SHOWA STATION, Queen Maud Land, Antarctica — A group of self-described anime fans arrived via boat at Showa Station earlier this week, eager to visit locations that will be featured in this season’s Sora yori no Tooi Basho (A Place Further Than The Universe).
Pilgrimages, or “seichi junrei” are a growing trend within the anime community. Over the years, many popular anime have become trendy vacation destinations for fans. Recent anime that have sparked large pilgrimage movements include Love Live! Sunshine!! and Your Name. Often, the locales participate and offer special merchandise to buy or attractions to visit. For the 27 anime fans that arrived aboard an Australian icebreaker, only disappointment awaited them.
“I figured maybe they would have a cafe open to serve Yorimoi-themed food, collectible goods for sale, or even just some cardboard cutouts on display,” 26-year-old anime fan Kenji Kurogawa told Anime Maru. “What a letdown.”
For researchers at the station, visitors are rare, but often a welcome sight. Station manager Takashi Nomura wasted no time assigning their unexpected guests menial tasks to help around the station.
“It was a difficult journey finally making it to Antarctica, just like what the girls in the show had to endure,” said Junko Mitsugawa, 30, while shoveling snow away from a partially buried research dome. “This is so immersive; I feel like I’m actually working in Antarctica right now!”
When members of the group asked Nomura where they can pick up some anime-exclusive goods, the station manager suggested making the 2400 kilometer trek over ice to the South Pole.
As anime continues to grow in popularity, more and more shows will inevitably inspire fans to visit the real world locations they mention. Except Hanayamata, because no one wants to visit New Jersey.