The Land of Haruhi Suzumiya

My First Pilgrimage

Before coming to Japan, one of my main objectives was to carry out some anime 聖地巡礼, or "pilgrimages," for those of you who can't read moon-runes. Today, my goal was to go to the "holy land" of  The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya.

My day began with some laundry. I rinsed my socks separately, since my shoes had turned them green the day before.
The color balance in this image is fine.
I headed down the street fairly early. My destination was pretty far away, and I didn't want to risk being stuck there in the dark. I walked about half a mile down the street to the bus stop on the main road, and noticed a small shrine next to it while I was waiting for the bus.
This kind of thing was really common, but that
didn't stop me from taking pictures of it.

I took the bus down to Fujiidera station, and found the area nearly completely empty. I realized I had never been there so early, so I took a few pictures.

There's no sagebrush in Japan, unfortunately.

I rode a series of trains to Osaka Station. It was here that I was supposed to transfer to Umeda Station. With the assistance of Hyperdia (I had printed off my itinerary the night before at the internet cafe) and Galileo Offline Maps on my iPod touch (which apparently has [unreliable] GPS), getting around really wasn't a big deal. Umeda station was just a few (large) blocks away.

Osaka station is a really cool place.

A map-sort-of-thing in front of the station.

Look at all those vending machines.

I didn't realize until just now that there is more than one
Yodobashi Department Store. I'll write more about it when
I get to the Akihabara posts.
There's a sign there for Yoshinoya, which I would say
is the McDonald's of Japan, if there wasn't acual
McDonald's in Japan.
Umeda Station
I finally found myself walking into Umeda station. There was an interesting toy shop inside, but it was closed. I'm not sure if it was closed because of Sunday, or because of how early it was, but I probably would have stopped in had it been open. Maybe I'd come back later.

Although, as mentioned earlier, I had a printed sheet with directions to where I was going, I was having trouble figuring out what train to get on at Umeda station. Luckily, there was an information booth at the station, and I asked the man there. These information booths could be found at almost every station, and this wasn't the last time they would come in handy for me. I boarded the train. It was only a matter of time before I would be in the right place.


As the train neared the station, I did lots of peering out the window. I was eager to get a glance of anything familiar. I was officially in "pilgrimage" territory.

Koyoen station
To be honest, this was one of my least well-planned excursions in Japan. I only had one objective, and it was to see a pond at a nearby park, the pond seen in episode 23 of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. I started walking.

It's actually a really cool-looking place. There's so much
nature, but at the same time, look at all those power lines.

I weaved throughout the neighborhoods. Sometimes it kind of felt like I wasn't supposed to be there. I suppose anybody seeing me was probably wondering what a gaijin was doing running amok in their small town.

I think every Japanese city has their own unique manhole cover.

I followed this canal-like-thing for a while.

This huge intersection seemed a little out-of-place in such a small town.

In this park I encountered one of the most ghetto bathrooms I've ever seen. There was no men's or women's side, and you could see inside, directly to the toilets from the street. I didn't take a picture for some reason. It was then that I started to see some civilization. 

More cute construction mascots.

This guy was carrying a huge pole while riding a bike.
I was almost there. Across the street I could see the park containing this pond. I had been hoping that I would luck out and see some other places from the anime, but none of the parks I was coming across looked familiar to me.

It certainly felt like an anime, but, there again, so did the rest of Japan.
I crossed the street, climbed some stairs, and I was there. I had found the pond. It was a very dirty pond.

I didn't need a sign to tell me not to enter the water, thanks.

It was definitely the right place, and it was really cool to see, but beyond that, it really wasn't all that exciting. On its own, it was actually kind of ugly. And dirty. The creators of the show had definitely spruced it up a bit. Below is a comparison shot

A screenshot from the anime.
A similarly-angled picture I happened to take.

Yep, that is bird poop.

There were people jogging around the lake, so I asked one guy who had stopped to stretch to take my picture, and then I moved on.

Next thing on my list was... Nothing, really. I started wandering around the town. I was really hoping I could see some more locations from the anime, and it was still mid-day.

I saw a long set of stairs. I had always wanted to climb
a long flight of stairs in Japan, so I did!

...It was pretty exhausting, though.
I took lots of cool pictures, but I wasn't finding anything in particular. I kept walking.

A golfing range. IN JAPAN!

A "mansion." Japanese people have a really different
idea of what "mansions" and "limousines" are.
Hatake! This reminded me of a certain chapter of Yotsuba&!

Right across the street was yet another awesome temple. In I went.

This road led to some kind of school.
Lots of fancy looking houses around here.
Looking back at this now, I'm amazed how far I walked. I probably walked several miles up into the mountains, just looking around.

I soon came across some kind of park. it was one of the most interesting places I had seen so far, and it looked like there was a pretty good view from the top, so I climbed up some stairs, and kept taking pictures.

There were some families playing around.
The view was pretty awesome.

I was really getting out into the boonies. I was walking through some kind of farm on a hillside, when I came across a sign on a gate which made me feel a little less than comfortable to continue. I wasn't sure if an encounter with a wild boar was the kind of experience I was looking for.

"Wild boars will eat the plants, so please
close this door behind you"
I left the park, and climbed yet further up the mountain road. I came across a water treatment plant, and then found a hiking trail at the end of the long road.

I decided that I had done my fair share of "hiking" for the day, and I was running out of water, so I started trodding back down the hill.

I eventually came across a 7-Eleven and bought myself some food and an ice cream cone. Also, for the first time, a clerk refused to fill my water bottle for me. That was the last time I ever tried asking that favor, because for the first time, my eyes were opened to the fact that it might be a weird request here in Japan. After sitting on a nearby curb to eat (benches are a rarity in Japan), I headed back towards the train station.

I had to force this smirk. I was pretty exhausted.
I climbed down these stairs.
And down these stairs. Thank God I wasn't
going up this time.

I had almost made it to the train station, but I guess I really wanted to catch a glimpse of something else from the anime, and strengthen my purpose for coming here in the first place. I went a little farther. I even asked a couple fellow gaijin I encountered about what they had come to see, on the off chance that they were here for the same reason. They weren't.

It was always cool to see bamboo.

As I headed back to the station, I reflected on the things I had learned so far that day. These are things which were reinforced as the days went on.

Number one: Planning is important. If I would have marked some more surefire places on my map, there would have been a lot less desperate wandering. When on this type of adventure, you will rarely, if ever, just happen across the place you're looking for. Bring a map with notes.

Number two: Don't get too excited. I know it's kind of a sad way to put it, but you can't really know what to expect from something until you go there, especially when you're going to see a place that was used as inspiration for an anime. In this case, the beauty of the place itself had been really exaggerated. In other cases, the place often looks quite different from the illustrations.

Gotta love tanuki.
The day was still young, but I was tired, and ready to go home. While at the Osaka station, I did some shopping. I stopped by some book stores, and picked up what is now one of my favorite manga, 惡の華, The Flowers of Evil. I read almost the entire book on the train ride home.

Until next time.
When I got home, I took a bath and dived right into my bed. I was beat, and school awaited me in the morning.

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