As the MS Westerdam circled its way around Japan, my (Merge’s) next stop was Sakaiminato, a coastal city located in the Tottori Prefecture. The town sits on the western shore of Honshu, the main island of Japan, overlooking the Sea of Japan. While its scenic coastal setting is certainly a reason people visit, Sakaiminato is also notable for its strong connection to the manga and anime cultures.
Manga and anime culture in Japan has a rich history, with numerous influential creators leaving their mark on the industry. In case you don’t know, manga are Japanese comic books or graphic novels, typically serialized in magazines before being compiled into volumes. They cover a vast array of genres, from action and adventure to romance, horror, science fiction, and more. Anime, on the other hand, refers to animated TV shows and movies in Japan. It can be targeted at various age groups and includes a diverse range of genres, from children’s programming to mature content. Anime adaptations are commonly produced from manga, light novels, or original stories.
Mizuki Shigeru, a prominent figure in manga and anime, is renowned for his creation of the “GeGeGe no Kitaro” series, which introduced a world of yokai (supernatural creatures) to Japanese pop culture. Mizuki’s works have not only captivated readers and viewers across Japan, but also serve as a reflection of his deep interest in folklore and the supernatural. Sakaiminato happens to be his hometown, and the town loves him! There is a museum (the Mizuki Shigeru museum) that honours him, which is located on the street named after him (Mizuki Shigeru Road). About four blocks long, you are reminded of his creations every 30 feet or so, as you stumble upon yet another bronze statue of his much-loved characters. I’ll be honest, I knew nothing about Mizuki Shigeru before I arrived in Sakaiminato, but I must admit that this homage to and celebration of his work gives a unique and distinctive charm to the town.
I spent most of the Sunday afternoon wandering up and down Muzuki Shigeru road. I really wanted to visit the museum that carries his name, but unfortunately it was closed for renovation, not expected to reopen until June 2024. So had to make do with the scads of bronze sculptures showcased on the street. There were a couple of interesting shrines in little alcoves just off the street – the Ominato Shrine and the Yokai Shrine – so I stopped in to visit those as well. The shops along the road carried just about everything you could possibly want in manga and anime, and of course showcased a lot of Shigeru’s work. If anything, my afternoon gave me an insight into how significant the manga and anime industry is in Japan and beyond. The merchandise, home video releases, streaming platforms, and other related products are now a global phenomenon.
As I returned to the ship later in the afternoon, the local high school band was on hand to perform a good bye concert as the ship sailed out of Sakaiminato Harbour. What a great end to an entertaining and laidback day!