Earlier this year I traveled to Hida City and visited a few locations that inspired the background scenery and landscapes for a certain animated movie that was release last summer (unfortunately I can’t actually say the name of the movie but fans will know what I am talking about). In Japanese media the fans of the movie, who are traveling from far and wide to these movie landmarks, are compared to religious travelers making pilgrimages to their sacred lands.
At first these pilgrims were all Japanese people, but with international releases and growing popularity of the film, they has grown to account for people of all countries and demographics. I wanted to write this article to share about my pilgrimage experience, and introduce a few of the popular landmark locations. Let me say that I have actually been to most of these landmarks in person *ahem* for professional reasons of course. While this guide covers most of the popular landmarks, there are one or two other places that I wont be covering. Here are the places I will cover in this guide:
- Hida City Library
- Hida-Furukawa Station (Sky Bridge, Taxi Pick-up Area, Hidakuro, etc.)
- Hida-Furukawa Old Town
- Keta Wakamiya Shrine
- Hie Shrine (Takayama City)
- Miyagawacho Ochiai Bus Stop
1.) Hida City Library
There have been a flood of movie fans going to the library because of a few important movie scenes that took place there.
Just remember that it is a library, and to respect the rules and manners that come with being inside of one.
That being said, the library seems to be very welcoming to visiting pilgrims, if you want to take pictures inside then you need to do the following:
1.) Get permission from the front desk and 2.) don’t take pictures showing other library users’ faces
If you follow these rules then pictures are ok! The library would also appreciate it if you wrote “I came to Hida City Library!” in anything you post on social media.
Access: About a 5 minute walk from Hida-Furukawa Station
2.) Hida-Furukawa Station
There are actually quite a few landmarks that you want to make sure to visit while you are at Hida-Furukawa Station. The most popular one is the sky bridge that crosses over the train tracks to the community center and city art museum. To get there just take a right when you exit the station and you should be able to see it. If you want a picture with a train in it then you will want to make sure to time it well because the trains don’t run all too frequently.
The next landmark at the station is looking from the area in front of the station towards the taxi zone and sky bridge (I didn’t get a picture of this one).
One of my favorite landmarks is actually inside of the station with the Hida Beef mascot Hidakuro-chan. Hidakuro-chan has become one of my favorite mascots here in Japan, make sure while you are in the area to try some delicious Hida Beef!
3.) Hida Furukawa Town
While the Hida-region town in the movie is fictional, by just walking around and exploring the old Hida Furukawa district near Hida-Furukawa Station you can feel the same atmosphere that you see in the movie.
I would recommend walking along the Seto River canal, which borders some very tall white-walled storehouses and is home to around 800 Japanese carp (they are there most of the year except winter).
Access: about a 5-10 minute walk from Hida-Furukawa Station
4.) Keta Wakamiya Shrine
According to various blogs there two shrines that are in contention for the family shrine in the movie: Keta Wakamiya Shrine and Hie Shrine. On the other hand, some people say that the Keta Wakamiya Shrine is the inspiration for a random shrine in the movie, while the Hie Shrine is the main inspiration for the family shrine. It is kind of confusing so I will just introduce both of them and let you decided.
I wasn’t actually able to make it to the Keta Wakamiya Shrine so I will let Google Maps show you the way. Walking through the torii gates here in the middle of the forest is said to be very relaxing.
Access: around 20 minutes from Hida-Furukawa Station
5.) Hie Shrine (Takayama City)
Hie Shrine is a 25 minute walk from Takayama Station (about 5-10 minutes from the Takayama City old quarter), but well worth the trip. With the beautiful stone road and stairway leading up to the shrine, wooden lattice-work architecture, and surrounding redwood trees, I can see how such a beautiful place could be the inspiration for the family shrine in the movie.
Access: 25 minutes from Takayama Station
6.) Miyagawacho Ochiai Bus Stop
The Miyagawacho Ochiai bus stop is about a 6 minute walk from JR Tsunogawa Station, which is three stations north (going away from Takayama City) of Hida-Furukawa Station. There are not many trains (about one every two hours!) so I would not recommend coming here unless you have a car, or don’t mind waiting around for a while. It is a little bit out of the way compared to the other landmarks which is why I included it last.
There you have it, a guide to the pilgrimage locations of that certain movie that partially took place in Gifu Prefecture. I had a fun time traveling around and hunting for all the different spots. I hope you decide to make the pilgrimage too! Just make sure to be safe and respectful 🙂
Please feel free to message me or leave a comment if you have any questions.