Tomonoura – Ponyo Locations

This small fishing port in Fukuyama City was indeed brought to my attention thanks to its role in the sixth X-Men movie but whilst searching for the locations of those scenes I saw an article saying that Tomonoura was where the Wolverine and Ponyo crossed paths. That was in June last year when I had no idea who or what Ponyo was!

Screen Shot 2015-05-10 at 20.13.47 IMG_0129

Once I’d booked my ticket to Fukuyama for Golden Week the wheels were set in motion and I set about getting my hands on a copy of ‘Ponyo‘ (2008) which is sometimes also known as ‘Ponyo On The Cliff By The Sea‘. I asked around a select few friends who are into animation and got lucky when my friend Ben quite literally delivered me the dvd of it as he just happened to move from my hometown to Tokyo at that time.

Having watched it, I think I even surprised myself as I was quite moved at times by the cute story (albeit a bit weird) of the fish-girl and the five-year-old boy from Oscar-winning animator and director Hayao Miyazaki who I’m ashamed to say I only knew about due to some tribute in ‘The Simpsons‘ (S25E10 – Married To The Blob) where Homer and a Japanese guy both drink habushu (snake rice wine) and then stumble home intoxicated, where Springfield turns into a wonderland based on some of his Studio Ghibli work.

Now it has to be noted that there are no exact filming location match-ups in Tomonoura for this port town was the inspiration and basis for Miyazaki’s story. He spent two months there in 2005 before production started on the movie and his experiences helped inspire and shape the animated town where Sōsuke lives. The house that it was modelled on is a private house on the cliff lying just beneath Ankokuji Temple which was founded during the Kamakura Period (1192-1333).

Screen Shot 2015-05-10 at 19.46.54 Screen Shot 2015-05-10 at 20.55.21  P1000851 P1000853

The place where Sōsuke finds Ponyo is the rocky beach situated near to the ferry pier and Enpuku-ji temple.

Screen Shot 2015-05-10 at 20.54.02 P1000820

Sōsuke and his mothers commuter route takes them along the road seen below and his school is the building in the distance on the left. The exterior of the school even has a painted signboard featuring Ponyo on it.

Screen Shot 2015-05-10 at 20.57.31 P1000842 Screen Shot 2015-05-10 at 20.58.12 Screen Shot 2015-05-10 at 20.12.11 IMG_0128 P1000844

Sōsuke and his mother are determined to get home on the stormy day despite the horrendous conditions and the danger involved. They pass an intersection similar to the one below which is basically just looking back the opposite way to the aforementioned commuting route.

Screen Shot 2015-05-10 at 20.56.49 P1000843

The tunnel where Ponyo loses her human form is about 3km west and was too far away for me to reach within my time constraints sadly. However, Rila Fukushima did go there during a break in filming of ‘The Wolverine‘ (2013) in September 2012 and tweeted a picture of her in front of the tunnel where Ponyo reverts into a fish due to using too much magical power to help Sōsuke and others along the way.

Screen Shot 2015-05-10 at 20.52.37 Screen Shot 2015-05-09 at 20.35.15

Just before I left Tomonoura I passed the ferry terminal and noticed a boat was about to depart for Sensuijima so I thought I may as well take a (very) quick trip to the island which is just five minutes away and costs only ¥240 (return). The fences in the screenshot and photo’s below are very similar and both lead to similar shaped cabins with the reality one being the ferry passenger terminal.

Screen Shot 2015-05-10 at 20.50.13 P1000865

The time I spent on Sensuijima was short to say the least as I had to take a ferry back 20 minutes later. I took a quick look round the island though which has a hotel, camp ground, observation decks, boardwalks, walking courses and some  coloured cliffs covering the rugged coastline.

IMG_0148 photo12069

First port of call before all of those locales though should be the Tourist  Information Centre which stocks a good selection of Ponyo merchandise. It is the penultimate stop on the bus route from Fukuyama station to Tomonoura and they can print you off a Ponyo map of the area for free though sadly not the one like above. Wolverine maps are also available.

IMG_0116 IMG_0117 IMG_0122 IMG_0139

As you walk around the main town there are other a fair few posters on shops and noticeboards showing how proud they are that Tomonoura was the inspiration for  the town depicted in this visually stunning fairy tale.

IMG_0118 IMG_0134

How to get there: Take a bus from stop #5 on the south side of JR Fukuyama station. It takes approximately 25 minutes to reach the tourism information centre or you can get off a few minutes later at Tomokou bus stop; the final stop down the road from there.

Want more Japanese anime locations? Click here to see the Fukuyama locations faithfully depicted in ‘Kamichu!‘ (2005)

You can see The Wolverine locations in Tomonoura here

Tomonoura – The Wolverine Filming Locations

My main reason for only taking the Shinkansen as far as Fukuyama (rather than just going directly to my final destination of Hiroshima) was not only to see the station locales used in ‘The Wolverine‘ (2013) but also to continue the filming location theme by taking a trip to a place I have long wanted to visit.

This tiny fishing port of Tomonoura may no longer be a place for major cargo transportation trade but it has become a popular place for filming in recent years and is a short half hour bus ride south of Fukuyama. On screen, the viewer is made to think that they Logan (Hugh Jackman) and Mariko (Tao Okamoto) are going to Nagasaki which is the ancestral hometown of the latter. As mentioned in ‘Hiroshima-ken 2015 Pt V‘ they leave the Shinkansen at Fukuyama Station and then take a bus to Tomonoura.

I got off the bus at the tourist information centre which is highly recommended. There was a very nice and helpful guy working there who was able to help me with my extra-nerdy questions relating to the whereabouts of the screenshots I had on my iPad. He printed off a couple of very interesting maps detailing the locations and inspirations for ‘The Wolverine‘ and ‘Ponyo‘ (2008) too.

IMG_0124 IMG_0126

The Wolverine map specifically focuses on when and where filming took place, what Hugh Jackman did on his days off, Tomonoura-related tweets from the directors and stars and short reports detailing behind-the-scenes information of shooting and how the area was decorated and dressed to appear more Nagasaki-like.

First stop was the Tomokou bus stop five minutes away by foot where Mariko and Logan disembark from the bus on 52 mins. This is the final stop on the route from Fukuyama station and where the bus turns around and heads back that way.

Screen Shot 2014-01-29 at 22.53.47 P1000784 P1000839 P1000783

They are next seen on the other side of the road next to the harbour with the mountains standing in the distance and Logan asks “Where are we?” to which Mariko replies that they’re just outside Nagasaki. Well if being 530km from Nagasaki is “just outside” it then I guess she’s right!!

Screen Shot 2014-01-29 at 22.54.03 P1000785

Tomonoura scenes are then blended in with other ones shot on Omi-shima island in Ehime-ken which is about 65km west in the Inland Sea just south of Okunoshima a.k.a. Rabbit Island. The one where Logan chops up the tree that’s fallen across the road is Omi-shima but Mariko’s house is in Tomonoura.

Screen Shot 2014-01-29 at 22.55.27 P1000828

It’s a private house located on the hill next to Enpuku-ji temple which can only be accessed by a couple of paths leading up there.

Screen Shot 2014-01-29 at 22.55.40 P1000827

The private house appears again later on 69 minutes when Logan wonders where  Mariko has gone.

Screen Shot 2014-01-29 at 23.21.23 P1000832

Realising she’s been taken he gives chase to the yakuza and the scenes switch back and forth between Omi-shima and Tomonoura.

Screen Shot 2014-01-29 at 23.21.49 P1000830

Yukio (Rila Fukushima) pulls up in her car near the ferry pier as Logan hobbles towards her having been shot in the leg by one of the yakuza. They drive off with a roaring sound, go over a mountain and within seconds are back in Tokyo albeit one looking very much like a street in Sydney!

Screen Shot 2014-01-29 at 23.25.41 P1000811 Screen Shot 2014-01-29 at 23.26.16 P1000807

The movie was actually titled ‘Wolverine Samurai‘ in Japan and there are various posters and signs around town alerting tourists to the fact that the movie was shot in the area.

IMG_0143 IMG_0144  IMG_0119 IMG_0120   IMG_0142 Screen Shot 2015-05-10 at 10.18.30

Above is a tweet from main star Jackman (@RealHughJackman) when he was in Tomonoura in September 2012 for shooting which took place between the 5th and the 11th following a day in Fukuyama on the 4th and two days in Omi-shima on the 6th and 7th. I guess I need to visit Omi-shima now to complete the Japanese locations for this movie.

How to get there: Take a bus from stop #5 on the south side of JR Fukuyama station. It takes approximately 25 minutes to reach the tourism information centre or you can get off a few minutes later at Tomokou bus stop; the final stop down the road from there.

You can read ‘Cycling The Wolverine Tokyo Trail…In One Day’ here

The Tokyo Fox review of ‘The Wolverine‘ (2013) can be seen here

Fukuyama – The Wolverine Filming Locations

The sixth film in the X-Men franchise paid little respect for distance and time as the movie zig-zagged its way across Tokyo and then south to Nagasaki. However, no filming actually took place in the city which will always be remembered for the atomic bomb that was dropped on the place on the 9th of August in 1945. In fact, one can’t even go south from Ueno station where they board, as the Shinkansen (bullet train) only heads north from that station.

Anyhow, on 52 minutes Logan (a.k.a. Wolverine) and Mariko disembark at what is actually JR Fukuyama station in the east of Hiroshima prefecture. All the action (well all 17 seconds!) takes place on the South gate side (the opposite side to where Fukuyama-jo castle sits) as the two take one of the exits. The blue signed Nippon Travel Agency can be seen in the background although that style of sign is no longer on display.

Screen Shot 2014-01-29 at 22.39.24 IMG_0113

The crew filmed in Fukuyama for just one day on the 4th of September 2012 and Sun Station Terrace (or Sansute as its abbreviated to in Japanese) is in the background of Logan and Mariko with the bus station on the right and the red JTB is noticeable in the distance.

Screen Shot 2014-01-29 at 22.40.00 P1000771

Whilst reinforcing their need to find some place safe and get off the streets away from the trailing yakuza they walk by a statue and decide which direction to go in. The station has been renovated a bit since filming took place in 2012 with a new building in front of the statue….or behind it as one views it on screen! This statue is called Izurachojin (basically five cove fisherman) and was made by Denchu Hirafushi and could also be seen in episode 11 (Koi wa Yukue Fumei – Love is Missing) of the 2005 Japanese animated series ‘Kamichu!‘.

Screen Shot 2014-01-29 at 22.40.53 IMG_0114

The Nippon Travel Agency can be seen in the background again as Logan asks where downtown is. She replies that it’s straight ahead and it may well have been in that same direction albeit some 700+ km away!!

Screen Shot 2014-01-29 at 22.42.14 IMG_0115

The love hotel which they subsequently check into is actually back in Tokyo. It’s the Nakagin Capsule Tower (8-10-6 Ginza) which in reality is not a place for couples to get it on but is home to many unmarried salarymen wanting to stay in a small place. The interior of these tiny apartments could be seen in episode four of the BBC documentary ‘Journeys Into The Ring Of Fire‘ (2006). The building is a fine example of Tokyo modern architecture and now you can actually stay there thanks to airbnb website.

Screen Shot 2014-01-29 at 22.43.11 Screen Shot 2014-01-29 at 22.44.14 P1040355 P1040357

The “Nagasaki” journey then continues on to Omi-shima and Tomonoura and you can see the Wolverine locations in the latter here.

You can read ‘Cycling The Wolverine Tokyo Trail…In One Day’ here

The Tokyo Fox review of ‘The Wolverine‘ (2013) can be seen here

Fukuyama – Kamichu! Locations

Whilst doing my research on Fukuyama I came across the 2005 Japanese animation ‘Kamichu!’ which, though mainly based on real-life locations in Onomichi, also briefly featured an episode in Fukuyama. The actual name wasn’t referenced for it was just “a nearby town” where Miko and Shoukichi run away to for mysterious reasons. This can be seen in episode 11 (though advertised as episode 10 in this YouTube link) which is titled Koi wa Yukue Fumei (Love is Missing).

No sooner had the Golden Week holidays began and I was departing Tokyo on a 7:10 am Shinkansen train to Fukuyama where I would spend the day in the area before moving on in the evening to Hiroshima to spend time with my parents-in-law before my wife joined us a day later.

At just after 11am I arrived at Fukuyama station and immediately set off in search of the Izurachojin (basically five cove fisherman) statue standing beside the south exit. Playing truant from school, Miko and Shoukichi are stood in front of it on 5 minutes trying to decide where to go exactly having arrived by train from Onomichi. Miko even suggests going home maybe but as it is they leave their school stuff in a locker before going for a burger at the fictional (presumably!) Nichibatsu Burger (NB) restaurant.

Screen Shot 2015-05-15 at 20.15.59 Screen Shot 2015-05-15 at 20.16.35    P1000769 IMG_0114

Fukuyama-jo Castle is a stones throw from the north exit of the station and it can be seen on 20 minutes. The pair of them eat taikyaki (a kind of fish-shaped cake) from a vendor in the castle grounds. I took a brief wander around the castle grounds amid a sizeable crowd of families enjoying the holiday sun but I decided against going in the castle (¥200) as I wanted to move on to my main destination in the area of Tomonoura.

Screen Shot 2015-05-15 at 20.17.28 Screen Shot 2015-05-15 at 20.17.58 P1000776 P1000774 P1000779 P1000780

As it gets darker, Miko and Shoukichi are sat on the swings talking in the Fukuyama-jo castle park which is a small park on the lower lot of the castle grounds. They debate the idea of going home before Yurie and friends eventually find them. I’d make fun of the pair for not doing too much in Fukuyama if it wasn’t for the fact that I did just as little whilst I was there!!

Screen Shot 2015-05-15 at 20.18.41 IMG_0159

Sadly I didn’t have enough time on this trip to get to Onomichi once again but this was a nice taster and naturally the next mission is to hunt down the many locales used in the TV series. In the meantime I will just have to settle for enjoying the following blogs which give some fantastic detailed information on the real locations in and around the city which have been faithfully depicted.

Punynari’s Island Aventures          Cardcaptor’ Blog

You can watch all 16 episodes (English dubbed) of ‘Kamichu!‘ here

Tokyo Filming Locations: Pt XIV – House Of Bamboo (1955)

This Sam Fuller directed film was released a decade after the end of WWII and Japan has of course transformed itself quite a bit since then. ‘House Of Bamboo‘ was the first post-war American movie to be filmed in Japan and as you can imagine most of the Tokyo locations (including Ginza and Asakusa) now look nothing like what’s seen on screen. However, there are a couple of locations which have remained relatively unchanged in the six decades that have passed since filming wrapped and the reason for that is that they are places of worship in the form of a temple and shrine respectively. Continue reading

Top 10……Filming Location Trips For 2014

Another year has passed and despite my reservations about the future of such ‘top 10……filming locations’ this time last year, I have managed to do enough locations to warrant another list. It’s quite 007-centric and has in the main included just topping up pre-existing entries. Here then, in no particular order, is the Top 10……filming location trips for 2014…

1) Entrapment, 1999 (Click here)

P1030566 P1030572

2) The Hangover Part II, 2011 (Click here)

P1030846 P1030786

3) The Man With The Golden Gun, 1974 (Click here)

P1030916 P1030895

4) Tomorrow Never Dies, 1997 (Click here)

P1030758 P1030752

5) The Wolverine, 2013 (Click here)

P1040303 P1040347

6) Godzilla, 1954 (Click here)

DSC07280 P1050093

7) Notting Hill, 1999 (Click here)

IMG_5081 DSC07380

8) The World Is Not Enough, 1999 (Click here)

IMG_5189 DSC07373

9) Skyfall, 2012 (Click here)

DSC07367 DSC07361

10) Quantum Of Solace, 2008 (Click here)

IMG_5303 DSC07384

For the best filming locations for other years please click on the links below:

2009     2010     2011     2012     2013

Top 5……Tokyo Bridges In Cinema!

These structures built to span such physical obstacles like water or roads come in many different designs and so often they don’t get the recognition they deserve. When you think about it, hardly ever does a character cross a bridge without something happening  whether it be a deadly battle, a car crashing through the railings, something being dropped or tossed away, a heart to heart discussion or a monster destroying a landmark one.

Bridges have always had a part to play in cinema and they have served well in transporting characters into a new phase of life and I am on hand to acknowledge the role five Tokyo-based ones (as well as a bonus Saitama one!) have played in films over the years.

So without further ado, and in no particular order, here is the top 5…….Tokyo bridges in cinema!

1. Yanagibashi Bridge, Taito-ku: The Grudge (2004) – This green bridge opens up this American re-make of the Japanese horror movie ‘Ju-on‘ (2002) and just a stones throw away is the apartment of Peter who for some reason walks over to his balcony and then rolls over it and plummets to his death below. Now, as that’s in the first minute of the film I don’t really consider it a spoiler!! More details here

grudge2004-2 Oct 2011 092

2. Tsukuda-bashi Bridge, Chuo-ku: The Toxic Avenger Part II (1989) – This striking red bridge first appears on the hour mark as the Toxic Avenger is re-united with his long lost Japanese father. Five minutes later and a very silly fight ensues between Toxie and his fathers team of henchmen which continues on back to the bridge in question. More details here

Screen Shot 2013-03-28 at 09.29.11 P1010107

3. Yasakuni-dori Bridge, Shinjuku-ku: The Wolverine (2013) – Appearing on 19 minutes is  the usual shot of Yasukuni dori in Shinjuku which has featured in so many movies and TV programmes over the years and I guess it’s become the classic shot (alongside Shibuya crossing) of the neon lights of Tokyo really hitting the foreigner visiting these shores.  More details here

Screen Shot 2014-04-10 at 10.02.53 P1040295

It can be seen more recently in ‘Godzilla‘ (2014) as well as the Steven Seagal classic ‘Into The Sun‘ (2005). More details here

intothesun6 P1110557

4. Kachidoki Bridge, Chuo-ku: Godzilla (1954) – In his 15 minutes of terror, the final place to be destroyed by Gojira before returning to the ocean was this bridge (63 mins) which stretches across Sumidagawa River. More details here

Godzillabridge P1050093

5. Hamarikyu Gardens Bridge, Chuo-ku: Into The Sun (2005) – A reflective Seagal cuts a lonesome figure on one of the gardens bridges amid the cherry blossoms in the films final moments (91 mins). More details here

intothesun8 Hamarikyu Gardens Apr 2011 174

Bonus: Tokorozawa Bridge, Tokorozawa: Ju-on: The Grudge 2 (2006) – A bridge too far? Certainly not! Every good  Tokyo Fox listings feature needs an extra one and this one is technically not in Tokyo but as it’s just over the border in Saitama it can qualify as the bonus bridge. It features in the films dramatic final chapter on 82 minutes and that’s all I can really say! The match-up photo’s below though do give some hint as to what happens as the film comes to a climax! More details here

Screen Shot 2012-04-22 at 20.43.01 P1040152

Honorary Mention: Rainbow bridge is of course the most famous and picturesque bridge in Tokyo and is seen in both ‘Kill Bill: Volume I‘ (2003) and ‘Lost In Translation‘ (2003) but rightly or wrongly that one didn’t quite make this list.