Fans make 'Kimi no Na wa' pilgrimages in Japan

PHOTO: The Japan News/ANN

Fans are flocking to places believed to have been featured in the animated film "Kimi no Na wa" (your name.), which has become a tremendous hit around the country, with revenue topping ¥16 billion (S$214 million) last weekend.

"It was totally unexpected. I thought it would be a success if revenue reached ¥1.5 billion," producer Genki Kawamura said.

The feature-length anime film, directed by Makoto Shinkai, tells the story of a high school boy living in Tokyo and a high school girl in a mountain village who are destined to fall in love.

As the story develops, audiences are reminded of such places as Shinjuku and Yotsuya in Tokyo and Hida in Gifu Prefecture.

However, when fans undertook "pilgrimages" to these sites, local people living in the areas complained of the noise visitors made and their arrival in the early hours of the morning. The film's production team stepped in and asked fans to behave with decorum.

Some people have welcomed the situation, because the visits could promote tourism.

A dozen people lined up to take pictures of steps near a shrine in Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo, which was believed to be a model for the background in the last scene.

Thirty to 40 fans a day have visited a bridge at JR Hida-Furukawa Station in Hida. They time their visits for the arrival of a train at the No. 2 platform, just like a scene in the film.

Shinkai, 43, is one of the directors who have been touted as the next-generation Hayao Miyazaki.

Since the animated movie was released on Aug. 26, the film has been ranked No. 1 for nine consecutive weeks in theatre attendance rankings compiled every weekend by the Kogyo Tsushinsha research company.

The number of people who have seen the film reached 10 million in early October. As of Oct. 23, revenue totaled about ¥16.4 billion. In the all-time revenue rankings of animated films in Japan, "Kimi no Na wa" is in fifth place, following "Mononokehime" (Princess Mononoke) directed by Miyazaki.

The film's popularity has fueled sales of related books and CDs.

Shinkai based the film on his novel, which hit bookstores in June with the title "Shosetsu Kimi no Na wa" ("Kimi no Na wa" the novel). The novel became a best seller with sales totaling ¥1.23 million copies. A book of a side story to the film has sold 300,000 copies, while the film's official guidebook has sold 150,000.

Rock band RADWIMPS' album containing the film's theme song had sold more than 240,000 copies as of Oct. 2.

"This is a film that everyone can appreciate together with its great visuals," said Yoshio Kakeo, a guest professor of Josai International University and former editor in chief of Kinema Junpo film magazine.

"That's why people who don't normally watch anime are heading to cinemas to watch this film. It's the biggest reason for its success. It was also helped by news that trips to 'location' sites were becoming popular," he said.

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