Anime vs. Real Life: Laid-Back Camping in Yamanashi

Check out over 100 real-life comparison images from Laid-Back Camp

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There simply hasn’t been any other anime up to date, which managed to convey and capture the appeal of camping and the natural charm of the great outdoors, as perfectly as Laid Back Camp has.

 

An inviting setting, fun characters, and a highly relaxing soundtrack were all part of the reason why the cozy slice-of-life show was undoubtedly one of the best anime of the past year. But it was the simply stunning-to-look-at backgrounds, all of which were meticulously modeled after real-life locations, which really managed to sell the anime’s eminently comfy atmosphere and toneinevitably making viewers want to go see and experience these sights for themselves.

 

And with the great outdoors being only a mere two and a half hours away from Tokyo via train, it shouldn’t come as a much of a surprise, that the anime’s main setting, which is Yamanashi Prefecture, has registered a literal boom in visitors since the show’s airing last year. Especially the featured campsites have all at least tripled their visitor numbers thanks to the popularity of the anime, even during the colder winter months. With the recent announcement of a second season, a full movie, as well as a mini-series airing in January next year, it doesn’t seem that the hike in popularity is going to slow down anytime soon.

 

While I had already thoroughly reported on Laid-Back Camp’s real-world locations while it was still airing, I had never actually been to any of the shown campsites. So thanks to the kind help of the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) I had the opportunity to finally pay them a visit, as well as have a little chat with the anime’s breakout director, Yoshiaki Kyogoku, back at studio C-Station. So get yourself as comfy as possible, and scroll through all the Laid-Back Camp comparison images I took on my trip to Yamanashi!

 


 

Lake Shibire 

 

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We’re going to kick things off with one of the most beautiful anime locations I’ve ever been to in general, which is the small Lake Shibire. The caldera lake is sitting in the mountains of the Shibireko Prefectural Natural Park in Yamanashi at an altitude of 850m.

 

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Out of all the locations on my Yamanashi trip, this one is probably the hardest to reach, as it is deep in the mountains, roughly one hour away from Kofu City, the prefecture’s capital, which makes for a good hub should you ever want to visit some of these places yourself.

 

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Shibire Lake’s camping ground is called Suimeiso, and was featured in Laid-Back Camp’s episodes six and seven. The outing was actually Rin’s and Nadeshiko’s first ever intentional camping trip together, so it definitely marks an important point in their friendship.

 

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The actual campsite is located on the exact opposite side of the lake, but if sleeping in a tent under the stars is not your thing, the reception building here also functions as a minshuku, which are basically family operated, Japanese-style bed and breakfasts.

 

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I was completely flashed when I met the owner of the campsite, Kitajima Shinsuke, as he was just the spitting image of the owner in the anime. And as he later on confirmed, the anime’s character was indeed based off of him! He was a great guy to talk with, and I’m sure we did for a good hour or so. Laid-Back Camp really caused a significant hike in campers for the place, especially notable during the winter months. Barely any visitors found their way to the campsite during the off-season before, but that all changed since the airing of the anime, and the camping ground now sees around 70-80 visitors even in winter. There has even been an influx in solo-campers.

 

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I’m sure you’re able to spot the large Rin cutout in the picture above, and inside of the building they also sold a good number Laid-Back Camp merchandise.

 

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Getting a hot chai, which was the same drink that Nadeshiko’s older sister got while she was there, was perfect to wind down a bit and take in the scenery. After that I was off to explore the campsite.

 

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Nadeshiko prays to be spared by the giant bull demon, who resides in the lake. According to the anime, the bull was slain by a samurai, and since then has been emerging from the lake everyday just short after midnight. Surprisingly, the anime’s legend is actually based off a real one. Long story short, about 300 to 400 years ago, a samurai defeated the lake’s bull demon at the cost of his own life. Because of this sacrifice, rain started to pour in the drought-ridden area, and to this day, as a kind of a rainmaking ritual, people offer a cow’s head to the gods around here.

 

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The inscription says Ozaki Dragon King, and is tied to another legend of the lake. Apparently, a four-tailed dragon deity used to inhabit the lake, which was also eponymous for Lake Shibire’s name (‘shi' meaning four and ‘bi’ meaning tail).

 

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The lake has a perimeter of 1.2km, and takes around 20 minutes to walk around, but it’s quite easy to get sidetracked here like Nadeshiko.

 

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You’ve surely noticed by now, but the attention to detail in the anime backgrounds is absolutely astounding. Location scouting for the show was done during the winter months, and had the team at Tokyo-based C-Station often make three or four trips out to Yamanashi in a month. Director Yoshiaki Kyogoku has visited every campsite himself, and has done dozens of camping trips with his teams, but also quite a few solo camping trips, just to fully grasp Rin’s character. On top of that, they also made every food shown in the anime onsite, using the same exact same tools as well, which goes to show just how much thought and detail went into the production.

 

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Definitely seems like a good spot to set up camp.

 

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It’s probably also a good place to nap, but knowing Nadeshiko, she’s soon up and running again and exploring the campsite.

 

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There’s obviously a bunch of other activities you can do at Lake Shibire, such as hiking, fishing, swimming, and boating, and let’s not forget about taking comparison pictures for Laid-Back Camp.

 

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‘Sup.

 

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Planning ahead with Google Street View only gets you so far, so there’s often still some location hunting I have to do onsite. I was just wandering around in the woods a bit, when I randomly stumbled across this path from the anime.  

 

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At one point, Rin mentions that she actually likes lakeside campground the best, and after getting to visit Lake Shibire myself, I definitely get where she’s coming from. 

 


 

Yamanashi Fuefukigawa Fruits Park & Hottarakashi Hotspring

 

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Next up is a location that’s just as picturesque, while also being much easier to reach: The Hottarakashi Hotspring. To get the full experience, it’s best to start at Yamanashi-shi Station, just like the girls did. Unfortunately, the station building itself is currently under renovation, so the information board outside of it was the only comparison image I could take here.

 

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From Yamanashi-shi Station it’s only a few minutes to the Nezubashi Bridge, where the girl’s resolve to walk the whole distance is already starting to dwindle. It’s around 4km from the station to the hillside onsen, and it takes a good hour to get there. The view, hot spring, and food will all definitely be worth the hike, though. And if you just want all of that without the hike, there’s also buses going directly from the station.

 

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On their way, the girls decide to catch a break at the Fuefukigawa Fruits Park, which usually offers a good view of Mt. Fuji’s peak. Japan’s sacred mountain is actually situated in Yamanashi Prefecture, and is without a doubt the prefecture’s pride and joy. Mt. Fuji also plays a central role in Laid-Back Camp, as it makes an appearance in just about every episode.

 

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Located in the middle of the park are three glass domes, containing a fruit museum, as well as the Orchard Café, which they also stop by at in the episode.

 

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Yup, the fruits parfait tastes as good as it looks!

 

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And even the ice cream cup was faithfully recreated.

 

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Just like any other major Laid-Back Camp location, this one, too, was quite proud to be part of the anime tourism phenomenon. There were all kinds of anime related goods lying around, as well as pictures of the star-studded cast of voice actresses, all of whom have paid the café a visit. While Rin’s and Ena’s voice actresses, Nao Toyama and Rie Takahashi respectively, were both extremely famous to begin with, the show really boosted Yumiri Hanamori's profile, who voiced Nadeshiko.

 

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It’s a real shame that the café is closing down this month and relocating to the new station building, but there’s a new café going to take its place, and the beautiful view will stay the same regardless.

 


 

Hottarakashi Hotspring

 

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After the pit stop at the Fuefukigawa Fruits Park, it’s still a bit of a hike to the Hottarakashi Hotspring (called Hottokeya in the anime), but the prospect of some much deserved onsen-time should be more than enough to keep you going. Unfortunately, the original entrance sign was blown off during a recent storm.  

 

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The open-air bath is just down here. What you see in Laid-Back Camp is really what you get. Relaxing outside in the soothing hot spring water, overlooking the Kofu Basin, while catching glimpses of Mt. Fuji here and there was simply breathtaking, and I wish I could’ve shown you just how stunning it all looked in real life, but taking photos inside the bath was obviously strictly prohibited.

 

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After the hot spring it’s time to reward oneself (again).

 

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In the show, the girl’s get an “Onsentamago-age”, which translates to deep-fried hot spring boiled egg. Think of tempura breading, but with a soft-boiled egg inside, and trust me – it’s good. I almost forgot to take the comparison photo after my first bite.

 

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After that, the girls of the outdoors activity club go rest a bit more at the cabin. It’s a laid-back show, alright.

 

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They later visit the Pinewood Campground to set up camp, which is only a short walk away from the hot spring. Unfortunately, if you want to enter the camping grounds, you’ll have to register in advance.

 

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Sticking around for night time is also definitely worth it, as the episode’s grand finale ends with Nadeshiko sending Rin a picture of the famed Fuefukigawa Fruit Park, which has been selected as one of the best three new night views of Japan. At the same time, Rin sends Nadeshiko a picture of the night view from the Takabotchi Highlands in Nagano Prefecture. The little interaction between the two is one of the director’s favorite moments of the show.

 


 

Motosu High School

 

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Located in Minobu-cho is Motosu High School, which is the model for the anime’s high school. The school was chosen by the manga’s Yamanashi-based author, Afro, because of its scenic mountain-top setting. Unfortunately, the school has already closed down a few years ago, but it’s nice to see it somewhat live on through the manga and anime.

 

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Surprisingly, I was allowed to wander around the school a bit, which was being prepped for a special fan event, and I actually did manage to find a suspiciously familiar looking room. Might this have been the inspiration for the outdoor club’s narrow club room?

 

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However, the main building of the school looks quite different in real life.

 

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Several fan events take place in and around the school nowadays, so a desk that looks just like Rin’s from the show was set up inside of the former library, which was filled with Laid-Back Camp memorabilia as well. The locals generally seemed thrilled about the attention the small town has been getting since the anime, and have played an active role in making these fan events happen.   

 

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There are even a few anime locations to be found on the short walk from Kai-Tokiwa Station to Motosu High School, like the funny Google Street View scene.

 

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Starting from Kai-Tokiwa Station, it’s best to explore the next few locations via train, as all of them can be found along the Minobu Line.

 

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Minobu


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The next stop is Minobu Station in Minobu, a quaint little town along the Fuji River, which was featured in the anime’s eight episode. 

 

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The town’s main road is lined by traditional Japanese shops left and right, one of them being Eishodo, a traditional confectionary store. The store right next to the station sells Minobu Manju (basically sweet steamed buns), which Nadeshiko and her friends just couldn’t get enough of in the episode.

 

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If you’re lucky, you can even stumble across the dog shown in the episode here in real life. Unfortunately, the owner was apparently out on a stroll with him when I was there.

 

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It was great to bump into other people doing the Laid-Back Camp pilgrimage here, even one year after the airing of the anime.

 

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Utsubuna


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Utsubuna Station is the last relevant stop along the Minobu Line. The station gets quite a bit of screen time in the show, since it’s where Nadeshiko has to get on to commute to school.

 

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Selva Store


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Selva Food Garden, called Zebra Super Market, is the grocery store where Aoi works part-time. Taking photos inside is not allowed, but it’s still worth it to head inside, simply due to the special Laid-Back Camp goods corner, which has some exclusive merchandise of the show.

 

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The liquor store right next to the supermarket is where Chiaki works to earn a few extra bucks. However, the actual store closed down some time ago.

 


 

Lake Motosu


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And last but not least, this article would not be complete without Laid-Back Camp’s most iconic location: Lake Motosu from the first episode! It’s the third largest and clearest of the Fuji Five Lakes, and while they’re all popular destinations for outdoor activities and getting a good view of Mt. Fuji, Lake Motosu’s view of Mt. Fuji is especially noteworthy for a particular reason.

 

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I didn’t actually walk through the whole 558m-long Nakanokura Tunnel, I just went in and out to get the photo.

 

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The temperature was five degrees Celsius just like in the anime. And while I’m all for recreating anime shots as accurately as possible, I wouldn’t have minded for it to be at least 10 degrees warmer during my visit.

 

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Only anime can make lying down in front of a public restroom a tourist attraction. I saw several people recreate the scene from the anime there.

 

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Motosu Central Lodge is where you check in if you want to camp at the Koan Camping Ground.

 

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As you can imagine, the interior looks just like it does in the anime, and they also serve some great Hoto noodle soup, which is a local specialty, and also the dish Chiaki prepared for Nadeshiko when she was sick in episode nine.

 

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The main entrance of the Koan Camping Ground is just behind the lodge.

 

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Aside from camping, the area is also great for hiking. Right behind the lodge was a mountain trail which led to a very scenic observation deck, with a great view of the lake, Mt. Fuji, and the surrounding area, which only took me around 30 minutes to get to.

 

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It was already spectacular in the anime, but seeing the crystal-clear lake, with Japan’s sacred mountain lingering in the background, was just absolutely stunning in real life. This really isn’t just any ordinary view of Mt. Fuji, and if you’ve ever been to Japan yourself, you’ve likely already seen it.

 

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That’s because this specific view of Mt. Fuji as seen from Lake Motosu graces the reverse side of the current 1000 yen bank note (around $9) since 2004. The bill’s image of Mt. Fuji is modeled after the famed photograph “Lakeside in Spring,” taken by Koyo Okada, a man who devoted his entire life to photographing Japan’s highest mountain. The same image was also part of the design of the older 5000 yen bill.

 

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It’s definitely a million dollar view, or more accurately, a thousand yen view!

 


 

And there you have it, just about every Laid-Back Camp location located in Yamanashi Prefecture. Laid-Back Camp’s impact on the prefecture is clearly evident, and can not only seen by the increasing number of anime tourists, but also simply through the love of the local people for the anime. So if you’re a fan of the anime, and you’re already eagerly anticipating the continuation of the series, why not try to experience some of the show’s best locations for yourself?  And if you already want to get a taste of the second season, it might be worth a shot to head up Mt. Minobu, and visit the legendary Kuonji Temple. All the Laid-Back Camp merchandise and many cross-over events might be there for a reason.

 

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Which one of the locations do you think looks best? Does Yamanashi seem like a place you want to visit? Sound off in the comments below!


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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.


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