Kunitachi: Adorable College Town and the Inspiration for The Wolf Children
You might have never heard of Kunitachi. It’s a small district in Tokyo, but despite its size, this town is full of charms. So much that it inspired the anime film Wolf Children, which won the New York International Children’s Film Festival’s Audience Award in 2013. It has many cute little shops, spectacular nature, and a whole street of cherry blossom trees.
Kunitachi (国立) derives its name from the two big stations around it – Kokubunji (国分寺) and Tachikawa (立川). The kanji character from the first is read as “kuni” and the second is “tachi.” It has its own town hall and budget. Kunitachi is most famous for the location of Hitotsubashi University, and hence bears the atmosphere of a college town.
The university was founded in 1875 as the institute for business training during the Meiji period when Japan’s first universities were built. After the devastating 1923 Great Kanto earthquake, it was relocated from central Tokyo to Kunitachi. Now it specializes in social sciences and is one of the top national universities in Japan. Daigaku-dori street is a dividing campus into two parts: west and east. The beautiful architecture is modeled after Roman style, reminiscent of Europe. That is the reason for many TV shows to be inspired and filmed here. And hence it is a great location to look for the places from the Wolf Children.
First, go to the west part of the campus. There is a tall clock tower that is the school library. The anime designers took inspiration from this structure. The main character, college student Hana, met her beloved werewolf there. You will need permission to visit the library, but you can still freely enjoy the exterior. There is a lovely fountain to cool down next to on a hot day.
The Roman architecture is very interesting. At first, it does look Western and foreign. But it is not. The architect Chuta Ito was a historian. And what he found appealing in this style was its connection to Japanese culture. This medieval architecture featured various mythical and supernatural creatures such as goblins and monsters. In a similar way, Japanese believe in Shinto and natural spirits living next to people. How many creatures on the walls and pillars can you find?
Another well-known building is the arched Kanematsu auditorium. It is one of the oldest structures on campus. A variety of classical concerts are held there and is open to the public.
The anime also featured shops of the Daigaku-dori Street. One of them is the coffee and cake shop called “Hakujuji”.
You can buy some treats for later from the front displays. Or you can enjoy a nice cup of afternoon tea with the dessert inside. The tableware changes every season, which makes it more fun and different every time you visit. Don’t forget to check the street during the cherry blossom blooming season, as it is covered with the trees on both sides creating an unforgettable beauty.