When most TV shows, anime, comics, manga, video games or movies take you to Japan, which places do you think of?
If you're the average otaku, you probably are thinking of Tokyo/Nippon, Kyoto or Osaka. These are the three townships I hear about the most, with Tokyo also harboring the popular prefectures of Shinjuku and Harajuku. Each of these areas offers something unique.
Osaka offers the quiet, suburban images we're used to in many school-based anime, Kyoto gives us the rural, almost ancient-feeling temples we crave for shows about samurai and ronin, and Tokyo of course gives us the futuristic cities and shopping we pine for.
But when I dream of Japan, I dream of Chichibu.
I dream of Chichibu's ever growing park, it's lush landscapes and it's evolving city.
But why did I choose Chichibu?
Now let me be clear. I was eight years old. I knew nothing about Japan. To this day, I don't even know how I knew about the -chan honorific, let alone that in certain spellings of Kanji and Hiragana, "Ki" can mean "spirit" or "energy" and that "ana" either means "hole" or "opening". (Ki-Chan's name is spelled 気あな in case you're curious.) The few anime shows I was watching at the time were dubbed and edited, there were no books on Japan that were at my library in New Jersey where I was living at the time, and the internet was primitive. No really, see this?
So I didn't even have the internet to teach me about Japan, but somehow, after that concussion, I was crazy about it. I just kept dreaming of this lush landscape in Chichibu.
But the colors I saw were candy, neon or pastels. When you get dropped on your head, you see LOTS of colors, so surely, none of this can be real, right? I mean, look at the above drawing. Does that look like a real place?
Well let's fast forward a few years to 1999. I'm 12, almost 13, and my parents just cleaned out another library sale at my local library, which is now in Illinois. (I moved twice since this concussion BTW.) Three of the books are all about Japan. I snatch the books and start plowing through he pages.
In the glossary of one book from 1973, I spot the word "Chichibu". Instantly, my eyes flash open and I follow my finger over to the page number. Finding the page number, I flip to the page to find this:
Scenic Chichibu has places where you can camp, barbecue, (they rent BBQ equipment) and pick fresh fruit. They also have temples rich in history, shrines and a pretty amazing museum complete with dinosaurs.
But of course, it's still a city.
Since it became an official city in 1950, urban sprawl has popped up, creating tons of homes and small businesses all over Chichibu. Their big thing is tourism, since it's not too far from Tokyo, so it makes for a perfect setting for Ki-Chan's story.
With all the shops springing up, the festivals and places to see, it's enough to keep this group of college kids busy between work, school and of course, fighting demons.