Gokurakuji, or The Elfen Lied Pilgrimage, Part I

Elfen Lied is a dark, creepy anime. Those who have heard of it either love it or refuse to watch it because of its ridiculously high level of gore and shocking scenes. All opinions about the anime itself aside, the animation studio Arms did a great job recreating the area surrounding Enoshima, such that it took me several hours to get together all of the screenshots and match them up to the mostly haphazard photos I took while I was there. I hadn't seen Tari Tari before going to Japan, but it's worth noting that the high school anime takes place in this area as well.

This post starts with the night of Monday the 15th. I skipped this part before so that I could bring it all together into something more tangible. Monday night, I boarded a train and visited Gokurakuji, but I wouldn't be there for long.

The vending machine at the station had one of my favorite, but rare beverages. The only place I had seen it before was the vending machine in a dark corner at Shintennoji University, so I was happy to be reunited with the mysterious drink.

The Enoden line is one of the coolest trains in Japan, and I think trains are stupid. It runs a series of old-fashioned-looking passenger trains through a wild and overgrown series of towns, sometimes surrounded on both sides by the walls of buildings.

It was aboard this train that I got my first taste of the Elfen Lied pilgrimage. The train was packed, but I could still recognize it from this scene that starts out calm but turns into utter chaos.

These trains are pretty unique. They also appear in Tari Tari on several occasions. Maybe I'll find some screenshots to compare them with in part II.

Gokurakuji is a very unique town. It's very small-time, surrounded by groves, temples, cemeteries and overgrown old structures. It's the ideal place for a tourist who doesn't like tourists.

Plus, you get to take an anime pilgrimage, if you're into that sort of thing.

I excitedly climbed the steps, readying myself to see the iconic distant beach framed by trees and a long staircase.

Unfortunately, the temple at the top of the stairs closes at 5:00 P.M. Never overestimate the hours of places in Japan. Especially temples.

Feeling let down by the banking hours of the temple at the top of the stairs, I made my way back to the station. My initial plan was to hit a couple of other places along the Enoden line, but I knew I would have to come back, and I also saw an ad for a one day all-you-can-ride ticket at the station, which would allow me to go where I wanted at a much better price. I decided to continue this adventure the next day.

I headed back into the city, feeling a little defeated. I bought a snack to cheer me up. (Actually, I was just hungry).

Naturally, no day would be complete without a stop in Akihabara. I spent the last couple hours of my day visiting some new places that I was tipped off to by blogs on the internet.

The best of these was the "Cultures Zone." It's pretty much right smack dab in the middle of Akiba, right around the corner from Super Potato and half a block east of the central intersection, but it doesn't stand out so much as an exciting place to walk into and visit. I was kicking myself for not having visited sooner. The second floor from the top has several figure and toy stores, an army surplus-looking store, and a store that sells all manner of nerdy posters and magazines.

I ate my dinner of sandwiches from 7-Eleven (don't judge me) and prepared myself for the return trip.

I got up pretty early (around 8) and checked out a couple of places before heading right back to Gokurakuji. I apologize for this Pulp Fiction-esque chronology. This time I made sure to get the all-day pass, which stood to save me about 5 bucks worth of Monopoly money.

Having arrived at what the people in charge of the temple deem a "reasonable" hour, I was able to pass through the gate, walk right past the temple, and drink in this gorgeous view of the ocean.

I decided that I might as well take a look at the temple, since it was right there. It was a temple, alright. Dragons spitting water, bonsai plants, Buddhist altars... Yep.

It would be nice if they just closed off the temple at 5, and not the much-more-interesting staircase that passes alongside. But that would just be too damn convenient, wouldn't it?

At the bottom of the staircase, I found the cemetery where a fight breaks out between Lucy, Nana, and a SWAT team.

I took a bunch of pictures, but either Studio Arms changed the styles of the headstones to be respectful, or I didn't manage to get a single angle from the anime. I'm hoping it's the former.

The closest angle I got was this shot where Lucy notices the snipers camped at the shrine across the street. I went and took a look at the shrine. It was pretty neat, but there again, a shrine is a shrine. I'd been in Japan for nearly two months at this point.

On the way back up the road, I discovered these stones up against the wall. I'm not sure if they are monuments or gravestones, but they show up almost completely unaltered in the anime, so I'm glad I managed to get at least one angle correct.

Back towards the station, across from the entrance to the temple, I decided to climb a series of overgrown stairs leading to another cemetary.

This cemetery was even older. I could tell, not because of the dates on the stones, but because there were parts I couldn't even access due to the paths being overgrown and/or crawling with bugs that I really didn't want to upset.

Gokurakuji is a very cool place. It really looks like nature is trying to reclaim everything. Untrimmed bushes cover pathways, and forests overflow at the top of stone walls like somebody poured them too high.

I started climbing these stairs, until I realized
that they had not been climbed in a long, long time.

Feeling much more satisfied with this trip, I once again left Gokurakuji.

This time, instead of heading back home, I stopped by the beach. Not to swim, but to be an annoying tourist!

Before I saw the wide open sands covered in happy, swimsuit-clad Japanese people, I came across what might be described as a ship graveyard. I instantly recognized it from Elfen Lied, although there weren't any specific angles that seemed familiar. Most of the old boats, crates and shanties had probably been shifted around by this point, considering the age of the anime, and the animators might have just made up the specific formations in the first place. It was unmistakably the place that inspired those scenes, though.

The beach itself was, well, a beach. It might have just been the wrong weather/time of day, but it didn't really feel like the place where a naked girl with horns was discovered in Elfen Lied. If anything, it actually reminded me of Squid Girl, with all of the people enjoying themselves and the beach houses.


There was quite a bit of art on these ramshackle beach houses. I guess the beach bums need to do something to occupy their time.

Tsunami warning sign.

I finished taking pictures of everything of interest down by the beach, so I got back on the train, ready to head to Enoshima, where the iconic lighthouse and bridges from the last episodes take place.

Fight the power!

...But that's for next time.

My goal is to finish all of the posts about my trip before the date passes me up (this post is mostly about the 16th of July, today is the 15th). so I'll try to update again today, if possible.

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