Finding a Place to Return to in Sakura Quest

“Permanent resident population: In contrast to the temporary resident population, which comprises of visitors to a region, this describes the number of residents that have permanently settled in a region” (Yoshino, “The Queen, Convicted”).

My entire time growing up in Kenai–a coastal town in Alaska with a population around 6,000-7,000–I knew I was going to leave. Having moved there at the age of five and being one of the few Asian Americans in my school and surrounding towns, I never felt quite like I belonged. I had friends, yes. I was involved in many community activities. Yet through the books I read and the cultures I felt a part of, I felt an irresistible draw to travel elsewhere and live more connected to the big cities where exciting events occurred. Concerts. Festivals. Museums. Art. Food.

When the time finally came, I up and moved to Seattle and took a job downtown among no-nonsense lawyers and harried office workers. I had fun for a year, using my lunch breaks to wander the nearby streets and buildings and scheduling dates and events after work and on the weekends. Then I realized that I was over it. The increasingly trafficked commute and cement buildings wore me down. I started looking to nearby towns to live, and reconsidered my job. Like Sakura Quest’s Koharu Yoshino, I left the sticks for the city only to send myself straight back to small town life. Now I live and write from home about a thirty-minute drive away from Seattle, eating and taking breaks at my discretion, and feeling more a part of my chosen hometown than I ever did hanging out in the city. This quest for a place to call home didn’t come about from any grand plan, but instead from a series of small decisions that pointed me to where I am today.

In Sakura Quest, Yoshino struggles to survive in Tokyo after leaving her seaside town with the determination to never again live in the country. Call it misfortune or fate, a mistake leads her to signing a year-long contract to act as Manoyama’s “Queen,” where she works together with the tourism industry to try and revive the population. The task already sounds daunting enough even before considering the fact that Yoshino herself is part of the generation running to the cities and leaving rural hometowns like hers to literally grow old and, in some cases, die out completely.

Much of the start of this two-cours series shows Yoshino, Shiori, Maki, Ririko, and Sanae puzzling out ways to grow tourism. Their repeated attempts to develop interest in different aspects of Manoyama’s culture fall flat. One of the first barriers Yoshino needs to overcome is her own lack of knowledge about the village, its history and the current residents’ desires. Without this understanding, it’s no wonder she’s unable to spark outside interest. The group’s next mistake is their shallow advertisement of local goods. Only through discord with artists like Manoyama’s word carvers and business owners like Ririko’s grandmother are the girls able to find paths that respect local culture while simultaneously inviting visitors to appreciate it.

Now that we are into the second half of the show, there’s an increasing sense of urgency. With none of the plans panning out as hoped, the girls have finally realized that drawing tourism is not the best and only way to grow Manoyama. “Tourism is important, but if you really want to revive a city, you’ve got to increase the permanent resident population” (Saku). In a way, traveling reminds me of window shopping. You can spend all day browsing shops, trying on outfits and accessories, sitting on couches and imagining coffee tables in your home, but if the feeling of “right” isn’t there, there’s no purchase. I’ve flown to many places, sampled foreign foods and hiked breathtaking trails, but there are only a couple of places I call home. There need to be elements about a place that draw people to them not once, not twice, but permanently.

Yoshino sees this for herself when she takes vacation in her hometown of Azumigaura. Not only does she see familiar faces and places, but she notices that the local Azumi Festival has grown in size. People come from neighboring towns to celebrate along with her family and friends who chose to stay. Something about Azumigaura encourages temporary and permanent growth, “a place everyone returns to, a place where people gather, a place you want to boast about” (Yoshino). If Yoshino and the girls can figure out what that something is and apply accordingly, there’s hope for Manoyama’s future yet.

“The Queen, Convicted.” Sakura Quest. Crunchyroll. 5 Jul 2017.


6 thoughts on “Finding a Place to Return to in Sakura Quest

  1. It’s a very (interesting, but) different perspective from mine. I have never lived in a place where I felt like I needed to leave, even the year that I spent in the ‘not so great part of the suburbs’. I’ve always been a suburban person, and really, suburbs are pretty much the same everywhere. And I don’t really mind that. So I’ve never moved somewhere thinking “I want to go see what that kind of life is like, because I’m not happy with this life I’ve got.” I haven’t even moved as much as most people, having only lived in 7 different residences in over 40 years (my parents moved one time, then college where I lived on the same floor for 5 years, then 3 apartments rented, then we bought our house). But even then, I don’t feel like my parents’ house, where they still live, is “home”. It’s “my parents’ house.” In fact, after college, I moved back there for about 3 weeks, long enough to get a job and get my own apartment.

    Perhaps it’s that I’m not sentimental, or maybe I’m prone to being satisfied with what I’ve got in front of me. If there’s anything that I have a bit of longing for, it might be the idea of moving to somewhere where the horizon is something different. Here it is trees, if you can see to the horizon. Not even hills. Just trees. Maybe somewhere with farther horizons, or somewhere where it would be mountains, would be good to see, but I’m honestly too satisfied with the other things in my life (job mostly) to move.

    Liked by 1 person

    • My question then is are you or have you always been somewhat near a major city? I wonder if I would have felt quite so insistent on leaving if I had a place like Seattle within an hour by car.
      If my parents had stayed in the house where I spent my high school years in, I would be more sentimental about visiting, but they moved out while I was in college and their current house is so large and separated that it feels more like I’m staying in a bed and breakfast.
      Mountains, water, and temperate weather keep me tied to the Northwest. Anytime I’m somewhere flat, I always find the surrounding vista too empty. I do love trees, though. The ones in Alaska are a bit limited, mainly spruce and birch. I was really excited to see all the variety down here in lower 48.


      • Yes, I have always been about the same distance from the city, about 10 miles from both DC and Baltimore. One thing that I really like about the mid-atlantic, tho is that we get all of the weather. 100 degree heat. Single digit cold. Rain, everything from drizzle to roaring thunderstorms. Hurricanes. Blizzards. Tornados. Wind. Beautiful temperate spring days. I love variety in weather, and would really miss it if there wasn’t this full palette.

        Liked by 1 person

    • DM me the dates on FB or Twitter and I’ll see if we’re in town! We’re going to NY for a wedding in early August, but otherwise should be available 🙂


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