Tamachi Sugawara Tenmangu in Hitoyoshi, Kumamoto Prefecture, is a small Shinto shrine whose main hall is only about two meters wide.
But the building, located about a five-minute drive from JR Hitoyoshi Station, draws visitors from and outside Japan after it was mentioned as a model shrine featured in the opening sequence of the popular animated series. Natsume’s Book of Friends “.
The shrine is one of many that attract anime and manga fans who make âseichi junreiâ pilgrimages to places featured in their favorite titles.
These raise hopes for tourism in the Kyushu region, hard hit by natural disasters and the coronavirus pandemic.
Local tourism associations believe that bustling tourism can revive tourism, as domestic and foreign fans visit the story sites throughout the year.
NATSUME FANS FILL SHRINE NOTEBOOKS
“Natsume’s Friends Book” is a title adapted from a girl’s manga series by Yuki Midorikawa, from Kumamoto Prefecture, with the anime show airing since 2008.
The story centers on a boy named Takashi Natsume, who can see ghouls and “yokai” hobgoblins.
After inheriting the Book of Friends containing the names of the yokai who were made servants by his grandmother during her lifetime, he strives to restore their names and freedom to them with the help of the great yokai Nyanko Sensei, who serves as his bodyguard. .
There are notebooks labeled “Natsume’s Friends Book” stacked in the main hall, filled with messages in Japanese, English, and Chinese saying things like “I’m from China” and “This is my sixth visit.”
Notebooks have been placed since around 2011 for fans to socialize with each other.
There are currently 31 notebooks of 60 pages in A4 format.
Fans had visited the shrine, filling out three notebooks with their messages each year. But visitor numbers declined dramatically due to catastrophic flooding caused by record torrential rains in Hitoyoshi and elsewhere in July 2020, and then the pandemic, with just one diary added last year.
âReconstruction has gradually progressed and the situation of the coronavirus pandemic has improved, so I hope they will come back for seichi junrei and cheer up Hitoyoshi,â said Sachiko Kurisu, 41, a member of the Hitoyoshi tourism association Onsen.
Another fan attraction at Hitoyoshi is Bukegura, a former residence of a senior samurai “karo” official in the service of the feudal domain of Sagara.
While not shown in the anime, around 1,000 fans visit the building each year.
They come to see an exhibition of anime and movie posters, books autographed by Midorikawa, foreign language editions of the manga and other rare items collected by owner Satoru Tsutsumi, 77, over the past 10 years. .
Its reputation spread by word of mouth among fans, attracting many enthusiasts also from China, Switzerland, Italy and other overseas countries.
It also served as a forum for fans. At least one couple got married after meeting there.
‘DEMON SLAYER’ FANS ATTRACTED TO OITA SANCTUARY
Meanwhile, the Hachiman Kamadojinja Shrine in Beppu, Oita Prefecture, has become a possible story site for “Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba”, a very popular manga series.
The story centers on Tanjiro, whose family was killed by an “oni” demon and whose younger sister turned into an oni. He fights demons as he searches for a way to make Nezuko human again.
The Shinto shrine and the manga share a number of similarities.
On the one hand, the protagonist’s last name is Kamado.
On the other hand, legend has it that the stone steps of the sanctuary were built by an oni.
Additionally, an image of a dragon on the ceiling of the main hall of the shrine resembles the one that appears when Tanjiro launches his special attacks.
Nagasaki, which serves as the location for âIroduku: The Colored World,â is home to many events related to the animated series.
In November 2019, 700 fans inside and outside Nagasaki Prefecture attended a conference featuring director Toshiya Shinohara and voice actors.
When the city’s tourism association offered a tour of the Kinenzaka track, which appears repeatedly in the anime, and other spots in 2019 and again in 2020 for fans, it was inundated with bookings. .
“Robotics; Notes”, an animated series adapted from a video game, is set on Tanegashima Island in Kagoshima Prefecture.
The prefecture-run Tanegashima Chuo High School, which served as a model for a school attended by the characters in the anime, is open to fans to take photos.
They are allowed to enter the school grounds after going through a reception desk.
The Tanegashima Tourism Association has compiled a map covering pilgrimage sites and other measures to actively promote bustling tourism.
“With the number of tourists drastically reduced due to the coronavirus pandemic, we expect the lively pilgrimages can serve as a springboard to attract visitors year-round and revitalize tourism,” said Tatsuya Matsuura, 46. , member of the Association. “We want to have an event to celebrate the 10th anniversary of ‘Robotics; Notes’ next year.”