Kimi no Na wa. has exceeded all expectations: having made more than 12 billion yen, it’s real life locations started to attract a huge number of people. The movie features two basic settings: a few Tokyo locations and a mountain in Hida, Gifu. Would you find it strange if we told you that people going to these places has increased since the movie? You shouldn’t, because in Japan there is something called Seichi Junrei.
What is Seichi Junrei?
Seichi Junrei roughly translates into ‘Holy Pilgrimage.’ Fans of anime titles visit the real-life locations that are featured in the title. Jut like its religious counterpart (the act of visiting sites holy to a specific religion), visiting the place an anime takes place into is an otaku’s way to enter their favorite world of anime.
Seichi Junrei is getting more popular
Visiting places from books, movies, etc. is not new, it has been a thing for many years, and in Japan, visiting seichi from anime and manga is getting more and more popular.
When the fans of the anime Raki Suta found out that the Takanomiya Shrine is actually a real-life location, Washinomiya Shrine in Saitama, the number of visitors skyrocketed from 30 thousand to 470 thousand. In anime history, Raki Suta is often referred as the first success story of Seichi Junrei.
Another example is GIRLS und PANZER, a hit movie with a box office revenue of over 2 billion yen, features a high school that has a real-life equivalent in Oarai-cho in Ibaraki. With the success of the movie, so many fans visited the place that the city officials decided to hold a special event and work to accommodate the sudden rush of tourists. The area, which suffered from the East Japan earthquakes, was boosted financially. That was the power of seichi junrei.
The fake town of Yonosagi Onsen in Hanasaku Iroha is based on the quite real Yuwaku Onsen in Isikawa. The famous Bon Bon festival that appeared in the anime was recreated with the cooperation of the locals and many fans attended the event.
In Japan, seichi junrei is becoming more popular by the day. Its positive economic impact has officials turning their eye to the world of anime for touristic exposure, but that doesn’t mean that every anime will be succesful. There is always a risk.
The Unpredictability of Seichi Junrei
It’s not only outside locations that get a boost from being featured in anime. The Hida City Library that appeared in Kimi no Na wa saw a lot of visitors comings after the release of the movie.
Contrary to live-action movies where it’s natural to ask for the cooperation of the city you are shooting in, the Japanese anime industry rarely asks for such help. Many times, the officials of the city won’t even know that they were featured in an anime title unless they are otaku fans themselves. It’s difficult to prepare for a sudden surge of visitors in case of an anime success.
Hida City Library decided to allow people take photos of the library under certain conditions. It allowed people to upload pictures on Social Media as long as they apply for it at the front desk and add an “I visited Hida City Library” comment when they post their photos.
Even if the anime production asks for official cooperation, there is no way to predict the number of visitors. It can range from none to thousands and your can’t really know until the numbers come in. The city of Hida created a special seichi junrei map after realizing the popularity of Kimi no Na wa. There is really no bulletproof way to predict these kind of things, and many times officials and production companions need to play fortune-telling or wait for the box-office numbers or TV ratings before taking any action.
The Official Seichi Junrei Route
In September 2016, JTB along with Japan Airlines and Kadokawa created the Anime Tourism Association. Yoshiyuki Tomino from the Gundam series is the representative of the board of directors and the association is promoting the culture of the Otaku Holy Pilgrimage.
For popular series, officials have the chance to create Seichi Junrei maps just like those for Kimi no Na wa. The government and the people started to cooperate to attract visitors to the sacred place of anime but it is not enough as it is. When you are planning a seichi junrei be sure to search for relevant and trusted information on the internet. Many official websites, either of the place or the anime, will refer to the sites that are included in a seichi junrei.
There is something both realistic and magical about visiting the places you see in your favorite anime. Have you ever been to a seichi junrei? Do you want to go to one? Let us know in the comments below.