Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou (“Logs of a Yokohama shopping trip”) is an outworldly manga with scifi unlike any seen before. It takes place in a post-apocalyptic world with androids that stay young while humans live off humanity’s last days.
And contrary to what one would expect from this plot, everything is peaceful, sunny, rural and a hymn to life’s little moments.
The heroine is an android running a café on top of a cliff over the sea, somewhere in the countryside near Yokohama. Yokohama is technically, and actually, not Tokyo. Yet they are connected by plain city train and you’d be excused for mistaking them for a single urban sprawl on a map.
So, “YKK” would make for one of the stops in my “artsy Tokyo tour”, my effort of visiting the actual spots where great works of art took place!
There was only one thing standing in my way: there is no explicit spot where YKK takes place; also, in its timeline the seas have risen, changing the coastline.
But hey, Yokohama is still Yokohama, and YKK fans have even pinpointed landmarks from the manga to their real locations. How tough can it be to find a coast where the cliff with Alpha’s Café could be?
After one hour, high on google maps, wikipedia, fan sites and the sight of the shinkansen passing in front of the window of the cheap hotel room where I spent my last days in Japan, I decided where the café would be. It would be outside Zushi, a resort town south of Yokohama, near the edge of the land mass; at a spot at walking distance from the beach yet with cliffs hanging over the water.
A couple of hours later, at Yokohama, I was changing to an actual train to Zushi. The route, the town and the whole day were surreally beautiful, organic yet somehow extremely clean-cut, all in the unforgiving vertical sunlight. But I’ll speak of them on another day. For now, there are three things to mention about my quest for YKK.
First, I think I made the right call. The countryside on the way to and around Zushi was giving me a crazy feeling of inverted déjà-vu; visions of Hitoshi Ashinano’s art kept popping up, as if summoned by the surroundings.
Second, did I gain any new insight into the manga from visiting the area? You won’t believe. The story takes place in a pristine almost empty landscape. But the actual area around Yokohama is densely built! Up until then, the evocative art made any mention of Yokohama conjure exotic images of calm in my mind. In reality, a huge contradiction lies at the heart of the story, and the mention of Yokohama is, I guess, supposed to conjure images of expansionist humankind. YKK is really about what happens when humans are gone.
Third, did I pick a good place for the café? You bet.
Walking away from Zushi’s beach along the coastline that I’d picked, the coast started rising above the sea, snaking into wide turns, and putting a woody hill between the road and the town.
The looks of the place were “right” and also high enough to survive a couple of meters of rising waters. I kept walking towards a protrusion that looked particularly promising on the map.
And, what do I know, when the chosen cliff came into view I saw that it was not empty:
Alpha’s Café has a name and it’s called “Surfers”. As long as there are no androids around, it serves fried food and beer.
Satisfied, my quest ended there. On that day I had several trains to catch, so a noontime martini waits for me on the cliffs of Zushi.