Kimi no nawa garnered critical and commercial acclaim when it was released in 2016 because of its relatable themes in the story told through an immersive film experience. The anime film directed by Makoto Shinkai is a romantic fantasy anime about two high school kids from different backgrounds who find themselves on a body-swapping journey and how they navigate their peculiar situations. As of 2022, it is the third most commercially successful Japanese anime movie worldwide behind Spirited Away by Hayao Miyazaki in second place and Demon Slayer: Mugen Train by Haruo Sotozaki topping the list. 

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Kimi no nawa film poster _©Photo by Funimation Inc._© 2016 Toho Co., Ltd. / CoMix Wave Films Inc. / Kadokawa Corporation / East Japan Marketing & Communications, Inc. / Amuse Inc. /

Propagating a story through architecture in Kimi no nawa

Anime is a staple in Japanese pop culture, propagating Japanese culture to the world. It is a diverse medium with distinctive production methods that have adapted in response to emergent technologies. It combines graphic art, characterisation, cinematography, and other forms of imaginative and individualistic techniques. Compared to Western animation, anime production generally focuses less on movement, and more on the detail of settings and use of “camera effects”, such as panning, zooming, and angle shots. A major focus in anime is depicting the settings in detail to immerse the audience in the story. The same applies to Kimi no nawa. 

The story is set in two main locations, the countryside where Mitsuha lives and the metropolitan Tokyo where Taki resides. The architecture grounds the characters in their world and introduces them to the audience through their mundane activities. Architecture plays a major role in forming a basis for the characters in Kimi no nawa. They are introduced to the audience through mundane activities in their locations. The result is a formed attachment to the characters and a much-needed depth to the story.

The urban and rural sphere

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Image showing the main protagonists in their settings_©

Itomori – The rural sphere

The female protagonist of Kimi no na wa is the high school girl and shrine maiden Mitsuha who lives in the fictitious mountain town of Itomori, which administratively belongs to the existing Hida City in Gifu Prefecture. Itomori is an embodiment of living with nature. The serene town is set apart by its beautiful landscapes and traditional and western architectural style buildings. The main attraction is Itomori lake, bounded on all sides by houses nestled in trees on the mountains. Regardless of the seemingly perfect description of Itomori, some residents share a common sentiment of preferring city life over rural life. They expressed their discontent in a sequence where the characters take the audience on a tour of the town they find boring and hope to escape for life in the city.

The buildings are simple, characterised by the use of wood, shoji screens, fusuma, curvy pitched roofs and engawa and their relationship with nature. In Japanese culture, all life has meaning and value, which is illustrated in their respect for nature. They strive to work in harmony with their natural surroundings, as opposed to taming them.The Itomori local shrine is an example of the traditional style. The post and beam style structure with a slightly curved roof sits on a water stream. Shoji screens, fusuma, and tatami mats enclose the interior. The fusumas (sliding doors) open fully to reveal the view of trees and the stream surrounding them.

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A view of Itomori Lake_©httpsinfinitemirai.files.wordpress.com201710knnwfig01.jpg
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A street view of Itomori _©screenshot of Kimi no nawa by Makoto Shinkai
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The local shrine showing traditional design concepts_©screenshot of Kimi no nawa by Makoto Shinkai

Mitsuha’s residence, where she lives with her sister Yotsuha and her grandmother is in the same fashion. Some notable locations in Itomori are Hida Furukawa station, Hida city library, Miyamizu shrine, Itomori village hall.

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Mitsuha’s house in traditional Japanese style )_©( screenshot of Kimi no nawa by Makoto Shinkai
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Hida Furukawa Station )_©(screenshot of Kimi no nawa by Makoto Shinkai
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Itomori local shrine entrance inspired by Miyazumi Shrine _©screenshot of Kimi no nawa by Makoto Shinkai

Tokyo – The urban sphere

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A busy Tokyo_©screenshot of Kimi no nawa by Makoto Shinkai

In comparison to Mitsuha’s home, Taki lives in a high-rise residential housing unit surrounded by other tall buildings and a little vegetation. Tokyo is an energetic environment. The city’s hustle and bustle are inherent in Taki’s daily activities. Mitsuha and her counterpart Taki appear as cliché representations of their different sociocultural environments. Taki’s urban environment is easily recognisable through iconic Tokyo spots, such as Shinjuku Station or Tokyo Sky Tree.

Tokyo is the capital and also the largest city in Japan. Formerly known as Edo, it started as a fishing village, and by the end of the 19th century, the population had exceeded 1 million. Despite not being planned as a high-rise city, more than 80% of buildings in Tokyo are high-rise. Tokyo architecture is mainly modernist and contemporary, with a few structures dotting the traditional Japanese pagoda style. Tokyo has had to undergo rebuilding due to major calamities such as the Great Kano earthquake in 1923 and the world war II bombing in 1945. Modern architecture in Japan borrowed heavily from the tradition’s simplicity, purity and honesty guide in Tokyo. Further developments brought about the presence of more concrete buildings void of personality, disconnected from the environment and culture, a concrete jungle. A city not intended to be a high-rise city became one. The majority of the high-rises were built in this period. Some prominent ones featured in the movie give context to Taki’s (the male protagonist’s) background.

While Tokyo features different architectural styles, some general features the buildings share are the focus on simple forms and the honest treatment of materials. While these are tenets of international-modern architecture, these ideas have held spiritual and philosophical meaning in Japanese Shinto and Buddhist architecture for centuries. There is also a tangible emphasis on material lightness. Some notable Tokyo locations present in the movie are the Tokyo tower, Koshu Kaido avenue in front of Shinjuku station, Shinjuku intersection at Kitadori avenue, Yunika vision, NTT Docomo Yoyogi building, Yotsuya station, Salon de The Rond, Shintoshin bridge, Tokyo station.

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Tokyo photogrammetry in Kimi no nawa _©
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Tokyo photogrammetry in Kimi no nawa _©
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Real life locations comparison _©
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Tokyo photogrammetry in Kimi no nawa _©
Real life locations comparison _©


Kimi no nawa depicts a balanced representation of both worlds. The juxtaposition of the countryside and the metropolis presents some positive qualities of both sides. Kimi no nawa addresses, among other themes, the nature of fading tradition among the youths and the world presently. 

It is relative to the desertion from the traditional, vernacular architecture unique to different cultures in favour of a universal style in the urban world. It has resulted in the loss of cultural and environmental identity for a style that has borne a shared identity across the globe. Traditional concepts should rather be built on, and improved upon and should be a guide to creating better experiences. Overall, Kimi no nawa realises the story themes with masterful audio-visual telling that captures the essence of cinema.

Reference List 
  1.  Craig, Timothy J. (2000). Japan Pop!: Inside the World of Japanese Popular Culture. Armonk, NY [u.a.]: Sharpe. ISBN 978-0-7656-0561-0.
  2. Disaster and Salvation in the Japanese Periphery. “The Rural” in Shinkai Makoto’s Kimi no na wa (Your Name
  3. Toki (2021) The eight elements of Japanese traditional architecture, TOKI. TOKI. Available at: (Accessed: November 8, 2022). 

Ololade is an architecture graduate and a prospective interior designer. He is driven by the belief that good design should be accessible to everybody. An ideology that emphasises the need for human-centred design. His latest interest has been learning ways to communicate in the design sphere.

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