolf begin to live together and ultimately give birth to a girl, Yuki, who is energetic and brimming with curiosity, and a boy, Ame, who is delicate and timid. They are “wolf children” who can transform between human and wolf-like forms. The family of four lives in secret on the edge of town for a time, but the werewolf father is killed suddenly one day and doesn’t return home. Hana then moves with the children to a countryside location in order to let them decide if they want to be humans or wolves. This is the story of one woman’s journey of love, marriage, childbirth, and motherhood, as well as that of the growth and development of her children. The theme of this film is the universal concept of the bond between mother and child.
The Landscapes of Kamiichi, Toyama
The countryside location where Hana chooses to raise her wolf children was inspired by Kamiichi, Toyama, which is where the director Mamoru Hosoda spent his own childhood. Many of the landscapes that appear in the film are inspired by this locale, such as the terraced rice fields of the Higashitane District and the majestic Tateyama mountain range. There is even a real building in Kamiichi that served as the inspiration for the house where the family of three lives. The 130 year-old Japanese-style house has been now been named “Hana no Ie" (Hana's House), and has been opened up and made visit-able to tourists.
There is a scene in the film where Ame, who has matured, turns into a wolf and bounds off toward the mountains. The setting for that scene is Mt. Tateyama, the symbol of Toyama Prefecture. There is the Tateyama Alpine Route that goes to the main peak of the 3,000m long mountain range, and the Mikurigaike Pond, which is on the Murodo Plateau along that route, is the place where Ame is taken by his werefox teacher. The film showcases a view of the Tateyama Mountain Range from Mikurigaike Pond.
Additionally, the film shows scenes of 2km long and 500m tall Akushiro-no-Kabe cliff face as well as Shomyo Falls, Japan’s tallest waterfall.
The national university on the outskirts of Tokyo where Hana and the werewolf meet was based on Hitotsubashi University in Kunitachi, Tokyo, and the school gate that appears in the film was based on the West Front Gate in the Kunitachi Campus. The Affiliated Library that is across from the school gate was shown in the film, and the Main Building where Hana and the werewolf took classes also truly exists within the campus. The tree-lined street, Daigaku-dori (University Street), that connects the campus to JR Kunitachi Station also appears several times in the film, and Hakujuji, the cafe where the two would often meet, truly exists along this road
Locations from The Girl Who Leapt Through Time
The protagonists of The Girl Who Leapt Through Time are 2nd year high school student Makoto, her classmate Kosuke, and a boy named Chiaki. This is a young adult science fiction film that explores the friendship and love that forms between these characters. After gaining the power to “time leap” and turn back time, Makoto uses that ability to solve small, everyday issues. One day, Chiaki unexpectedly confesses his love for Makoto, and she reverses time, fearing that their relationship will be ruined. However, it seems like there is a secret to her time leaping abilities. After realizing that there was something irreplaceable in that moment, Makoto has to face a shocking reality.
Tokyo National Museum
The settings for the film were taken from places all around Tokyo, such as the Tetsugakudo Park Baseball Field where Makoto and her friends play baseball, the Hayashi Fumiko Commemorative Museum which was the inspiration for Makoto’s house, and Nakai Station of Seibu Shinjuku Line, which was the inspiration for the railway track scenes.
Among those, the location with the highest level of accuracy to the real location is Main Building of the Tokyo National Museum. This is where Makoto’s grandmother Kazuko Yoshiyama, also known as “Aunt Witch”, works. When Makoto goes to visit her to ask for advice about the time leaping ability they meet at the museum’s grand stairway entrance, and some exhibition rooms from the museum also make appearances in the film.
Admission fee: (general) 620 yen, (university students) 410 yen
Locations from The Boy and the Beast
The protagonist of this film is Ren, who lives alone in Shibuya, Tokyo. One day, Ren stumbles upon a monster-filled world called “Beast Kingdom” while wandering around Shibuya. There, he is taken in and adopted as a pupil by a monster named Kumatetsu, bestowed the name Kyuta, and begins training daily to learn his true strength. Eventually, Kyuta matures and takes on the dangers facing both the world he came from and the Beast Kingdom. This is a film that showcases a boy’s journey and the bond between parent and child, while spinning a tale about the meeting of two worlds that are never supposed to intertwine.
The human world that appears in the film is an authentic recreation of Shibuya, Tokyo. Hachiko Crossing, a “scramble” intersection that represents the Shibuya area, is shown multiple times in the film. Even the film’s official poster shows a scene of a building with a Starbucks viewed from the Hachiko Exit of Shibuya Station. The street that extends from the western side of that building, called Shibuya Center-gai, is the setting for the battle that takes place in the second half of the film.
Whether you are a fan of Mamoru Hosoda or just a fan of anime in general, we recommend you use this guide to take a pilgrimage of sorts to all of the real-life locations that can be seen in his films.
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.
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