Akemashte Omedetou!!! Happy New Year! The final installment of Actar in Tokyo ironically takes place out of Tokyo in the quaint little prefecture of Saitama. Don’t know the significance of Saitama? Read on!
Being the New Year and all, I decided to spend the day in traditional Japanese fashion, by visiting a shrine. However, that would hardly be epic enough for me, so, the shrine I visited was none other than the one where our favorite purple haired, twin sistered miko work, Washinomiya Shrine! (^o^)
That’s right! Saitama is the setting of everyone’s (mostly) favorite slice-of-life Anime, Lucky Star.
You could say that this visit is one of the main reason for choosing this time to come to Japan. What better way to celebrate the very first ‘official’ Anime I watched that got me hooked on Japanese Modern Visual Culture, Lucky Star!
Let’s GO! (Caution, relentless onslaught of pictures ahead!!!)
Saitama is located North of Tokyo and is pretty far from Shinagawa, where my hotel is. To actually get there, we had to take the JR Keihin-Tohoku Negishi Line to Ueno and change trains to the Tohoku Line. After reaching Kuki in Saitama itself, it’s only a matter of taking the local Tobu line to Washinomiya.
So, an hour and twenty minutes later, we’re finally there!
The minute after stepped out of the station, I saw this plastered over one wall of the station:
Yup, epicness has landed. At least you know you’re in the right place. (^.^;)
Passing a number of residential buildings on the way to the shrine, the amount of Lucky Star related banners, hanging from the streetlamps,
… and posters continue to increase in numbers!
Before long, the ‘Hiiragi Bridge’ is in sight!
Look familiar? Perhaps this scene will help:
A poster outside the shrine advertising the Lucky Star New Year event.
I was stunned to see so many people at the shrine. In all the pictures that I’ve seen, the shrine was mostly empty. Then again, it was New Year’s Day. As the Japanese don’t celebrate Chinese New Year, New Year’s Day is an exceedingly huge event for them.
Super long queue!!! When visiting a shrine, passing the Torii (shrine gate) means entering sacred ground.
Tsukasa and Kagami Balsamic Vinegar! I think…
Limited edition Nendoroids in collaboration with Saitama Newspaper that can be won via Kujibiki, sadly, foreigners can’t apply. (TT.TT)
… and here’s the shrine straight out of the opening scene!
For some odd reason, they removed the stone pillar thing from the front of the shrine.
In true Japanese Festival Fashion, there were a ton of stalls selling everything from Food to Lucky Star merchandise!
Lucky Star books, magazines and manga!
Past events at the shrine?
The amount of people there was staggering, but not Comiket level.
People filming a Lucky Star related thing.
Traditional Japanese Dolls.
Stores selling Good Luck Charms and Bad Luck Wards…
manned by none other than real-life Mikos!!!
Again, like a scene straight out of Lucky Star. (^.^)
Transportation Safety, Wards against Illness, so on and so forth.
Water to wash your hands and drink from to cleanse oneself.
Does the sign ring a bell?
The Ema, wooden plaques that worshipers write their prayers and wishes on, of the shrine that is filled with Lucky Star characters:
More food stalls and scenery:
After queuing for more than an hour, yes that long, it was finally time to offer our prayers.
When visiting a shrine, there are certain rituals that must be followed. Usually, one must ring the bell to attract the attention of a god and then. After bowing twice, clapping twice, you pray. Last but not least, toss a coin into the donation box. This time round, the bells were not rung however…
Mikos, I think, giving out fortune coins.
Tie a bad luck ward!
What would a Lucky Star event be without Lucky Star cosplay?
WARNING!! WARNING!! The image that will follow will possibly scar your emotionally and mentally for the rest of your life. Actar is not responsible for any permanent damage and or trauma that may result from viewing it. Ready?
With all our praying, phototaking and merchandise getting, it was pretty late in the day already… The queuing and traveling took up a large chunk out of the day. So, wasting no more time, we headed for our next destination, Kasukabe Station!
As fans of Lucky Star know, Kasukabe station is the very train station that the main cast of Lucky Star frequently use to commune to and from their respective homes to their school.
Not only that, Tsukasa dances right in front of the station itself.
Before long, it was time to take the bus to none other than Kyouei High School, the real-life high school that Lucky Star’s Ryōō High School is based on!
Message from the Principal!
The School Buses!
I really wonder how the school would be like during regular school days. Since it was the New Year, everyone was off on their holidays. I guess that this was all for the best. Didn’t want any awkward stares. However, according to numerous sources, the town should be pretty used to that by now. (^.^;)
Ever since Lucky Star aired, thousands of people have flocked to Saitama, bringing the little town a ton of attention, popularity and most importantly, income. The sale of Lucky Star goods alone brought them 42 million yen in income. Being such a source of so much fame and fortune, the town has an official ‘Lucky Star Day’ and has even made Tsukasa and Kagami citizens of Washinomiya. How awesome is that? From the looks of the multitude of Lucky Star posters and banners, they are pretty ready to take advantage of the situation. (^.^;)
The school’s Bus Stop.
There we have it! Notice that in the last few pics, it was getting dark pretty fast. Since it is winter, the sun sets at around 4 – 5. Initially, I wanted to visit the Game center and the Family Restaurant but it light was lacking and it was really freezing as well. A quick bus ride later to Kasukabe Station, we were headed back to our hotel.
Last but not least, the final loot from Japan. It consists of:
Washinomiya Event Lucky Star File Folder
Washinomiya Event Ticket Thing
Washinomiya Event Kagami/Tsukasa Miko Poster
Washinomiya Event Kagami/Tsukasa Miko Bag
Special Edition of Saitama Local NewsPaper
As a huge fan of Lucky Star, this last day in Saitama was simply a treat. What a way to end my week long trip in Japan by paying a visit to the real-life locations of Lucky Star, the very first Anime that sparked my passion for Japanese Modern Culture.
Thus, ends the ‘Actar in Tokyo’ series of posts on my blog. I do hope you have had a great time joining me on my journey to Japan (well, almost) and here’s Actar wishing you a fantastic New Year.
Videos coming soon!