(This report includes snapshot-like descriptions of story events to help connect locations to anime scenes, but no major spoilers.)
I love Clannad. It would thus be natural for me to want to visit the Japanese city it’s set in. While the original 2004 visual novel doesn’t really provide townscape views, Kyoto Animation’s anime adaptation located the story to the city of Hikarizaka, never uttered in the show but betrayed by company names and signs seen on screen.
There’s only one issue: Hikarizaka does not exist in reality. Of course, the beautiful backdrops are still modeled after real locations, and scene hunters have found shots in the anime to correspond to a number of spots in Japan, with the highest concentration in two neighboring towns called Hamura (羽村市) and Mizuho (瑞穂町) in western Tokyo Prefecture*. These two places that have very much grown together and are separated only by municipal lines are as close as we can get to the Hikarizaka of the small screen.
Hamura and Mizuho are quiet locales: a city of 55,000 and a town of 30,000 inhabitants, respectively. I’ve referred to them as “rural Tokyo,” half in jest, since they are officially part of Tokyo the prefecture. For those unfamiliar with the political geography: “Tokyo City” doesn’t exist on paper; officially, there’s only the Tokyo Prefecture that includes central Tokyo as 23 separate ‘special wards’ with city-like rights, plus a land area extending to the inland with independent towns like these two.
One important location that isn’t in either Hamura or Mizuho is the school, which is located in Setagaya, one of Tokyo’s aforementioned special wards, i.e. within the actual metropolis. A report from there follows one from Hamura and Mizuho.
A day trip to Hamura and Mizuho
In late 2017, I was planning my first trip to Tokyo during the New Year’s break, and since I was aware of the Clannad towns not far away (I had seen a pilgrimage Imgur album on Reddit’s /r/anime board that I no longer can find) I had to include a day trip there.
I went on my pilgrimage on 6 January, 2018, leaving from my accommodation in… well, Akihabara, where else, and taking the train to Hamura Station, my designated starting point. Hamura Station is between 60 and 90 minutes away from central Tokyo by train. The main lines used are the JR Chūō and Ōme Lines, there are changes, and the price is approximately ¥1000 one way. Even if you have bad luck with your timing, you won’t have to wait more than 20 minutes for the next train, so I’d say Hamura is quite accessible for its size.
Hamura Station itself appears in Clannad. In the anime, it seems to be Hikarizaka’s main railway station, considering how Mei always uses it when traveling between Hikarizaka and the Sunoharas’ hometown and how it’s often used as a meeting spot.
While it’s not the full station building, the clock tower is briefly shown in the ending animation to After Story.
The first Clannad spots after the station are two playgrounds, the first some hundreds of meters from the station, and the other approximately the same distance from the first (around 1/3 of a mile). According to my scene hunter source (the person who made the pilgrimage map I used), the playground right in front of Furukawa Bakery, shown many times in both seasons, is based on the second playground. However, it includes a slide which isn’t there in real life; this slide is said to be taken from the first playground.
Thus, the only thing of note from the first playground ought to be the slide, but here’s what it looks like there:
The second playground is what the one outside Furukawa Bakery is based on.
A bit further from the second playground, there’s the crossing where Tomoya and Nagisa waited at a red light when going to see Kouko Ibuki (Fuuko’s older sister) in episode 5.
After the “Ibuki Crossing,” there were a few more spots clustered, but all I had was a map without pictures, so I was already getting confused. I made up my mind to go directly to the next spot I could be sure of: the park where Tomoya and Kyou meet in the After Story OVA, Another World: Kyou Chapter. In our world, this is the small Matsubara East Park (松原ひがし公園). On the way there, I crossed the border from Hamura City to Mizuho Town, without noticing anything.
Matsubara East Park sure did look different, less pretty in the winter than it was in the summer, the season the OVA is set in. The benches there had been repainted, too. However, the surroundings fit well enough that it’s safe to say it was the right place.
Actually, if you look closely, even the diagonal mud path through the field matches with the more appealing sand path in seen in another shot from the anime, so we can tell it’s this very bench.
A bit further still, there is one of my personal highlights from this pilgrimage: the Sayama Pond Park (狭山池公園). This is the park where Tomoya, Nagisa and Fuuko go to in episode 8 of Clannad, after shopping for Fuuko’s birthday presents in town. It’s a rather memorable park, featuring a pond and a fountain.
In the episode, the pond’s fountain switches on unexpectedly, sparking joy in Nagisa. When I came to the park, the fountain was already on. You could say that it caused the first picture to not match, but I’m happy I got to see it.
The street where Kyou runs into Tomoya on her scooter in episode 10 runs along the edge of the park, and the site of the scene is just a few meters from the northeastern corner.
On the way to the next destination, I spotted something familiar in the name of a business.
Of course, it’s probably just a coincidence, but a fun one. Seems to me that other visitors to Mizuho have also taken photos of this name.
The location I was heading for is perhaps the most iconic location in either Hamura or Mizuho – the cherry blossom hill, AKA the road that leads up to the school. Of course, at the time of my visit it was early January, so the cherry blossoms wouldn’t bloom in a long while.
In Hikarizaka, in the 2D realm, the school would of course be located on the top of the hill. In real life, however, there’s the Sky Hall (スカイホール), Mizuho’s community center for sports, music et cetera.
Next to the Sky Hall grounds, there are stone stairs that lead to a small monument park.
Tomoya, Nagisa and Youhei (Sunohara) convened with Yukine at the park at the top in episode 8 of After Story to discuss their plans of resolving the conflict between Hikarizaka’s rival gangs.
In real life, this small break area is part of a larger whole, built around Mizuho’s Memorial Tower for the Fallen (殉国慰霊塔). The tower was built in 1957, to comfort the spirits of those who died in Japan’s wars, and a small park was developed around it to provide a space for the townspeople to relax. The location, up one more hill from the top of the cherry blossom hill, was chosen for it to be a place with a good overview of the city.
The Memorial Tower is seen in some shots in the episode 8 scenes set at the break table.
Only part of it is visible in the anime, but there is also another monument, the Prayer for Peace Tablets (平和祈念碑). This monument was added in 2004 to express the townspeople’s wish for everlasting peace.
If you take another look at the screenshot of the anime scene at the break table, you can see the bird part of the monument that’s behind the tablets from this angle but in front of them when seen from the table.
The three book-shaped tablets list the names of war victims, presumably those from this area. The bird, the explanation goes, can fly free across borders, and the message is that if humans could similarly come to understand one another across national borders and ethnicities, we wouldn’t hurt each other anymore. The bird is supported by three curved lines, symbolizing the earth and wings, and the arrangement of three of them next to one another symbolizing wind.
My source for this explanation is Mizuho Town’s info page on the monuments (only available in Japanese or in machine translation). Names of the monuments translated on the fly by me, since there are no official English names for them. (A final note can be said that despite the emphasis on peace, I’m not sure of the appropriateness of all phrasings used on the webpage – the word 殉国 junkoku in the name of the 1957 Memorial Tower that I abbreviated as “fallen” means specifically dying for your country, and the “message” part of the webpage says that those who died in battle became the “cornerstone of today’s peace and prosperity,” which you can take as you wish.)
After the cherry blossom hill and the monument park, I made my way towards what I had decided would be my final destination for the day: the Azusamiten Shrine. It was a bit further away (around 1.5 km, almost a mile), so I walked quickly through the streets and only picked one spot on the way, namely the location of the electric pole that Tomoya fixes on his own in the night in episode 11 of After Story, making a mistake that Yoshino as his superior doesn’t catch. The next day, hearing Yoshino is fixing it alone, Tomoya hurries to the scene to help, his sense of responsibility making him skip a date with Nagisa.
A bit more walking, and I was at Azusamiten Shrine (阿豆佐味天神社). This is where Tomoya and Kotomi go their separate ways in episode 11 of Clannad after spending the day together.
After visiting the shrine, I checked my transportation options and hurried to Hakonegasaki Station, which entailed taking mostly the very same streets back. I looked for a convenience store near the station, wishing to find some anpan (red bean paste bun) – you know, Nagisa’s favorite bread. All I could find at the only convenience store around there was a tray of four or so mini-anpan buns rather than a proper normal-sized one, but it was still important for the atmosphere, so all was good.
From Hakonegasaki Station, the way to Akihabara took around two hours, and I was back in the evening. As such, it’s safe to say that Hamura is easier to reach than Mizuho.
Before ending the Hamura/Mizuho part, I’d like to note that Mizuho has municipality-specific manhole covers, as many places in Japan do, and they are seen in Clannad as well even though Clannad is supposed to take place in the fictional Hikarizaka.
The school in Setagaya Ward
The model for Hikarizaka High School, the most central location of them all in Clannad, is the “Junior & Senior High School at Komaba, University of Tsukuba,” as its official English name goes. This long-winded name means that it’s a school including both the middle school and high school levels, serving Komaba, and affiliated with the University of Tsukuba (the school’s Japanese name is 筑波大学附属駒場中・高等学校). The Komaba School, as I’ll abbreviate it from now on, is located in Tokyo’s Setagaya Ward, pretty much on the border between Setagaya and Shibuya.
I’ll have to admit that I visited the school first, on 1 January 2018, before my day trip to the other locations. I simply decided putting these pictures last in this report would serve as nice closure. The school was easily accessible enough to drop by once I had a bit of surplus time in Tokyo, and since it was New Year’s Day, no one would be there (keep in mind that you should be extra careful when pilgrimaging to schools; no students should appear in your photos).
The suggested route to the school that Google-sensei came up with had me take some less-known private railway I’ve never used since, which makes it sound complicated, but it wasn’t any difficult in reality. There were just some changes and a bit of walking, but the school was easy enough to find, and you have a good view of it from the streets surrounding it.
There isn’t really anything else to see here besides the school itself, so my visit was rather short, but it was still great to be able to see the location in person. Due to it being New Year’s Day, Komaba School felt almost deserted, as if all the buzz and life at the school had been a long time ago and only a faint memory of it remained here. I once calculated some dates based on the visual novel’s (which I have also read) in-game date display and came to the conclusion that Clannad‘s story starts on Monday, 14 April 2003, the year before the original release. In that sense, it would indeed be years upon years since Tomoya and Nagisa’s school life here, at this school.
Of course, Tomoya and Nagisa never existed in reality, Hikarizaka High School was modeled after a school in Tokyo but not meant to be located there in-universe, and Komaba School seems to be doing well and promoting their education philosophy of treating every student like an irreplaceable treasure even today, if their website is anything to go by. Or at least they do that on days other than the holiday that Japan takes most seriously.
- Custom Google Maps map for Clannad locations. This is the one I used. It’s in Japanese, and this time you’d actually need to be able to read Japanese, since it unfortunately doesn’t include pictures. Made by Junkyu Washu (homepage, Twitter).
As you can see on the map, there are also Clannad locations in many other places apart from Hamura, Mizuho and Setagaya. I haven’t been to any further spots though. Meanwhile, other people have written English-language reports:
- MikeHattsu has quite a lot of Clannad pilgrimage reports from places like Osaka and Chiba, and even Aomori Prefecture where, notably, the rapeseed fields Ushio plays in are located. Listing here. He also has his own entries from the towns covered in my report.
* Tokyo Prefecture is officially called “Tokyo Metropolis” in English. Its special wards are officially called cities in English, e.g. “Setagaya City” instead of “Setagaya Ward.” I am forgoing this official terminology because it is misleading, instead using the general terms prefecture and ward. The original Japanese terms 都 and 区 provide, respectively, little reason and no reason at all for using special terms when discussing them in English.