Seoul: Avengers Age Of Ultron Filming Locations

Over the years Seoul has lived very much in the shadows of neighbouring places like Tokyo and Hong Kong when it comes to Asian locations being featured in western movie productions. This time though, Marvel Studios agreed to portray South Korea as a high-tech, modern country during its 15 minutes of air-time. Mind you, it did cost the Korean Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism nearly £2.5m for it to be shot there on the condition that it showed the city in a positive light.

Whilst much of ‘The Avengers‘ (2012) was filmed in Cleveland in Ohio, ‘Avengers: Age Of Ultron‘ (2015) was shot all over the place with locations including England, South Africa, Italy, Bangladesh, the USA and of course South Korea.

Filming in the capital city took place between March 30 and April 14 last year at various locations in Seoul. Now, I hadn’t even seen the first Avengers movie, let alone the latest instalment when I was in town a few weeks ago (I have seen both movies since returning to Tokyo) but thankfully Ethan had, and was able to guide us around a couple of the filming locations.

Leaving our wives back at base, we went cycling along the Han River for about an hour each morning. First up we cycled across Banpo Bridge to the futuristic looking man-made islands around Banpo Hangang Park that supposedly brighten the vista of the river at night. The facility on the largest of the three artificial islands is known as Saebit Dungdungseom (below) which was built in 2011. It first appears around 79 minutes and serves as the I.T. institute of Dr. Helen Cho (Claudia Kim); a friend of the team who is forced by super villain Ultron to use her synthetic-tissue technology as well as vibranium and the scepter’s gem, to perfect a new body for him.

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The following morning, Ethan and I cycled west to Mapo Bridge (below) which crosses the Han River and connects the Mapo and Yeongdeunpo districts. During filming it was closed (at great cost) for approximately 12 hours so that they could film an action scene involving Captain America in pursuit of the cradle being whisked away by truck.

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The Seoul set-pieces have been cleverly edited together and tend to blend into one  but other areas include the Gangnam Subway Station intersectionCheongdam Grand Bridge, and Star Park in Digital Media City in Sangam-dong.

Avengers stuff is everywhere in Seoul and the city seems very proud to have (finally) had a movie feature it. The War Memorial Of Korea museum, which we visited on our first day, had a special Avengers interactive exhibition allowing visitors to explore inside a full-size replica of Marvel’s Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N. (Scientific Training and Tactical Intelligence Operative Network) including film props, interactive components, Hulk’s laboratory, Iron Man’s research institute, Thor’s Space Tower, Marvel Merchandise and so on. Entrance is 25,000 won (approx. $25) so we gave it a miss but not before taking the cheesy photos below!

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Avengers: Age Of Ultron‘ is released in Japan on July 4th (…if you’re ever looking for the release dates in Japan then my tip is to just scroll right to the bottom of the list on IMDb or whatever!)

‘South Korea 2015 Pt IV’ can be read here

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!

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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).

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!!

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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.

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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.

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

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

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!‘.

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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!!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!!

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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

Star Wars ‘Visions’ Exhibition In Roppongi

The much anticipated Star Wars movie hits the big screen at the end of the year and despite my earlier reservations a couple of years ago I am now not so surprisingly on board with the story continuing. The second teaser trailer was premiered at the recent Celebration event in Anaheim as did the trailer for season two of ‘Rebels‘ which really whetted my appetite for this Visions exhibition in Roppongi. Of course I rarely need anything to get me excited about this franchise!!

Once I’d finally located the place I exchanged my pre-paid ticket (bought at a discount store for ¥1580 instead of ¥1800) for the entrance to this exhibition which is on the 52nd floor of the Mori Arts Center. First impressions were not even  of stuff relating to the sci-fi saga but of the amazing views of the concrete jungle that is Tokyo.

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The introduction area offers a few treats with the main feature being Darth Vader’s meditation chamber which you can have your official photo taken in front of although the same photographer will also take pretty much the same picture on your camera phone. I was happy enough with that rather than shelling out ¥1300  for the special souvenir photo in a special display card design.

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This exhibition comes in six sections; the original visions, vision of force, vision of battle, vision of saga, vision of galaxy and vision of droid. Sadly no photography is allowed in these areas which feature many props including lightsabers, blasters, helmets (including the Vader reveal parts from ‘Return Of The Jedi‘), busts, costumes and original art created by artists hand-picked by George Lucas himself.

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Film clips are played on monitors throughout to provide the symmetry between the planets, battles, miniature spaceships or whatever and how it was seen in each movie. It’s perhaps the saga segment that is the biggest and most fascinating with the centre of the room filled with a collection of costumes and props used on set for the likes of Luke, Leia, Han Solo, Boba Fett, Darth Vader, Yoda, Obi-Wan Kenobi and a Stormtrooper.

As someone who has travelled to the likes of Tunisia, Italy, Spain, Guatemala and erm, England in the name of tracking down the locations used throughout the saga I was very interested to see stuff from the many planets used. I was quite fascinated by a map showing all the planets and their location in relation to each other. There are hundreds of them and proof that every part of the galaxy far, far away is considered very thoughtfully. This galaxy section also possesses a statue of Jabba the Hutt and screen-used ewok, jawa and tusken raider costumes.

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C-3PO and R2-D2 appeared in all six Star Wars films and the final section is devoted to these symbolic characters with the main attraction being the glass cabinet display of the full-sized droids.

Needless to say there was a Star Wars Exhibition Special shop to round things off with all manner of goods that the merchandise-loving Japanese were snapping up in droves. Naturally, I also bought a few additions albeit nothing more exciting than some stationery.

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You can even go up to the Sky View Deck (¥500) to have your photo taken with Darth Vader amidst the Tokyo city view. That costs a further ¥2000 but having had my fair share of Vader pictures over the years I actually decided to not plough any more money into the Star Wars coffers.

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That wasn’t the end though as on the way down to ground level I came across the life-size lego replicas of Darth Vader and Boba Fett (near the Lego shop) followed by the Stormtrooper helmet art. This was similar to the life-size Darth Vader creations seen at the Celebration Japan event in 2008 but on a smaller scale this time.

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The nearest station is Roppongi (exit 3) and adult tickets cost ¥1800. It is open from 10am – 10pm and ends on June 28th.

Top 5……Otaku Shops In Tokyo

Since moving in together and getting married, my otaku collection has basically grind to a halt which is actually no bad thing as I was a somewhat inadvertent collector anyway who only built up a collection out of boredom and from seeing figures on sale so cheaply in a recycle shop near my old place. However, married life hasn’t stopped me from doing a bit of window shopping from time to time at some of my favourite shops throughout the city with the occasional cheeky purchase too! Continue reading