Fuchu, the City in Which Chihaya and Friends Live in the Hit Movie Chihayafuru
Walking around neighborhoods that are the setting of manga, movies, dramas, and other such popular works will let you dig further into the reasons people want to live there. Maybe this will help you find the neighborhood of your dreams?
Chihayafuru is a popular girl's manga by Yuki Suetsugu that has sold over 17 million copies that was adapted into a movie starring Suzu Hirose. It was released in two parts, and earned around 3 billion yen. There is already clamor that a sequel is in the works.
The story is about competitive karuta, a card game that makes use of the Ogura Hyakunin Isshu, an anthology of one hundred tanka (traditional poetry) by one hundred poets. It revolves around the relationship between Chihaya (Suzu Hirose), Taichi (Shuhei Nomura), and Arata (Mackenyu), 3 childhood friends. The story follows the friendship, love, and growth of these high school students as they stake their passion into competitive karuta.
Arata moves to Fukui because of family reasons, but Chihaya and Taichi live in Fuchu, Tokyo. Fuchu was used as a backdrop in the manga and both anime (one from 2011 and one from 2013), and now Fuchu is considered a sacred place for Chihayafuru fans.
In order to bring out the worldview of the original work, parts of the movie were also filmed in Fuchu. Here are some of those areas and information about why Fuchu is so charming.
Chihaya becomes a high school student struggling to gather members to set up a competitive karuta club, so she forces Taichi to promise that if she wins the tournament that Sunday, then he'll help by joining the club. The scene after the tournament where Chihaya falls asleep and Taichi carries her on his back is set on the slope of Shimizu Shitakomichi.
Shimizu Shitakomichi is a small road that follows the tracks of the Nambu Line almost perfectly between Bubaigawara Station and Fuchu Honmachi Station. There are signs pointing the way to either station on it.
If you head towards Fuchu Honmachi from Bubaigawara, the road will get narrow and you'll reach the uphill slope where the scene took place. The slope is very steep, so you'll understand why Taichi muttered "what is this penance?" as he walked up with Chihaya on his back.
This piggyback scene helped raise the romantic mood of the story, which is more about tenacity than romance. It's said that during filming, female staff felt their hearts pound so they gave that slope the name "Piggyback Hill."
The director, Norihiro Koizumi, said "during location hunting, it was just a regular slope. But it had a really nice atmosphere." It's a regular hill, but it might be famous as "Piggyback Hill" thanks to this scene.
Around 1-5 Honmachi, Fuchu-shi, Tokyo
Thanks to Chihaya's desperate efforts, somehow she gathered 5 members and thus the competitive karuta club was born.
One day after school, Chihaya and Taichi go to Higashi-Fuchu Station to drop off fellow members Kanade (Mone Kamishiraishi) and Nishida, nicknamed Nikuman-kun (Yuma Yamoto) and wait for their own train.
This was where the scene in which Chihaya nervously calls Arata on his home phone to tell him about the karuta club while Taichi gazed at her with a mixed expression was filmed.
It's a little different from the manga, but the director liked the unique atmosphere of the Keio Line, so Higashi-Fuchu Station was used as the closest station to their high school, Mizusawa High School. It's the starting station of the Keio Keibajo Line and is the closest station to Fuchu Forest Art Theater, which is used for events like live music performances and choral competitions. The station is connected to Keio Retnade Higashi-Fuchu, a shopping facility that includes family restaurants and bookstores, so it's very convenient.
Shimogawara Green Pathway
Shimogawara Green Pathway is where Taichi and Chihaya walked together in slight darkness on their way home from school the day before the Tokyo tournament.
When they parted, Chihaya says "thank you for liking karuta. That's what makes me happiest." The sight of Taichi struggling with himself to give her Arata's cell phone number as Arata requested is sad.
Shimogawara Green Pathway is a street that uses the site of the former Shimogawara Line, a train line abandoned in 1976, maintained for the use of cyclists and pedestrians. It runs from north to south within the rural landscape, and you can enjoy flowers and trees all year round.
If you follow the pathway south, you'll reach the Kyodo no Mori Museum, a field museum where you can learn about the nature and history of Fuchu.
It's famous for the various seasonal flowers that bloom like plum blossoms and hydrangeas, and also for the huge planetarium with a dome screen with a diameter of 23m upon which you can see around 12,000 stars.
Shimogawara Green Parkway
From Kotobukicho 3chome to Minamicho 4chome, Fuchu-shi, Tokyo
Katamachi Bunka Center
This doesn't make in appearance in the movie, but the Katamachi Bunka Center is the basis for the place where Chihaya first falls in love with karuta. Currently, there's an illustration from the Chihayafuru movie on the facade.
There's also a spot where you can take a commemorative photo with Chihaya, Taichi, and Arata.
Also, the competitive karuta group that Chihaya and Taichi are part of, Fuchu Shiranamikai, is based on the Fuchu Shirotaekai, which uses the big reception hall of the Katamachi Bunka Center as a practice space. Also, Harada-sensei, played by Jun Kunimura, is modeled after Hidehiko Maeda, the former head of the Shirotaekai.
Katamachi Bunka Center
2-17 Katamachi, Fuchu-shi, Tokyo
Kashi no Aokiya Fuchu Keyakinamiki-dori Branch
Kashi no Aokiya is a traditional confectionery shop that first opened in Fuchu in 1893, and has opened other branches in the Tama/Musashino area. There used to be a branch on the grounds of Okunitama Shrine. It's a representative confectionery shop of Fuchu that sells products like popsicles and sweet dango dumplings.
This shop uses culture and techniques that have been cultivated for more than 100 years using flavors that have been handed down since then. They sell seasonal wagashi (traditional confectionery) that rotate around their homemade anko (sweet bean paste) called "hyakunen-sei an," made using carefully selected azuki beans from Hokkaido.
While it isn't directly connected to the movie,items that sold out on days when the movie was released are no won sale only at the Fuchu Keyakinamiki-dori branch.
One of them is the Daddy Bear Dorayaki. "Daddy Bear" is a bear character on the towel that Chihaya carries around in the movie. It's made by using their popular product, Nichinichikore Kurodora, in which coarse hyakunensei-an is used as a filling for soft dough with the fragrance of Okinawa black sugar. On that dough, the face of Daddy Bear is printed! If you want to buy it, call ahead at least five days early to place an order.
Another one is the Chihayafuru Sabure. The crisp cookie with a buttery aroma has anime characters like Chihaya, Taichi, Arata, Daddy Bear, and Snow Maru on it.
The assistant manager, Kyoko Tomoto, who made efforts towards the sales of Daddy Bear Dorayaki and Chihayafuru Sabure, says that the store "has fans of people of all ages. Many people buy our products as gifts or souvenirs as sweets from Fuchu."
She's lived in Fuchu for about ten years, and about the area she had this to say: "It's a calm area with lots of nature where you can relax, but you can easily reach the center of Tokyo, so it's convenient. People are warm and energetic, and the big festival in May is especially lively."
Kashi no Aokiya Fuchu Keyakinami Kidori Branch
Inside Fuchu Foris 1F, 1-41-1-104 Miyacho, Fuchu-shi, Tokyo
"Fuchu is very green. Other than the grounds of Okunitama Shrine and the natural monument of Keyakinamiki-dori, there are plenty of green spaces and parks, so it's a place where you can relax. In front of Fuchu Station, there are shopping centers like Isetan, Foris, and Kururu, so it's convenient for shopping, too. There are 14 train stations inside the city, and it's only 3 stations away from Shinjuku on the express Keio Line, which takes about 20 minutes. The public transportation is very good, which is why this is a great place to live," says Yuji Fujiwara, part of the Fuchu Economics and Sightseeing Department who can't stop bragging about his city.
When you walk around the city, it's so lush that you'll feel like you're looking at greenery no matter where you turn. However, it doesn't feel as though nature has been given the run of things, so it creates an elegant atmosphere where you can enjoy the sunlight.
Something else you can feel is the city's Chihayafuru fever. It's not just campaign booklets and snacks, after all - the Bunka Center is even covered with illustrations! The love of Chihayafuru as well as the love of Fuchu that overflows is wonderful for fans of the original work.
"There are various events that take place in Fuchu around the year, such as the Kurayamisai, a huge festival held yearly at Okunitama Shrine that's visited by 700,000 people yearly, as well as the yosakoi (a traditional dance from Kochi), Jazz in Fuchu, Fuchu Marche, and more." - Yuji Fujiwara of the Fuchu Economics and Sightseeing Department
All the fuss of Chihayafuru might be because the people of Fuchu are energetic and love festivals.
Fuchu became the center of the Musashi Province thanks to the Taika Reform of 645CE, so it is an area that's flourished since ancient times and has many historical remains, such as the an ancient provincial government building. It's because of that history that the motif of the one hundred famous poems fit this city so well.
It's very refined, but it gets very excitable when the time comes. You're sure to understand the charms of Fuchu just by visiting once. [TokyoWalker/Mia Kobayashi]
*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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