Free! Fans Oppose Cherry Blossom Tree Planting in Tottori (Updated)

posted on by Jennifer Sherman

Iwami, Tottori and eastern areas of the city of Tottori serve as the setting for the Free! television anime and films. The region is a frequent tourist attraction for fans going on anime pilgrimages. Those fans are so invested in preserving the area as it appears in the anime that they have become a voice of opposition for the city of Tottori's proposed cherry blossom tree planting project.

Since the 1920s, Yoshino cherry trees have been growing in the Tottori Castle Ruins and surrounding area. The location was chosen as one of the top 100 areas for cherry blossom trees in Japan in 1990. There are currently a total of 240 cherry blossom trees that come into full bloom in the area every spring and draw in tourists seeking to enjoy the scenery.

However, the roots of some of the trees have damaged the walls of the historic castle ruins, and other trees have succumbed to illness and old age. The city's office in charge of education and cultural properties outlined a plan in September and October to preserve that castle and manage the cherry blossom tree population. The city wants to fell five withered trees and plant 70 new trees for a total of 305 trees in the area.

The city office in charge of the project began taking public opinions on the proposal and has received two comments disapproving due to the area's status as the setting of Free!. The objections ask the city not to plant trees that do not appear in the anime and to plant trees in areas that will not change the scenery. A Tweet asking the city not to change the scenery of the anime pilgrimage site has also been retweeted nearly 300 times.

In the Free! -Timeless Medley- Yakusoku anime film, which premiered on July 1, characters talk underneath a 180-year-old pine tree in a certain area of the Tottori Castle Ruins. Since the film's debut, the city has received inquiries from cosplayers wanting to take photographs in Tottori, and the number of fans visiting the castle ruins has increased.

Discussions about the tree-planting project are underway, and officials are considering a cautious approach to planting in ways that would affect scenery. One city official said they are considering all opinions and hope to find the best solution to preserve that castle and scenery as well as promote tourism.

Update: The Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper has since deleted its article about the tree project and anime fans' reaction to it.

Source: The Yomiuri Shimbun (河合修平)

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