Following up to our previous article in the real-life location ‘pilgrimage’ of areas in the Kumamoto countrysides that appeared in the “Natsume’s Book of Friends” anime series, here’s presenting the areas and scenes from Seasons 4 through 6 of the anime series; as well as a little extra bonus!
From Season 4
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OP themesong sequence – Amamiya Shrine in Kuma Village, near the Sagaramura River Delta:
The pathway and flight of steps leading to the Amamiya Shrine passes through what the locals lovingly call the “Totoro Forest” (for those who are fans of Studio Ghibli’s famous “My Neighbour Totoro” series, do take note!)
Episode 5 – Ichibu-Hachimangu Shrine in Nishiki Town:
It can get cold in the mountains so some kind folks from the local community made colourful beanies for the shrine’s guardian beast’s stone statue:
From Season 5
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OP themesong sequence – the mini kanon deity shrine near Torinji Temple:
Episode 2 – Nishize Bridge:
Episode 3 – Benitori Bridge:
Episode 11 – Stone steps and stone lanterns of Kami-shikimi Kumanoza Shrine in Takamori Town:
From Season 6
OP themesong sequence – local rail lines linking Hitoyoshi and Yatsushiro to the main Kumamoto City:
OP themesong sequence – Kasamatsu Bridge:
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Episode 3 – the chimney of the paper factory near Yatsushiro train station:
And that’s all for the locations covered in Seasons 4 through 6 of the anime series. Now for a little bonus.
Fans of “Natsume’s Book of Friends” probably also know about the short animated film “Hotarubi no Mori e” (lit. ‘Into the Forest of Fireflies’ Light’) – also based off a manga by Yuki Midorikawa – and there’s also been speculations from some fans that the mangaka drawn her own childhood experience into this particular story, since she was originally from that particular parts of Kumamoto. But whatever the case, the mysterious mountain shrine featured in the short bittersweet story does in fact also exist in real-life. And as depicted in the manga and animated film, the shrine and the surrounding forest that it is located in, is indeed a thing of natural beauty, albeit with a tinge of surreal otherworldly feel – a fact that can be vouched by one of WJ’s staff writers who has made the trip to visit this little-known shrine herself.
Some fans might have already guessed… this mystical mountain shrine is none other than the “Kami-shikimi Kumanoza Shrine” – which appeared briefly (again) in Episode 11 of the 5th Season of the “Natsume” anime series!
A little tip for those wanting to visit and see this beautiful mysterious shrine for their own from our staff writer – always plan for ample travelling time especially if one does not drive and have to rely on public transports. The trip to the foot of the mountain – located in Southern-Aso – at the small quiet town of Takamachi from the main Kumamoto City takes nearly 2 hours. At the local Takamachi Tourist Centre, visitors have to change to a local-service bus that goes further up the mountain where the shrine is – and that in itself is another estimated 30-minutes trip. Again always take note to check and re-check the local bus schedule because this particular local bus service ONLY RUNS TWICE in two round-trips up and down the mountain per day! And the thing with Japanese public transport is that they are always punctual down to the last second – so take care not to miss the bus, or one might find themselves having to spend a night on the mountain until the next day when the next round of bus service commences! There’s of course the other option of attempting to talk to the locals and have them ‘rescue’ you if you really did miss the bus – like our writer did.
In Hitoyoshi City, the locals are all prideful of the fact that their rural little city have been used as the setting for the “Natsume” anime series. As such they made special efforts on the ‘anime tourism’ attractiveness of their city since it is a source of income for the businesses in the city. The Hitoyoshi Train Station itself even has its very own little corner dedicated to “Natsume’s Book of Friends” and of course, everyone in the city knows and loves Nyanko-sensei – indeed in this little rural city, Kumamoto’s very own yuru-character mascot ‘Kumamon’ isn’t the only well-loved and famous mascot around because they have a local contender in the presence of Nyanko-sensei!
One of the traditional eatery near the station even has had the voice actors of Nyanko-sensei – Kazuhiko Inoue-san; and Natsume’s classmate, Kaname Tanuma and best friend – Kazuma Horie-san, visited their establishment! Here’s a quick peep at the Himawari Restaurant!
And this concludes our series of articles for the real-life locations of the shrines and locales that appeared and were featured in Yuki Midorikawa’s famous “Natsume’s Book of Friends” series!