Hi everyone and welcome to part three of my J-Drama National Tour Series! If you missed part one or part two, here’s a handy table as a reminder of the places we’ve explored so far:
|Hokkaido, Kyoto, Fukui, Kanagawa, Kochi, Hiroshima|
|Part 2||Iwate, Aomori, Osaka, Gifu, Okinawa, Nagasaki|
This time, we’ll continue to explore some less-known prefectures: Wakayama, Mie, Kagawa, Ehime, Shimane, and Kagoshima! Let’s go!
Just south of Osaka, Okayama Prefecture the more laid-back, beachy, and rural cousin of its northern neighbour. Wakayama’s main attraction is Mount Koya, one of Japanese Buddhism’s most sacred sites. Wakayama is also home to Nachi Falls, Japan’s tallest waterfall.
Wakayama Recommendation: Oboreru Knife
Quick Summary: Natsume was a magazine model in Tokyo, but moves to the rural town of Ukigumocho. Just as she’s feeling depressed about living in the boring countryside, she meets Koichiro, a member of a locally prominent family of Shinto priests, and gets caught in an intense attraction.
With two top young actors (Komatsu Nana and Suda Masaki) leading the billing, this movie probably needs no further introduction, but did you know that this movie was set and filmed entirely in Wakayama Prefecture? Ukigumocho is a fictional town, but various locations around Cape Shionomisaki and the town of Kushimoto served as locations, including Asaki Shrine and the Hashiguiiwa Rocks. It’s beautiful! It’s gorgeous! Let’s go and cry about angsty teens in love!
Mie Prefecture is located in the Kansai region of Japan and is home to numerous historical and sacred sites such as Ise Jingu, Japan’s holiest Shinto shrine and many other pilgrimage routes.
Mie Recommendation: Ao Natsu
Quick Summary: Rio, a girl from Tokyo, spends her summer in the countryside with her grandmother. She believes in fate, and wonders if this change of events will mark the beginning of her first love.
If you go to the MDL page for Ao Natsu, you can read my review for this movie which is 10% actual review and 90% fangirling over the gorgeousness of Mie prefecture. There’s a particular mountaintop scene filmed in Ise-Shima National Park that took my breath away, and in the festival scene, you can spot Mie’s famous Daio Lighthouse! It’s a cute and quick watch: do it for Mie!
|By area, Kagawa Prefecture is the smallest in Japan. Located on Shikoku island, Kagawa is famous for its beautiful ocean scenery as well as its udon noodles! There are more than 600 udon restaurants in the prefecture, earning it the nickname udon-ken (Udon Prefecture).|
Kagawa Recommendation: Clinic on the Sea
Quick Summary: Dr. Kouta Sezaki works on a clinic ship, which sails around the Seto Inland Sea, providing healthcare to isolated communities. He’s talented as a doctor but possesses a weakness to fall easily in love with women. When he lands at an island, Kouta falls in love with a woman from that island.
Picking this drama is a little bit cheating since it filmed all around Setouchi Region in about five or six different prefectures total. That being said, in episode 1 you can see many locations around Kagawa, such as JR Takamatsu Station, Kasashima Port (on Honjima Island), Kiso Shrine, as well as many shots in Muragame City. I won’t lie, there’s something dreamy about doctor drama set against the ocean! Check it out!
Ehime is a prefecture in Shikoku. One of Ehime’s top tourist destinations is Dogo Onsen, Japan’s oldest and most famous hot spring resort. The Shimanami Kaido cycling route is another popular attraction. The 70-kilometer bike ride across the many bridges that connect the islands of Shikoku is completed by thousands each year.
Ehime Recommendation: Ganbatte Ikimasshoi
Quick Summary: Follows high school girl Etsuko tries to form an all-girls rowing team.
Whoa! We’re really deep-diving into the J-drama vault for this one! Named in the top hundred of the most interesting high school dramas of the Heisei Era, this 2005 drama is based on a movie of the same name and was filmed almost entirely in Ehime. The High School Boat Club in the drama is a real boathouse located in Imabari City, Ehime. While other Ehime locations such as the Kurushima Strait Bridge, Kamoike Beach, the Iyo Railway, and Lake Tamagawa also appear. Another fun fact? The title is written in Ehime dialect!
Shimane is a mountainous, sparsely populated coastal prefecture in the western part of Japan’s Honshu Island. Rural traditions and unspoiled landscapes can be found throughout the prefecture due to Shimane’s remote location.
Shimane Recommendation: Sand Chronicle
Quick Summary: Ann moves with her mother to her mother’s hometown in Shimane Prefecture after her parents’ divorce. There, Ann meets Daigo, and the two grow closer as he helps her get used to life in the countryside, but soon there is a tragedy in Ann’s family. With the support of her circle of friends, she is able to regain her smile again.
Based on the manga of the same name and filmed in Shimane, you can spot many famous locations in this film, including Nima Sand Museum, Izumo Taisha Shrine (one of the oldest and most famous shrines in all of Japan), Iwami Seaside Park, Kabira Station, the town of Iitani, and Dangyokei Falls.
*Bonus Shimane Recommendations*
Dramas – Shimane no Bengoshi (Drama SP)
Movies – A Gentle Breeze in the Village, Railways
With over an expansive coastline and an advantageous location at the southwest tip of Kyushu, Kagoshima Prefecture has been considered a “gateway” to Japan at many points in history. There are also many active and dormant volcanoes in Kagoshima, some of which produce hot springs.
Kagoshima Recommendation: Shima no Sensei
Quick Summary: Chihiro is a teacher at a special school on Mihojima, an isolated island in Kagoshima. Troubled teens from urban areas are sent to this school and recover their self-esteem through the kindness of the local people, teachers and their foster-parents.
Gokusen: Island Edition? Not exactly. Shima no Sensei is a much more dramatic and emotional take on troubled teens trying to find themselves in the world all set against a lush and vibrant island backdrop. Filming took place on Kakeroma Island in the town of Hanatomi (Kedomi). Kakeroma Island is one of the Satsunan Islands located in the Amami archipelago between Kyushu and Okinawa.
*Bonus Kagoshima Recommendations*
Dramas – Sedogon