Monday, 21 April 2008

Day 12 Part 8 - Seiseki-Sakuragaoka (Whisper of the Heart filming location)

We had a few hours of daylight left, and an all day unlimited Keio line train pass, so we took the train to Seiseki-Sakuragaoka station (聖蹟桜ヶ丘駅)

This somewhat obscure suburban train station with an unwieldy name (together with surrounding locations) was the inspiration for the location used in the animation film 「耳をすませば」 (Whisper of the Heart).

Apparently when the film was first shown, audiences living around the area gasped with surprise and delight that the film were depicting their neighbourhood and one kid even shouted to his mother "Look! That's our house on the screen!" For a while, there were even tour groups taking people to see the various locations depicted so faithfully in the film.

There's an information board right outside the station that gives a brief overview of the key locations featured in the film and how to visit them:

In the film, one of the early scenes featured the main character, a junior high school girl called Shizuku catching the Keio train and exiting the station:

And here's the train in real life:

And this is the real Keio department store:

 The main intersection as depicted in the film:

And the intersection in real life:

In the film, Shizuku walks to a curvy road leading up the a hill, and crosses a bridge over the Tama River:

In real life, the leading to the curvy road is called Sakura Doori (さくら通り):

And the curvy road is called Irohazakadoori (いろは坂通り):

We retraced Shizuku's steps:

The "library" in the film is missing in real life:

Tama River in the film:

Tama River in real life:

Later on in the film, we see more scenes featuring this road:

In real life:

In the film Shizuku, notices a fat white cat (called "Moon") and follows it up a flight of stairs to a roundabout:

In real life, we also climbed stairs:

And we also found the roundabout:

These two kids cycling reminded me of the film's two characters (Shizuku and Seiji)

We didn't find any cats, but we found a few dogs being taken for walks:

In the film, Shizuku discovers an interesting antique shop next to the roundabout:

This house does not exist in real life, but we found a close equivalent:

View of the house from the bottom of the hill in the film:

In real life:

The shrine on top of the hill in the film:

The shrine in real life:

Views from the top of the hill in the film:

In real life:

Finally, we walked back to the station in the evening:

On the way back, we stopped by at a supermarket - I've always wanted to see what a typical suburban Japanese supermarket looks like. The answer is: it looks like a bigger version of an Asian grocery store:

We had dinner at a Curry House:

Location on Google Maps:

View Larger Map


  1. Hi
    I've never seen the movie but enjoyed your compilation of photographs and stills from the film.
    When in Japan we spend our time in Chofu or Kichijoji (near Ghibli museum). From Chofu it is a short ride on the same train as you used to Tama. We used to visit the dog zoo (Wan Yan World) but that has gone out of business.
    In the general area of Tama is a fine, large zoo and Yomiyuriland, an amusement park.
    Your pictures are very clear and capture the feeling of being in Tokyo. Made me a little 'homesick'. Luckily, we return to Kichijoji in 4 weeks time.
    For me I liked being in Chofu. I used to love walking, cycling or jogging along the Tamagawa.A few years ago early on a spring day I had an amazing view of Mount Fuji from the Tamagawa. No camera though.
    From Kichijoji I usually cycle the Tama bike path (Jitensha dori). The first 5 or so Ks are pretty congested with walkers, slow bikes, dogs (on leads) and teams of baseball players but then it becomes very quiet and loops around a large lake. There is an amusement park that I have never seen working and it reminds me of Spirited Away each time I ride past it.
    You've inspired me to make a blog similar to yours of my trips around Japan.
    Thanks for the inspiration. My thoughts are with all those affected in Japan at the moment.
    All the best

    1. Thanks for the post! Look forward to your blog.

  2. Hi
    I'm a big fan of "Whisper of The Heart" and I always want to see Seiseki Sakuragaoka so I really enjoyed your blog.I wish I could have a trip like that.Thank you so much for this post because it has been my dream since i was a child. So meaningful for me:)
    Best wishes

  3. Ohayo
    I'm glad someone like you make the trip and share it with us. I'm so thankful. I'm a super fan of Whisper Of The Heart since 95. It teach us something that anime in japan is not just cartoon. it's also a real Drama story like a real movies but in anime form. no other animations in the world do these kind of stuff. You shot many nice pictures and details. so love it!!! Again Thank you so much.
    Best wishes. ( ^ _ ^ )

    Ronald Tan

  4. I'm going to Tokyo in August with a friend, and as a big fan of Whisper of the Heart, will be retracing Shizuka's steps and yours. When I first saw the film I was struck by how much the neighbourhood is a character in the film, and assumed that someone on staff - director, art director, mangaka - was expressing their nostalgia & love for a place they'd lived in and know well. I look forward to seeing it (even knowing it's more banal and up-to-date than the neighbourhood shown in the film) because it's the reality behind the story I love.

  5. it would be great if you updated the map with actual points from the pictures, or approximate route you took :) Thanks for the superb article and comparison images!

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  7. I was in Japan for the past two weeks and decided to spend the last afternoon retracing your steps in Seiseki-Sakuragaoka. Looking out from the top of the hill and seeing the ground fall away before you, it really feels like you're standing in the sky. You can definitely see why they picked the location for the film.

    Side note- despite it being a sunny day, oh lordy, that wind. I don't think my hands have ever been colder.

  8. Hace poco vi la película y estoy gratamente sorprendida. Para mí es una obra de arte. No sabía lo de las locaciones en Seiseki-Sakuragoaka, yo creí que era Tokyo. Va mi abrazo para el pueblo japonés a quien le tengo una gran admiración.

  9. I've had this page bookmarked for years now on the off chance I'd get to return to Tokyo. It's finally happening in October and I can't wait to retrace your (and Shizuku, Seiji and Moon's) steps! Many thanks for the pointers and tips.

  10. I stumbled upon your travel diary through Pentax forums. I've seen this movie while I was im Japan, and shorlty after I lived for two years in the western suburbs of Tokyo, Keio line territory, but not exactly Seiseki Sakuragaoka. At that time I didn't know that the scene was set so close to were I lived, but I felt so at home in this movie, I remember that well.

    I'm surprised that you, and others, go to this place to visit. And pleased as well, because I think it gives a glimpse of how many "average' Japanese live. Thanks for sharing, I think About revisiting this place when I return to Japan next summer....

  11. Great! Thanks for great photos and introducing our town. I live right next to the roundabout :-)

  12. Excellent blog post, inspired me to visit. Nice to see a typical Japanese town and combine it with some Ghibli tourism. Copies of the map, that you can handstamp, are kept on a small table outside the Family Mart. Love the film and the lovingly rendered backgrounds in it. Even though the town has changed (Japan redevelops more quickly than most places), you still get the feel of the film, with the winding hill road and the steps. A Ghibli pilgrimage.

  13. wowww that's real!! i just found ur blog and as a big fans of this movie i really want to go that place (someday) haha. btw thank's for the great post. greetings from Indonesia :)

  14. Great post Chris. I've lived in the area for about 13 years.

    By the way that isn't the Tama river, it is a creek that runs into the Tama.

    Here is the Tama, it is on the other side of the station.

  15. Thanks to this post I retraced Shizuku's steps as well last year. Great feels. Thank you for all the pictures and details. Here is how the board looks now:

  16. Dear Chris Tham, I am writing a book that has a chapter on Studio Ghibli and I would like your permission to quote a paragraph from your blog. My email address is
    Bruce Shaw

  17. Hello. I'm from Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina. Can I ask you if you went (or you know) where Seiji takes shizuku to his favorite spot on the top of the hill in Seiseki Sakuragaoka and He proposes to her? That place exists? Has a name so I can Google it?. Thanks!

  18. Tama river is the large river that is north of Seiseki Sakuragaoka station. Shizuku was never seen crossing Tama river by foot in the film.

    You are referring to Okuri river when you addressed Tama river.

  19. I loved it and I got emotional over this because this movie is not just a movie for me its so much more than that. Thankyou so much for the blog