Friday, December 30, 2016
Roaming Around Japan: Toyosato Elementary School and Kyoto Animation
Regardless I did decide on my last trip to Osaka in November 2015 that I would go check out the Toyosato Elementary School which was used as a basis for Sakuragoaka Girl's High School in the anime “K-On!”, a show which I had really come to love in the last few years. The main problem with going to the small township of Toyosato (with a population of just over 7,500) is it is really out of the way on a small private railway and hard to get to. If you have the cash, probably the best way is get a rental car and travel the 116 km from Osaka to the school which will take you a bit over one and a half hours. Naturally there are toll booths along the way which are bit hard to dodge, so it’s a bit expensive. Option two is to take the train, which is also a bit of a pain in terms of time and hassle.
Above is a set of illustrations depicting the four seasons above the platform, also commissioned by the railway. Stepping outside the station, you’ll notice there isn’t anything around in the way of amenities at all. There is a bakery on the left hand side of the street, but it was closed on the day I went. There are no convenience stores within miles (and no restaurants from memory), so bring any food and drink with you if you plan to make a day of it. There are some drink vending machines next to the bakery. To get to the school is pretty easy. Walk around 250 meters straight ahead from the entrance of the station to a T-junction. Turn right and walk a further 650 metres (passing the police station and town offices) and you’ll be right in front of the school.
Along the way you’ll pass several “tobidashi boys” which are essentially warning signs for motorists that a school is nearby and to look out for children. The difference in Toyosatao is that most of these signs have been changed to look like super deformed characters from “K-On!”.
There’s even a Hatsune Miku version and a Konata Izumi (“Lucky Star”) version.
Clubrooms of Today” for any closures or special events before you make the trip. Besides its inclusion in “K-On!”, the school has quite an interesting history. It was built in 1937 through donations made by philanthropist Tetsujiro Furukawa, the general manager of Marubeni Shoten. His stature appears outside the main school building and is featured heavily in “K-On!”. The buildings were designed by a local American architect William Merrell Vories. Vories had moved to Shiga prefecture in 1905 as a Christian missionary. On the hand rails in the stairwell of the main building are small brass statues of hares and tortoises which illustrate Aesop's fable of “The Tortoise and the Hare”. The story starts at the bottom and finishes at the top where the tortoise wins and the hare can be found asleep half way up. Apparently Vories suggested the motif for the school and Furukawa approved it remembering his childhood teacher has encouraged him using the story. In 1999 it was decided that the school no longer was up to scratch in terms of being earth quake proof. The local mayor announced a new school building and the old school was to be demolished. This did not go over well with the locals. In 2001 they got an injunction to halt any demolition of the school. However the local council fought back and there were even protests at the site which turned violent (well a bit of pushing and shoving at the very least). Eventually in 2004 the council decided to preserve the school and all its buildings, only after the mayor was defeated in a 2003 election.
If you return to the entrance of the building walk out to the pathway which connects the two annex buildings at either end of the main school building, turn right and go to the annex at the end of the path. In this smaller building you’ll find where most of the items in the club room went. All of the donated instruments have been moved here which join a collection of figures, some more costumes and a ton of other fan made paraphernalia. The locals also sell some regional merchandise, mostly stuff specifically made for the school, including t-shirts.
I took a quick shot of the school stage where the event was to take place.
A couple of fans in their Itasha cars had shown up for the show in the parking lot.
On the way back to the station, I spotted a notice board with posters for today’s event and previous events held at the school.
Hyperdia before you leave for the optimal time in terms of transfers. We’ll be going to Kohata station which will be two transfers and can take anywhere from a bit over 100 minutes to two and a half hours. Take the train from Toyosato to Hikone station, transfer to the JR Special Rapid Service for Aboshi or Banshuako and then change again at Kyoto station for the JR Nara Line bound for Nara or Joyo. Get off at Kohata station. Kyoto Animation is pretty much right outside the station’s entrance. Just turn left once you exit the station and walk about 10 or 20 meters and you’re there. I shouldn’t have to say this, but for god’s sake don’t go in. It’s not open to the public.
I think visiting the Toyosato school and Kyoto Animation is great for fans of “K-On!” and the studio, however it does take a big chunk out of your day to get to these places, which I found to be a major factor in deciding to go. Next time I’ll be heading out to the Tezuka Osamu Manga Museum in Takarazuka, Hyogo Prefecture.