Life in Shakotan is just like Animal Crossing…well, without the talking animals, of course. I’ve come to the realization that Nintendo’s “social simulation video game” is actually a fairly accurate representation of life in rural Japan. Check it out.
Shakotan is quiet seaside village. It’s actually so remote that there’s no train to get here. The way the forest meets the sea is visually very similar to the villages seen in Animal Crossing. The town is inhabited by a cast of colorful characters. While Shakotan’s characters are people, their personalities seem just as diverse as the anamorphic animals found in Nintendo’s game. And like Animal Crossing, I stand out as a clearly foreign resident, an unusual addition to the town.
In Animal Crossing, most things could be purchased at Tom Nook’s store. In Shakotan, there is the Seicomart, as well as a couple other little stores. Much like the game, wherever I go to a store, I encounter the same people running the shop; the same smiling faces there every time. It’s a nice touch, because I feel like I get to know people little by little, although my Japanese is still so terribly limited. (I hesitate to claim that I can speak it at all.) I could really use subtitles like Animal Crossing uses to translate the “Animalese” spoken in the game.
My housing is essentially one room, which I can furnish and decorate to my liking. Sound familiar? While the game had tons and tons of interesting furniture choices, I have found that many stores in Japan feature similarly cute and unique items. Basically, people in Japan give a lot of gifts, so there is an infinite supply of specialty items that can serve as new and interesting gifts for friends and family.
In fact, the gift-giving culture in Japan is much more nuanced and pervasive than I had realized. For instance, it’s quite common for to give a fancy little cookie to each coworker in the office. This is especially true is that person has just returned from a trip somewhere. While visiting another city, one should take some time to find proper Omiyage (おみやげ), or souvenirs. Gift-giving, gift-receiving, and re-giving were all part of the Japan experience, as I now understand, and they also feature prominently in Animal Crossing.
Instead of the local market, my landlord runs the local sushi shop. I have started a bank at the post office, just like in Animal Crossing. I understand that this is standard in Japan, and even in Italy too I hear, but I couldn’t help but be reminded of the game yet again.
Just like in the game, there is an evening bell here that chimes at 6:00pm every day. (The first time I used this, I had the epiphany that I was living the Animal Crossing life.) Shakotan uses the same melody as the Big Ben chimes, which I enjoy. Also, on one of my first days here, I met the major. While he wasn’t a tortoise, he was warm and friendly, and extremely welcoming.
The two main pastimes of the residents of Shakotan seem to be fishing and gardening. (In fact, I’m not sure what else there is to do here.) Again, this parallels Animal Crossing. While I hadn’t tried digging for fossils, collecting seashells, or catching bugs yet, but I’m sure they’re all viable options. In fact, the weather is just starting to warm up and suddenly the bugs have become relentless! It would seem that it’s no coincidence that the country that gave us Pokémon has an impressive variety of large insects and arachnids. “Gotta check’em all” indeed. The diversions available to players of the game all make sense now.
Just as Animal Crossing had different holidays that the town celebrated throughout the year, I’m greatly looking forward to Shakotan’s festivals and holidays. In July for instance, Shakotan has a “Fire Festival” which I expect to be epic! I’m assuming it will be like Animal Crossing meets Avatar: The Last Airbender.