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The weird and wonderful world of GeGeGe no Kitaro in Sakaiminato

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The weird and wonderful world of GeGeGe no Kitaro in Sakaiminato

To honor manga artist Mizuki Shigeru, the streets of Sakaiminato - along with the local trains and a whole museum - are filled with images of characters from his GeGeGe No Kitano series.

James Davies

James Davies

Published on 17 Feb, 12:00

Located in the far west of Tottori Prefecture, Sakaiminato is the hometown of the famous Japanese anime artist Mizuki Shigeru. After returning to Japan after fighting in the Second World War, Mizuki decided to become an artist. Inspired by traditional Japanese folk tales of spirits and ghosts called yokai, Mizuki would eventually create the much loved manga and anime series GeGeGe No Kitaro.

In GeGeGe No Kitaro, a huge cast of mythological monsters come in to frequent wrangles with humans. The main character is Kitaro, a young boy who tries to resolve the conflicts that arise between the two worlds, along with his father, Medama-oyaji, a spirit who has been reincarnated as a bright red eyeball.

Other characters include Kitaro's best friend, Nezumi Otoko who is half human and half yokai with the appearance of a rat, and Ittan Momen, a long strip of floating cotton that is possessed by a ghost.

Celebrating the life of Mizuki Shigeru

A cat sits in front of a mural of yokai characters from GeGeGe No Kitaro in Sakaiminato
A cat sits in front of a mural of yokai characters from GeGeGe No Kitaro in Sakaiminato

Today Sakaiminato honors Mizuki Shigeru in a way that only Japan can. Miniature statues of dozens of GeGeGe No Kitaro characters line the city's main street, which is now named after Mizuki Shigeru.

Souvenir shops are stocked with GeGeGe No Kitaro merchandise of every conceivable tie-in, from keychains and cuddly toys to beer and sake. At the far end of Mizuki Shigeru Road is the Mizuki Shigeru Museum, dedicated to the life and work of GeGeGe No Kitaro's creator.

Getting to Sakaiminato – a train ride like no other

A Sakai Line train featuring characters from GeGeGe No Kitaro
A Sakai Line train featuring characters from GeGeGe No Kitaro

The best way to arrive in Sakaiminato is by train on the Sakai Line. The Sakai Line begins at Yonago Station, which is around an hour from Tottori Station or thirty minutes from Matsue in neighbouring Shimane Prefecture.

Kindergarten children in Sakaiminato watch a Sakai Line train pass
Kindergarten children in Sakaiminato watch a Sakai Line train pass

At Yonago, trains plastered inside and out with characters from GeGeGe No Kitaro leave for Sakaiminato from platform 0. The journey takes just under forty minutes and each of the stations on the way has a nickname of one of the monsters from GeGeGe No Kitaro.

Arriving in Sakaiminato into the yokai world

A statue of Mizuki Shigeru outside Sakaiminato station in Tottori
A statue of Mizuki Shigeru outside Sakaiminato station in Tottori

After stepping off the train in Sakaiminato you’re instantly thrown into the world of GeGeGe No Kitaro. Immediately outside the station sits a statue of Mizuki Shigeru working away with Kitaro, Medama-oyaji and Nezumi Otoko all watching on.

A banner with characters from GeGeGe No Kitaro outside Sakaiminato station
A banner with characters from GeGeGe No Kitaro outside Sakaiminato station

A collection of yokai statues next to the train tracks depicts a gathering of monsters from all over the world. Next door to the station a huge banner hanging from Sakaiminato's ferry terminal features GeGeGe No Kitaro's main cast. Even the city's lampposts are shaped like the red eyeball of Medama-oyaji.

Walking with the yokai along Mizuki Shigeru Road

Stretching to the east of Sakaiminato Station is Mizuki Shigeru Road. On both sides of the street are countless bronze statues of the yokai characters depicted in Mizuki’s anime. Some of the statues are playful while others are appropriately ghoulish. They continue along the road for around a kilometer, playfully guiding the route all the way to the Mizuki Shigeru Museum.

GeGeGe No Kitaro statue on Mizuki Shigeru Road in Sakaiminato
GeGeGe No Kitaro statue on Mizuki Shigeru Road in Sakaiminato
A statue of Neko Musume on Sakaiminato's Mizuki Shigeru Road
A statue of Neko Musume on Sakaiminato's Mizuki Shigeru Road
A manhole cover featuring Kitaro and, Medama-oyaji in Sakaiminato
A manhole cover featuring Kitaro and, Medama-oyaji in Sakaiminato

Near the beginning of Mizuki Shigeru Road is the Yokai Shrine. Here it is believed that in return for offering a prayer the yokai spirits will reward you with a blessing. Elsewhere on Mizuki Shigeru Road you'll also find benches and manhole covers covered in Mizuki's yokai characters, while halfway along the street is a touching statue of Mizuki Shigeru with his wife, Nunoe Mura.

A statue of Mizuki Shigeru and Nunoe Mura in Sakaiminato
A statue of Mizuki Shigeru and Nunoe Mura in Sakaiminato

Tuna ramen, a Sakaiminato specialty

Whilst in Sakaiminato, don't miss the chance to try the local specialty, tuna ramen. Sakaiminato is a major fishing port. In fact, most of the tuna in Japan comes from Sakaiminato, having been caught just off the coast and brought in from the Sea of Japan.

Tuna ramen, a speciality of Sakaiminato
Tuna ramen, a speciality of Sakaiminato

The local speciality ramen is topped with delicious raw tuna, similar to thick slices of sashimi. Though it might seem peculiar at first, the strong flavor of the tuna works perfectly with the soy sauce broth and soft, thin noodles.

The Mizuki Shigeru Museum

At the far end of Mizuki Shigeru Road is the museum that honors the life and work of the creator of GeGeGe No Kitaro. The Mizuki Shigeru Museum charts both the life and the works of one of Japan's most beloved anime artists.

A lifesize model of Mizuki Shigeru in a replica of his studio in the Mizuki Shigeru Museum in Sakaiminato
A lifesize model of Mizuki Shigeru in a replica of his studio in the Mizuki Shigeru Museum in Sakaiminato

On display in the museum are a number of yokai artworks drawn on the walls by Mizuki, as well as details of his life, including his experiences during the Second World War and his travels all over the world. The museum also houses plenty of life-size models of many of Mizuki's yokai monsters.

A special trip to see Mizuki Shigeru's yokai monsters in Sakaiminato

If you're visiting Tottori and a fan of Japanese manga and anime then a trip to Sakaiminato should definitely be a part of your travel plans. Take an unforgettable ride on the Sakai Line and see how the city has honored Mizuki Shigeru and his much loved yokai spirits.

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James Davies

James Davies

I'm James, a freelance writer originally from the UK now living in Tokyo, Japan.

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