Nagoya Goes Pop – Finding Nagoya in Popular Culture

ByMark Guthrie
Jun 10, 2020

Nagoya Goes Pop – Finding Nagoya in Popular Culture

Judging by any popular culture you may come across, you could be fooled into thinking that Japan is separated into two camps: the sprawling, futuristic metropolis of Tokyo, and the nondescript, unnamed countryside of the samurai.

However, you may be surprised to discover that Aichi Prefecture (as well as neighboring Gifu) also crops up quite a bit in pop culture. Here are a few examples that you can see, watch or read as you shout ‘Hey! I know that place!’

The Fifty-Three Stations of Tokaido (34-42) – 1833-1834

Documenting legendary ukiyo-e woodblock painter Utagawa Hiroshige’s journey along the Tokaido trade route from Edo to Kyoto, the Fifty-Three Stations of Tokaido is a seminal series of works depicting every major stop along that route.

Nine of those stops (numbers 34 to 42) are in what is now Aichi Prefecture, from Futagawa in modern-day Toyohashi to Miya in what is now Nagoya’s Atsuta Ward. Of course, some are unrecognizable as their contemporary conditions, but some aspects – such as the torii gate in Miya (above) – remain to this day.

Mothra vs. Godzilla – 1964

We all know the story of how Godzilla rose out of the ocean and destroyed Tokyo, right? But the tale didn’t end there.

Ten years – and three movies – later, Godzilla rocked up in Nagoya to do battle with the giant, radioactive Mothra. In doing so, they laid much of the city to waste, taking down both Nagoya Castle and TV Tower. If that wasn’t bad enough, they came back and did it all over again in 1992’s Godzilla vs. Mothra.

Mr. Baseball – 1992

Moving away from Japanese-produced content, Nagoya gets a big showing off in the Hollywood movie Mr. Baseball, starring Tom Selleck, billed as “The biggest thing to hit Japan since Godzilla.” The plot sees aging MLB star Jack Elliot (Selleck) signed by Nagoya’s own Chunichi Dragons, and cue crude stereotypes amongst much fish-out-of-water, culture shock-related hilarity… Most of the filming took place in Nagoya, with the Nagoya Stadium near Otobashi (The Dragons’ home before the Nagoya Dome) heavily featured. Other locations in the region included Osu Kannon, Fujisengen Shrine, also in Osu, Okazaki Stadium, Komaki, and Inuyama. Perhaps one shooting location that many of you may know is Shooters Sports Bar in Fushimi, though it is quite unrecognizable from its current state.

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years Of Pilgrimage – 2013

Novelist Haruki Murakami’s best-known novel in the western world is, of course, 1Q84, but his follow up book, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki… sold more than one million copies the month after its release in Japan alone. Though the novel’s eponymous protagonist resides in Tokyo, the story travels back to his home town in Nagoya. It is a little sparse on exact details and place names, however, a Lexus Dealership where Ao works is in “in a quiet area near Nagoya Castle,” meaning that it is likely the one between Hisaya-odori and Shinsakae Stations. From there they wander to a park to chat, which is undoubtedly Hisaya-odori Park

Your Name (Kimi no na wa) – 2016

Your Name was one of the biggest releases of 2016 and considered by many to be one of the best non-Ghibli Japanese animations of recent years. Slightly sci-fi, quite romantic, and a pretty baffling tale, it sees a young pair, a boy and a girl, living in vastly different areas of the country, randomly swapping bodies without knowing why, or even really who the other is. Without wanting to give away any plot spoilers, one of the characters goes on an odyssey of sorts, traversing the country, and arrives in… Well, not Nagoya. It’s Gifu, but what’s a couple of hundred kilometers between neighbors, right? However, being relatively nearby, both Hie Jingu and Hida Furukawa near Takayama are places that may be known to you or are close enough to visit. Or, at the very least, should encourage you to watch the movie because even if you’re not an anime fan (like me) you should still very much enjoy it.

Yatagame-chan Kansatsu Nikki – 2019

Upon moving to Nagoya from his native Tokyo, high school student Kaito Jin meets Monaka Yatogame. Though she appears abrupt and unresponsive to him, and he finds her broad Nagoyan dialect difficult to follow, he, of course, falls for her in this humorous anime. The show, originally a four-panel manga series written and illustrated by Masaki Andō, debuted in 2019 with a second series a year later. With voice actors from the local area (including Gifu and Mie), their adventures take the high school crew around areas of Nagoya that should be easily recognizable.

These are just a few examples. Have you found any more? If you have, let us know in the comments below.


Image: by kinpi3 via flickr.com [CCBY 2.0]
Image: by Tom Simpson via flickr.com [CC BY-NC 2.0]
Image: by Hiroshige via wikicommons [Public Domain]
Image: by Mark Guthrie (Own Work)
Image: via wikicommons (Fair Use)
Image: via wikicommons (Fair Use)
Image: by Kanesue via flickr.com [CC BY-NC 2.0]

About the author

Mark Guthrie editor

Novelist, copywriter and graduate from the most prestigious university in Sunderland, Mark whiles away his precious time on this Earth by writing about popular culture, travel, food and pretty much anything else that is likely to win him the Pulitzer he desperately craves. Find some more of his musings at www.markguthriewrites.com and on instagram @markguthriewrites