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Maureen Hoffmann (USA)
Katie Uhlrich (USA)
Kana Ishida (Japan)
Akitoshi Yoshida (Japan)
Toyosato Elementary School is the setting for the popular anime “K-On!” Today, many fans visit Toyosato to pay tribute to their favorite show. The town has embraced this fame and has made Toyosato a hot-spot for K-on!-inspired products and fan art. We spent a Saturday exploring Toyosato and experiencing its K-On! connections.
Our day begins at the Omihachiman Omitetsudo station.
The “S-S Free Kippu” ticket (available on weekends) allows unlimited travel for one day on Omitetsudo trains.
We are all eager to start our day.
After a pleasant ride on the train, we arrive at Toyosato Station.
In front of the station, we are greeted a stone rabbit and turtle.
A standard “tobidashi boy” warns drivers to beware of pedestrians.
In Toyosato, the normal “tobidashi boy” has been replaced with characters from the anime, K-On!
Finally, we reach our destination: Toyosato Elementary School.
This school was made possible by Tetsujiro Furukawa's donation.
But Toyosato Elementary school was designed by William Vories, a well-known architect. He worked on a number of modern buildings in Japan. The school looks like a church because he was a Christian missionary.
A key feature is a set of sculptures on the stairwell banisters, which tell the Aesop's fable about the Tortoise and the Hare.
The tortoise steadily makes his way up the banister, representing hard work and perseverance.
Meanwhile, the rabbit is found to be napping at each landing.
In the end, at the top of the stairs, the tortoise stands victorious!
At the top of the stairwell, we find the music room, a reference to the famous anime, K-On!
This room is a favorite to rest for anime fans.
K-On! fans come every day to leave messages on the blackboard. These messages are photographed at the end of every day and put online for everyone to see.
We happened to visit on the birthday of one of the anime characters!
In the music room, K-On! fans gather regularly to play music together, like the characters in the anime.
The musicians bring dolls and other goods of their favorite characters.
We enjoyed listening to their music. It was really good!
Out in the hallway, we learned about the design of the school. While many doors in Japan slide, the doors at this school opened into the hallway. The yellow arcs were meant to protect students from being hit by opening doors.
We also learned about the creative solution for air circulation: the windows to the classrooms open in different directions to promote the flow of air before air conditioning was invented.
Time to take another picture of the tortoise and hare on our way back downstairs – they were so cute!
Next it was on to the auditorium.
People were already busy setting up for a concert that night.
Next, we headed out to explore the town.
For lunch, we stopped at Tamaya Udon shop.
The inside of this local restaurant had been decorated with donated fan-art from K-On! fans.
We were served big, steaming bowls of udon.
After walking around all day, we were hungry. It was delicious!
On our way out, we got to meet the owner of the shop, an udon master. He was very excited to have us visit.
Outside the udon shop was another K-On! “tobidashi boy.” Different characters are scattered all over the town.
Some K-On! fans drive to Toyosato.
This fan has decorated his car with images of his favorite K-On! characters.
Next we headed to a local bakery selling breads and sweets.
Even the bakery's vans were decorated with K-On! characters.
Inside the bakery, a large display of K-On! fangoods had been left by visiting fans.
Toyosato Elementary School's tortoise and hare make an appearance on the bakery's cookies.
The bakery even has melon bread in the shape of tortoises. Aren't they cute?
We all ended up getting a melon bread tortoise.
We even got a giant melon bread tortoise. The shop only makes three a day, so we were lucky!
Across the street was an Eneos gas station. But not just like any other Eneos gas station...
The gas pumps had anime typography.
Inside the shop, the walls were covered with K-On! posters.
The owner chatted with us and we had a chance to look through the guest book. People have visited from all over the world!
An entire bulletin board is filled with fan art and souvenirs donated by visiting fans.
Outside Eneos we were shown an electric car. It is used by government officials during the week, but rented out to K-On! fans to explore Toyosato on weekends. It even has its own K-On! magnets!
We left Eneos and headed back to the center of town.
This is "Nakasendo", which was a transportation hub in Toyosato. Today, it still retains its old atmosphere.
We visited the home and birthplace of Itochube, a major Japanese trading company.
The house had huge tatami rooms and a lovely garden.
Outside, we braved the sun again and returned to the school.
People were arriving for the concert, including the owner of this K-On! fan car.
Inside the cafe, fans were holding a birthday party.
We enjoyed a cool drink and relaxed after our long walk.
We looked through a book of pictures from the anime, recognizing characters we'd seen throughout the town.
There was a souvenir shop in the corner of the cafe. It had many K-On! items, such as t-shirts, bags, and towels.
Here, the tortoise and the hare decorate a towel.
It's getting late and it's almost time for the concert!
The fans are lining up to go into the music hall.
Heading into the concert!
The hall is filled with fans!
What a beautiful day in Toyosato!