Crossing Animals in Japan

Kyoto - Fortunes, Shinto gate and lovely ladies :)

In Kyoto – fortunes in a tree, a temple gate and two lovely ladies 🙂

I’m sorry for the silly title, I couldn’t help it xP

Pheeew… this post has been a long time coming. It wasn’t that I’d been working on it all this time, but I wanted to get all the other catchup posts done, and also hadn’t finished sorting through all my Japan photos so I was never sure if I was missing any of the pictures I wanted to put in this post.

Torii gates at the Fushimi Inari Shrine

My trip to Japan from December last year to January this year was full of discoveries of new, weird, funny, beautiful and memorable things. I don’t know how interested all of you are in reading a post like this in an Animal Crossing blog, but well… the things I saw fascinated me, and I think it doesn’t hurt to share ^_^ And of course some of it is relevant to this blog!

Models of dishes outside a restaurant in the Gion district in Kyoto

There’s SO much I want to share, but of course it’s impossible for me to show you everything. Also aside from these intro pictures and a few others towards the end, the rest of this post is supposed to be about all the little things I saw here and there, which should otherwise have felt alien to me, but felt very familiar thanks to a particular well-known cute and quirky gaming series by Nintendo, and gave me a little warm feeling inside every time I saw one 🙂 They also gave me a lot of ‘aha!’ moments.

Day 28 - P1480033 Gallery

I’ve done this post very roughly chronologically, and you’ll see me moving through Sapporo where all the snow was, Kyoto with all its traditional architecture and temples and finally Tokyo, albeit the quieter side, although we did certainly see the noisy, bright-lights-city side of it too 🙂

Except for one photo (with me in it – You’ll work it out 🙂 ), all pictures were taken by me.

Day 04 - P1380699 merge 2 SNOW

And to get warmed up, here’s a photo of me actually Crossing Animals on a 10-hour train journey to Sapporo through a mostly snowy landscape.

Day 04 - P1380688 Instrument Shelter

A first glimpse of familiarity 🙂 Before the localisation of New Leaf I would have had no idea what this was. I would have called it a beehive.

Day 04 - P1380616

Speaking of public works, we whizzed by this cute little mushroom shelter with table and stools that I thought would actually have made a really nice PWP had they included it.

Doubutsu no Mori e+ Mushroom

I actually just recently found out too that you could build a mushroom “PWP” in the Japanese version of Animal Crossing e+ o_o

Day 05 - P1390165 Sapporo Tanuki Mall

In Sapporo this shopping arcade was run by Tom Nook— okay not really, but its mascot was certainly a ‘raccoon dog’ just like Tom Nook. (Zoom in and you’ll see.) This was the Tanuki Koji Shopping Arcade, which runs ten blocks long and from what we saw, just included a bit of everything – food, clothes, souvenirs, groceries, animals, cosmetics, bars and clubs.

P1390176 Tanuki

And tanukis.

P1390149 Snowman

In Sapporo was also… SNOW. I had only been in this much snow once before, and aside from that I pretty much rarely see any snow. Certainly none where I live in Sydney. Oh, and of course I had to make myself a real snowman! I have to say I wasn’t very good at picking up cues from Animal Crossing – I didn’t know you could really roll snowballs! I molded this snowman carefully by hand, adding snow bit by bit, and when I showed Mum the photos she said I could have rolled the snow and made a big snowman xD I thought you could only roll snowballs in cartoons and videogames o_O
It was below freezing the whole day but I had so much fun romping around in the snow :mrgreen:

Day 05 - P1390210 Illumination

It got dark in these parts by around 4:30pm, and then this winter wonderland was lit up with fairy lights ^_^ Most of the busy commercial areas in the places we visited during the trip had illumination displays of some sort.

Day 09 - P1410386

I also found an ‘Illuminated Tree’ 😛 This was actually the front courtyard of a church… in a shopping mall.

Day 05 - P1390043Day 05 - P1390057 Crane Game

Japan. Was. FULL. Of. These: Crane games! These were from a whole floor of them run by Namco, which we found next to the Pokémon Center 😀

I had no idea which franchise the dog was from but it was so cute I had to have a go x3 I won it in 3 tries!

Day 07 - P1390876 Zen Bell

In Kyoto we were lucky enough to stay in a studio apartment right on the edge of the Gion district, full of beautiful old streets and temple grounds. We spent an entire day wondering through the neigbourhood, and no matter which street we took, we always ended in one temple or another 😛

Day 07 - z N 2013-12-17 at 16-19-22

There were these boards crammed with writing and folded paper that visitors to the shrines would occasionally hover around. They deposited 100 yen into the slot on the hollow pole in the centre, found their name, and picked up their fortune. I still don’t quite understand how these two boards could include every person’s name.

In the background and in the first photo of the post you can see all the fortunes tied onto the trees. These are either the bad fortunes that people received and tied up to leave their bad luck behind, or good fortunes which their recipients chose to tie there to strengthen their effect over keeping for themselves as good luck charms.

Day 08 - P1400344

At the Fushimi Inari Shrine people wrote their wishes on the backs of these wooden fox-shaped ema. . . and also invented a variety of fox faces on the front.

Day 09 - P1410241

We went to the magical Kasuga Shrine in Nara, where stone lanterns lined the path from one end to the other, stretching off into the distance.

Also in the streets of Nara, we got to see this… I recommend you watch the whole thing 🙂

Making mochi 😀

Day 09 - P1400878 - Yummyyy

The end product. It was soooooo soft and yummy x3 And still warm, too. Nothing like the cold hard preserved mochi bought in Asian food stores. I was holding it as gently as I could here without dropping it.

Day 09 - P1400880 - Yummyyy 2

Err sorry for showing you my mochi after I took two bites out of it 😛 Inside you can see the red-bean paste stuffing they used.

P1410863 Level Crossing

This was taken in Arashiyama where there is a well-known bamboo forest, but it’s actually of something we came across a lot everywhere in Japan: level crossings. In Australia aside from the tramlines I have seen a total of one level train crossing. Oh, two if you count Arcadia 😉

P1430173 Zen Bench

Just along a semi-run-down-looking commercial street on the way to the grocery store from where we stayed in Kyoto, I found this little smoking area outside a house… with a ‘Zen Bench’? 😕 Honestly this was such an odd PWP at the time NL came out –a red cloth-covered table-looking thing that you sit on??– that I just never expected to actually find one looking exactly the same in real life xD And evidently at that size it’s no table.

P1450345 Ginkgo Leaves Redd

Redd’s left his calling card on a telegraph pole in Osaka.
In Tokyo too, we found lots of ginkgo leaf motifs on the streets, such as a footpath fence with the bars shaped into the leaves, and there were many actual ginkgo trees lining the streets shedding leaves all over the ground, where I’m guessing the influence is from.

P1420335 Daruma Chibi

I never managed to get a photo of their traditional version in shops, but here is a series of chibi-fied daruma, or Dharma, as Animal Crossing calls them. I couldn’t help buying a couple (both this cute ornamental version and the traditional ones) whenever I came across them, just because I liked them from Animal Crossing 😛 I have a little red one sitting beside me on my desk right now 🙂

P1450356 Karuda Cards

I found this in a 2nd-hand type store dealing in anime figures and merchandise ^^ It is a Japanese card game called Karuta, and this set of cards was released for Club Nintendo members in Japan in 2010. At ~$40 though, I chose to give it a miss ^^;

P1470173 Nintendo Plushies

Some Nintendo plushies for sale. I wish we could just walk around the toy stores here and bump into these guys.

P1450646 Mouse looks familiar

Haha, this is a picture of a shopping brochure I was flipping through on another long-distance train ride. Something on this page felt reeeeeally familiar.

Day 23 - P1460959 Police Station

This doesn’t look like any of the buildings in NL, but the characteristic red light gave it away 🙂 What is it?

P1470607 Zen Streetlight

On the grounds of a beautiful Nikko temple…

P1470819+20 Streetlight

Aaand a not-so-flattering variant 😛

P1460448 Kagamimochi

Anyone know what this is? 🙂 We saw these in quite a few places toward the end of December.
Can you find a daruma too?

P1470862 Kadomatsu

And another DLC we received this new year’s, this is an example of the bamboo Kadomatsu being displayed in pairs out the front of buildings.

P1460486 NYE Inari Shrine

Here’s the photo of New Year’s Eve that I showed in my last post. We went to a midnight ‘fox parade’, where local residents dressed up with fox masks and at the stroke of twelve made their way to the nearby Oji Inari shrine, reflecting an old legend that once a year fox spirits would all gather here to meet and receive their orders for the new year.

So that was all of the ‘Animal Crossing references’ I came across on my little holiday… but here are some guys I met along the way that I can’t resist adding — and they belong in this post too in a way!

One of many cats at the Fushimi Inari Shrine

One of many cats at the Fushimi Inari Shrine

Day 15 - P1440469

Day 15 - P1440477

Deer buddies at Miyajima x3

Awww, aren’t they sweet? ^_^ We met a lot of deer in two places, Nara and Miyajima. Although I managed to get lots of good pictures of many of them, in general the younger ones were friskier and less trusting of humans. The old grizzled ones, on the other hand, didn’t mind at all if you wanted to chill out next to them 😆 Oh, but you instantly have all their undivided attention if you pull out some food. They also eat brochures and travel tickets.

Next… Can you work out what this place is?

Day 28 - P1480129 edit

On our second last day before leaving, we went to a cat cafe! x3 The only cafe part of it was a drink machine that served hot and cold drinks, included in the hourly rate you pay and the end of your stay. Aside from that it was all just cat and cat furniture. And a bit of human furniture. But not much. 😛

Day 28 - P1480270

Day 28 - P1480139 edit

My favourite 🙂

Day 26 - P1470895

FINALLY, on the 3RD-LAST day of our trip: We found public garbage bins!!!
Literally, the only places you could find garbage bins in public were at places like the airport. Everywhere else, on the streets, in shopping malls: nada. There were plenty of bins for drink bottles and cans (and people do only put appropriate items in these), but none for garbage. We met up with a friend in Tokyo who told us that apparently about 10 years ago, the government decided to scrap all garbage bins because they figured it was a cost they could cut on. The result? The streets are just as tidy as they were before the bins were gone. Trust the Japanese >_>

Day 13 - P1430212 Gallery Night scene Kyoto

So that was everything. I didn’t feel like I had this many photos prepared, but this post sure turned out long! ^^; But I hope you Animal Crossing lovers got something out of it, like a look into where some of the references come from, or in general just a glimpse into this country and its culture if you haven’t been here before. I absolutely enjoyed my time there, and wouldn’t hesitate to go back. Just a note for next time: bring a bigger suitcase for goodies!!

P1480552 Daruma

Aaand lastly back home: my Darumas all lined up 🙂



10 responses to “Crossing Animals in Japan

  1. Woww, what an interesting post, thanks for sharing! 😀 It’s cool how you were able to see so many “AC references” there — or I guess it’s more like the PWPS and items in AC are a reference to these real-life things in Japanese life/culture/places.

    I always just assumed Tom Nook being a raccoon and Crazy Redd being a fox were just simply the animals assigned to those NPCs in a game full of animals, but it seems like the raccoon-esque tanuki and fox in Japan have special significance I was unaware of(?), judging from the scattered appearances in your photos.

    The “real-life PWPs” you saw were eerily similar to their AC counterparts! 😮 From all the zen ones to the instrument shelter to the streetlight — which I wouldn’t have thought would be specific to Japan, but the streetlight you saw in Japan looks exactly like it, and I don’t have any streetlights like that around here, personally! I’ve always really liked the “tall lantern” item and have included it in various outdoor garden themed AC rooms of mine, and I didn’t realize it was from that shrine in Japan, what a beautiful place (and beautiful lanterns)!! It’s neat you were able to see the kadomatsu and kagamimochi in person, and even bring home your own darumas! 🙂 I thought of Lily too when I saw that mouse ad, and was kind of surprised I was right in my guess xD Plus I love that cozy photo of your DS, with your character in the snow, and with the irl background all snowy too x3 It doesn’t snow much where I live, so I don’t get the chance to see the winter weather match up with AC’s much either, or to build snowmen — I don’t think I’ve built one since I was a little kid, and I don’t remember how I did it xP Your snowman is cute, hehe!

    I would have loooved seeing those cat places! ❤

    ( Also, this is random and unrelated, but I came across this recently and wanted to pass it along to you, since it reminded me of how you made a monarch pattern in AC:WW 🙂 )

    • Yeah I didn’t go to Japan counting on finding out where all of these in-game objects were from, so it was really cool just recognising so many! And I know, I didn’t expect to find some examples of the PWPs and that were exactly the same, lol. I thought things like the streetlight were random designs, but it’s actually a thing xD I liked the tall lantern item too, though back in AC:WW I was never quite convinced that was what it was – it didn’t even turn on 😆 But it turns out they only light the ones at Kasuga twice a year for special occasions, so now it makes sense.

      To me it seems like the fox is associated with cunning and deceit wherever it goes… but it does seem to have a heavy spiritual and supernatural presence in Japanese tradition and folklore. You hear of kitsune a lot which is just the Japanese for ‘fox’, and they are always given some sort of magical power in stories, commonly the power to transform into humans (and then trick people :P). As for the racoon dog (tanuki where ‘Tom Nook’ came from), they’re tricksters and pranksters through their ability to shape-shift and transform items such as leaves into fake money 😆 But through traditional perceptions of the tanuki’s appearance and characteristics it somehow also became a bringer of prosperity and good luck o_O Which is why lots of shops have statues of tanuki outside, with their traditional straw hat and various other attributes… On the Wikipedia page you can see several examples of tanuki roles in folklore which can be amusing to read. My favourite one is: Shaven-head Tanuki: When people cross a bridge named “Bōzu Bridge,” before they know it, they would find their hair shaven.

      The Lily mouse thing was so weird >_ > How do you pluck a design out of the air and have it look exactly like an Animal Crossing character — I didn’t even know that could happen 😆 Haha, after mum told me about the snowball thing I immediately went on Youtube and looked up videos of people rolling them xP (And it was true! It just gets too heavy to push after a bit.)

      Ooh those designs are nice, especially the purple and pink ones. It’s funny they did it out of dissatisfaction with the real thing, too 😛

      • I remember being kind of puzzled the lantern didn’t turn on as well, but still found it a pretty item. Ahh it’s cool to know the reason why it doesn’t light up now ^_^ I guess an appropriate way to use those tall lantern items would be to put a whole bunch of them in one room, along with the mossy carpet or something, and create a shrine-like atmosphere.

        Wow, thanks so much for that information about foxes and tanukis in Japanese folklore, it’s really interesting! O: It’s true that foxes are considered cunning and full of trickery in general, and not just in Japan, so I probably should’ve made that connection with Redd’s unreliable wares 😛 (And maybe I did, but subconsciously.) Haha, that bit about transforming leaves reminds me of how leaves are used in Animal Crossing, and I suppose that’s probably not a coincidence! It’s an odd detail in the series that I always just took for granted, having played it so long since I was a little kid. But I wonder if it seems strange to new players that leaves turn into couches and things xP It’s interesting that the tanukis seem like such tricksters in those tales, but also reprsent good luck. I guess this raccoon figurine is really a tanuki figurine then, like the ones placed outside shops in Japan for good fortune!

        I also find it strange, the same exact turquoise color and even the same shape and color of her cheeks! o_o She’s what I thought of at once, though my uncertainty was because it wasn’t a PWP/item/main NPC reference.
        Hahah I read your reply to Choco’s comment as well and got a kick out of your parent’s comment about your snowman 😆 I thought it must be smoking too! xP And many snowmen are shown with pipes in their mouths or something 😛

        • When I was new to AC I thought using leaves in the shape of Tom Nook’s logo was a cute and clever way of representing furniture, much more interesting than the standard ‘item’ icons other games might have, and it became even more special after knowing more about the tanuki folklore and thinking of them as possibly actual magical tanuki leaves 🙂 Yeah, that’s what the raccoon figurine was! I was actually trying to Google pictures of it from AC:NL to add to the references at the bottom and the first result was that picture from your blog! 😆

          Oh haha I didn’t know that about giving snowmen pipes xD I gave it a Pocky to eat without thinking just because I had nothing else 😛

  2. Oh my goshhh!! I love Japan! tbh, I never thought those pwps were actually REAL …I thought they just made some of them up.. xD Like that weather thingy xP Lucky you! Getting to experience snow…I haven’t even seen or experienced one irl… that snowman you made is really cute ^__^ and I gotta ask, what’s that on his/her nose? is that a pocky/pepero? I noticed about 70% of the references hehe.. The mochi looks so yummy! I wanna taste it too T u T It’s also really cool how they made it… haha, it’s funny hearing them go “HAI!” when they chop or pound it.. xD I love the darumas and the cats were so cute! ❤ Hehe, It seems so fun in Japan… sigh.. I wish I could go there someday xP

    • I know, I thought at least stuff like the ‘zen bench’ could have a different coloured cloth or that the ‘zen streetlight’ was designed in a Japanese style but not necessarily the same, but nope, that’s actually how they are!
      Hahaha, you recognised the Pocky! xD Yeah my friend won a big pack of Pocky out of a crane game and I tried to put one where its mouth should be, though it looks like a nose 😛 When I sent a photo of it back home, my parents asked, “What it is smoking?” 😆
      It was amazing watching them make the mochi x3 I takes such good timing and confidence, though x_x
      If you really want to go to Japan, you’ll definitely get there some day 🙂 Ganbatte!

  3. Oh my gooooooooossssh!!! This post was so cool, I’ve never been to Japan but this post definitely made me want to head over there! I love how many references you found to Animal Crossing, and oh gosh the plushies were so adorable! I would have bough all of them (including the Yoshi one).
    And I love the shots of the deer, I absolutely love animals but I’ve never seen deer on the loose like that, so cute! ^^
    This post had a ton of information in it, I now know a little more about Japan 😀
    Japan must of felt so alienated, it’s such a different country, but just like you mentioned, there were little details that must have been familiar from Nintendo series. Yay!!

    • Japan was aaawesome x3 Even not counting all the cool stuff we saw, it was such a nice place to be in where the people are so polite and the streets were kept immaculately clean.
      We get deer on the streets at night where I live, but you would never think to get up close to them like that for fear of being headbutted or chased 😛 At the deer places we went to there were signs saying not to get too close or touch them, but they were so used to people!
      It was a very new and different experience to spend a month in Japan, but totally worth it!

    • The pic was taken at a small anime/gaming merchandise store somewhere in Osaka (they have one main street/area with a lot of shops like this). I didn’t actually buy it because it was a bit expensive for something I couldn’t properly appreciate or use.

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