As promised, after last week’s excursion to the northern Hakodate, this week’s installment of Anime vs. Real Life is all about Love Live! Sunshine!!’s main setting, the sunny seaside town of Uchiura. Aqours’ lovely little hometown is located at the northern end of the Izu Peninsula, right in the Suruga Bay, and is part of the much larger Numazu city.
It wasn’t until very long ago, that Uchiura was merely a quiet fishing village with only a few seaside resorts. The small town never really was the hottest tourist destination in the area, and certainly not one to attract the younger anime fan demographic, but all of that changed with the start of Love Live! Sunshine!! last year. The anime catapulted Uchiura and Numazu on the map for watchers of the show, prompting fans from far and wide to visit the rural town that Chika calls her home – and the constant stream of visitors hasn’t slowed down since. Cities trying to capitalize on the growing anime tourism trend have become a dime in a dozen recently, but only a select few manage to sustain their momentum and the increase in anime tourists after the show is finished.
Uchiura’s and Numazu’s success can partly be attributed to the extremely high popularity of the Love Live! franchise (the Tokyo locations of the original are still beloved pilgrimage sites years later), but it also stems from the sequel’s convenient location itself. On top of the really lovely scenery, the area is also reasonably easy to reach, being only roughly two hours away from Tokyo, making it a good distance for a day trip, or even better an overnight stay over the weekend. Not too close to be uninteresting, but also not too far away to be exhausting and overly expensive. Furthermore, the myriad of collaborations and tie-ins, ranging from decked out busses, to live events, and stamp rallies, surely also played their part. And last but not least, the currently airing second season of Love Live! Sunshine!!, which further raises the small town’s profile. But to be honest, at this point, I almost have the feeling that tourists would’ve been flocking the coastal town regardless of the second season.
At least that was my impression on my latest trip there this summer. I already made the trip down to Uchiura last year (Part 1,2), just after the third episode had aired back then, and was highly impressed by the sheer number of tourists, who obviously only came because of Love Live! Sunshine!! And I was just as amazed this year, when I saw just as many, if not more, fans, who were also trudging around the show’s locations. I myself decided to pay the town a second visit because I finally wanted to see that spectacular view of Mt. Fuji, which comes up so often in the show, but also simply because I just had a wonderful time on my last trip.
Let’s start off with the show’s most prominent location, which was also on the anime’s first promotional art, Mito Beach. The beach’s best feature is the beautiful view of Uchiura Bay, simply because…
… the small beach itself is rather dirty and has a lot of trash lying around. I was sure that the beach would be properly cleaned up this time around, due to the countless fans visiting the spot, but nothing has changed over the past year. On the other hand, it might’ve also been the influx of tourists, that's been causing all the littering in the first place.
History in Love Live! really does seem to repeat itself, only this time its Chika jumping off the pier, and not Riko.
Aqours’ high school is located across Uchiura Bay and Mito Beach, atop the hill here.
I’m sure you’ve spotted it a few times by now, but lo and behold, the majestic Mt. Fuji! As already mentioned, the main purpose for my trip this time was to finally see that exact view that’s been advertised in the show since the first episode, which is Uchiura Bay with Japan’s highest mountain looming in the background. The weather wasn’t clear enough during my last visit, but as you can see, I was not disappointed this time around. This view here, with Mt. Fuji emerging between the coast to the right and Awa Island to the left, has been especially impressive. Although, seeing a giant cruise ship sailing through the narrow Uchiura Bay like in the anime would’ve also been a sight to behold.
The Izu Mitohama Shotokan is a traditional Japanese inn, and surely has seen a significant increase in overnight stays by anime fans, but most of the fans planning a stay around Uchiura Bay will surely first take a look at the inn across the street, which is…
Yasudaya Ryokan! Chika’s home does not only serve as an inn in the anime, but also in real life.
Unfortunately, there isn’t actually a dog house in front of the inn, but everything else almost matches up nearly perfectly with the anime.
Except for the design of the noren, which are the traditional Japanese fabric dividers you'll find in front of many doors.
And also the Takami’s actual living area is missing in real life. As you can see, there isn’t a second large building in the back of the actual inn.
In the latest episode, Chika’s mom presents her a few New Year’s gifts instead of money, one of them being a daruma doll. These dolls come in various shapes and colors, and are a good luck charms that are supposed to keep you focused on achieving your goals. Once you have a specific wish, goal, or dream in mind, you paint in one of the two initially blank eyes, and only once you've actually achieved it, you get to paint in the second one. It seems like Chika and I myself still have some work to do.
Yoshiko and Riko return Nocturne Laelaps Anko to his owner in this little street next to Chika's inn.
Let’s move on to one of the show’s other big locations, the nearby Izu Mito Sea Paradise. The aquarium already served as the venue for Aqours’ Koi ni Naritai AQUARIUM single early on, and was also in this season’s fourth episode.
The aquarium opened in 1930 and was the first one that kept bottlenose dolphins, whale sharks, walruses, and sea otters in Japan. There are also several sea animal performances a day, although I never actually went to see one myself. Well, third time's the charm.
I did however check out the animals at Awa Marine Park, on Awa Island.
The best way to get to Awa Island is by boat, which obviously has also gotten the full Love Live! Sunshine!! treatment in real life.
There are not only penguins and other sea creatures on the island, but also Kanan’s diving shop, which in reality is a small terrarium, containing a vast variety of frogs.
That’s where the dolphin performances take place on Awa Island.
Let’s take a quick detour to Numazu, where the girls saw off the Saint Snow sisters in front of Numazu Station in the last episode.
The only way to get from Numazu to Uchiura is by a 45 minutes bus ride with the Tokai Bus Orange Shuttle. Just like anything else in the area, also the buses have been taken over by the nine school idols. And not only the exterior, but the show’s voice actresses also announce the stops along the way.
One spot you should definitely not miss on your own trip, is this place right across from the tourist information center in Uchiura. Not only does it appear several times in the anime, but it’s also here where Riko and Chika shared an intimate moment together in the first season.
And on the other side of Uchiura Bay is the Nagaisaki Junior High School bus stop, the closest one to Aqours’ school. All of the people wandering around the area in the picture above were only there for Love Live! Sunshine!!
Awa Island (in the background here) is also where Mari’s luxurious Awashima Hotel is located.
Continuing up the slope will get you to Nagaisaki Junior High School, or Uranohoshi Girls’ High School in the anime.
But unlike in the anime, this school actually isn't an all-girls school.
Entering the school grounds is not permitted.
And since I’m sure that you still haven’t seen enough of it, let’s top off this week’s installment of Anime vs. Real Life with even more pictures of Mito Beach!
And finally, just like last year, I once again left behind a small memento in Uchiura.
The map below also includes all of the locations that that I did not feature in this article. If you ever plan your own trip to one of these places and need some help, don’t hesitate to contact me.
What do you think of the Love Live! Sunshine!! locations? And who’s your favorite idol in the series? Sound off in the comments below!
Wilhelm is an anime tourist, who loves to search for and uncover the real-world spots he sees in anime. You can talk with him on Twitter @Surwill.