Tourism through Anime

I want to outline some thoughts bout tourism and its appeal in regards to today’s late-night TV anime. And by tourism I mean it beyond simply showcasing a locale in which draws people to visit that physical location, and also in the abstract sense. And how it has to do with parties.

We can quote well in terms of finding evidence of people visiting, say, the Washinomiya shrine for hatsumode, as an example of this sort of tourism. I enjoyed Toyama’s effort in promoting the various Hanasaku Iroha efforts, and seeing that rural landscape materialize in the anime. Lake Kizaki is on my destination if I ever get to wander in Japan outside of Tokyo, no thanks to the Please Teacher franchise. And maybe I want to watch a Koshien game, although I’m not sure what IP I can attribute that to. How about fishing mahi-mahis around the coast of Enoshima just like what Yuki did in Tsuritama? Or sight-see the beaches and bridges there as we saw in Tari Tari? Walk across the famous London streets witnessed in Beatles album covers and K-ON the movie? Well, you get this kind of tourism.

But seeing foreign locations in our anime, too, is a form of tourism. Just like physically being there, seeing that exotic or foreign stuff makes the stories interesting almost by default. As much as Aria makes you want to go to Venice, it also makes me want to go to, well, Mars. But the combination of both makes it even more interesting; Venice is a pretty neat place to begin with, and transforming it into some high fantasy planet-city is, well, interesting to see. I think this is also a big draw for the Horizon in the Middle of Nowhere series, personally. It’s amusing seeing entirely different London backdrops and historic characters being not-themselves, it’s like something being doubly exotic, at least speaking as an American. Or more simply, famous Japanese towns and cities are actually just giant ships. The entirety of Japan is interesting, as in it’s some new place, speaking as a foreigner.

I think anime has that appeal baked in, for gaijin watching the thing. What seems like a mundane trip to Tochigi with a couple stopovers, one in Tokyo JR station, seems like a distance of a lifetime…unless you have personally made the trip before. Many a quaint train ride turns into magic in anime, and we gaijin swallow that without the need of any salt, so to speak. All the more, then, when the mundane is transformed into the exotic, there’s a natural lack of resistance in terms of suspending our beliefs. It’s a bit like the first episode of Someday’s Dreamer, Natsu no Sora, when Sora steps her way into the famous Shibuya scramble crossing.

In those kinds of examples, the thing that we’re witnessing as a form of tourism isn’t so much the place, but more about the custom and mood and the feeling one perceives. It’s like a form of cultural tourism. It’s like going to Germany without seeing traces of WW2, or going to Japan without seeing traces of ethnocentrism, whatever. A bit of the best of both worlds. It’s like being able to appreciate how fun it is to eat monjayaki but without rolling up your sleeves. It’s like living in Texas, except everyone has mannerisms of Japanese people. Or laugh when people fear a gator may have gotten Apo. (Well, Space Brothers is probably a great example of how the gaijin factor decreases the fantasy element in the setting, to go back to what I was saying last paragraph.)

The best cases of anime tourism invokes both location and feeling. Or perhaps better yet, it invokes the location and invokes in the viewer a desire to want to visit the location. I mean when I think of Enoshima I probably think of it like a crowded, trashy East Asian touristy spot by the sea and not some awesome display at a gorgeous natural reserve that both Tari Tari and Tsuritama reminds me of. Maybe Venice isn’t that romantic? I don’t know.

I guess I should end this blog post with the usual cautionary language: you take some risks when you learn about real life through fiction. In these straight-up tourism cases, involving actual physical locations, I suppose that’s a very low risk. But when we engage in this sort of cultural tourism, you risk in becoming someone who doesn’t really get anything but think they do. Because they certainly don’t hide razor blades in lemons, and Japanese people don’t tend to have large breasts. Just look at the stereotypical weeaboo. Ninjas and geishas, yeah? Maybe those of us who enjoyed shows like Baccano or Durarara for their settings are not really any better.

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