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When They Cry (Higurashi no naku koroni)

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When They Cry is a mystery which is set in the village with Gassho-style houses (houses with steeply pitched thatched roof) in Shirakawa-go, Gifu Prefecture. The village is registered as a World Heritage site. When They Cry is one of the most popular Japanese PC games (visual novels) worldwide in the 2000s and has many zealous fans in various countries including Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, the United States and France. After the hit of the game, there was an explosive increase in the number of PC gamers at home and abroad visiting Shirakawa-go which is called “Hinamizawa” in the game. It greatly contributed to make Shirakawa-go better known overseas. Do visit Shirakawa-go and visit pilgrimage sites of When They Cry.
Unlike many other visual novels, computer graphics (CG) are not used for the backgrounds of When They Cry. Instead, the photographs of Shirakawa-go landscapes are used for the backgrounds on which the character images (computer jargon: sprites) are superimposed. For this reason, the players especially get a strong sense that the game’s world in which they are exploring is real. The various great scenes in the game took place in the scenery of Shirakawa-go particular to each scene. If you are a fan, you will be filled with heavenly joy by visiting Shirakawa-go. The trip will really be killing two birds with one stone as Shirakawa-go is also a World Heritage site.
As the places featured in When They Cry are scattered around Shirakawa-go, it is recommended to rent a car to move around except the winter time. Of course, it is possible to make a pilgrimage by foot if you are a good walker. If you walk, it is better to take time to get around and stay over a night in Shirakawa-go. Either way, get a Shirakawa-go tourist map at first. The map is available in five languages: English, traditional and simplified Chinese, Korean and French. You can get the map at the Shirakawa-go Tourist Association official site or at the Tourist Information Center in Shirakawa-go.
We will introduce the major pilgrimage sites now. First of all, as there is an area where many pilgrimage sites are concentrated on the way to the observation deck of Shirakawa-go, you can start your pilgrimage without walking much. It is a must-visit area. There are places related to main characters of When They Cry such as the house of the Hojo family’s main branch, Rika and Satoko’s house, a shed where the grandson of the Construction Minister was held captive and the place where Rena screamed “Uso-da!” (That’s a lie!) with a fierce look on her face. Further approaching to the observation deck, there is the road that Keiichi and others are using to go to school.
Going up the slope, Rika’s favorite observation deck is at the top. There is a small shrine near the deck, and the panoramic scenery of Shirakawa-go that you can view from there is used for the title screen of When They Cry.
The Gassho-style house of the Wada family (Wada-ke), which is opened to tourists, is used as Sonozaki’s residence, the house of Mion and Shion. Paying the admission, you can also see inside the house. There are full of featured aspects in the house that appeared in the game. And the stairs going down from the second floor to the first floor of the house is the one that led to the ceremony room on the basement floor of Sonozaki’s house.
Irie Clinic in the game is Shirakawa Clinic in actual life. And Furude Shrine (Furude-jinja) is Shirakawa Hachimangu Shrine in actual life. The house behind “Shirakawa-go Road Station” (Shirakawa-go Michi no Eki) is used as Maebara’s residence. The construction site across from Maebara’s residence is the construction site of the dam in the game. Across the road from “Shirakawa-go Road Station,” there is Iijima Hachimangu Shrine. In the game, it was a storehouse for the apparatus used in festivals (torture). The building on the immediate left of the shrine’s main building is the house of the Furude family’s main branch.
As the school and the suspension bridge appeared in the game are located a bit off from the center of the Gassho-style settlements, it is better to go by car. The school is the forest management office in real life, and there is the suspension bridge nearby. The site for Hinamizawa Dam is the water tower of Miboro Dam in real life. It is located close to the end of the tunnel going down to the south from Shirakawa-go. There are other locales around for When They Cry such as a monument. If you rent a car to move around, please visit this area too.

As suggested above, how about taking time to go around Shirakawa-go, a World Heritage site, and soak in the world of Hinamizawa?
[By Train]
From Tokyo Station: Take Tokaido Shinkansen from Tokyo Station, and get off at Nagoya Station. Change to Gifu Bus Shirakawa-go Line (express bus) at Meitetsu Bus Center, and get off at Shirakawa-go.

From JR Osaka or JR Kyoto Station: Get off at Kanazawa Station by limited express “Thunderbird“, change to Nohi Bus Takayama-Shirakawa-go Line, and get off at Shirakawa-go. Or, take Tokaido Sanyo Main Line (local train) to JR Shin-Osaka Station, and change to Tokaido Shinkansen to JR Nagoya Station. Take Nohi Bus Takayama-Shirakawa-go Line, and get off at Shirakawa-go.

From JR Kanazawa Station in Ishikawa prefecture: Take Nohi Bus Takayama-Shirakawa-go/Kanazawa Line, and get off at Shirakawa-go.

From JR Takayama Station in Gifu prefecture: Take Nohi Bus Takayama-Shirakawa-go Line, and get off at Shirakawa-go.

* The time table of bus services to Shirakawa-go is subject to change and the service may be cancelled depending on the season or the date. Check the official website for details.
* Nohi Bus principally requires reservation.

[Rental car]
Rental cars are available at major stations including Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Nagoya and Kanazawa. You can use a car to directly get to Shirakawa-go.

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