Title: White Album 2
Text: I think the majority of readers here will be first-time readers, so—nice to meet you. I’m Meister. Thank you so much for picking up this book. This is an updated version of a book of the same name distributed at Comic1*7 on April 28th, 2013, with some revisions made.
Once again, this book concerns White Album 2. If I try to touch upon its content, I’ll end up going on forever, so I’ll spare you that, but it’s been hailed as a masterpiece among bishojo games. Similarly, my own heart has been touched by its incredible story and music, and I was actually so deeply affected by it that around Christmas of 2012 I made a pilgrimage to Strasbourg in France.
In this book, I and Dejima no Hito-san have gathered information that might be used as reference by any who might be considering making a pilgrimage of their own in the future. As someone who went at Christmas, I strongly encourage you to make your journey during the Christmas season, so you can experience the same things I felt. This year, if you can, go to Strasbourg at Christmas, and experience the world of WA2 for yourself.
Foreword, contents 1
Setsuna & Haruki’s Routes Explained 2-3
Kazusa’s Route Explained by Dejima no Hito 4-5
Routes Summarized 6-7
Strasbourg Pilgrimage Map 8-9
Strasbourg Pilgrimage Spots 10-11
Pilgrimage Column 12-13
Second Edition Special! Pilgrims’ Discussion 14-17
Major Domestic Pilgrimage Spots 18-19
Cover & back cover: Ayasaka-sama
Header: Setsuna & Haruki’s Routes: Paris -> Strasbourg
Top box: What do we mean, Setsuna & Haruki’s routes?
Setsuna, who has been waiting for Haruki back in Japan, heads to Strasbourg in order to keep to their one-week rule. The details of her course are not stated in the story itself, but we know that after leaving Japan, she stops briefly in Paris before flying to Strasbourg (as stated by Maruto-san in a magazine interview). This is purely conjecture, but I would guess her route goes: Narita Airport->Charles de Gaulle Airport (Paris)->Orly Airport (also located within Paris, used for domestic connecting flights)->Strasbourg Airport.
Haruki, one step ahead of Setsuna, also goes from Paris to Strasbourg. While Setsuna goes by plane, Haruki uses the TGV (basically France’s version of the Shinkansen) to get to Strasbourg. My own pilgrimage followed Haruki’s route (details discussed later), but basically, the ways of traversing the roughly 500 km between Paris and Strasbourg can be narrowed down to either airplane or railway. I feel like even simply limiting your choices by leaving from Paris specifically would give that overlap with the world of WA2, but I hope you will choose the route that best fits your travel plans and emotional attachment to the characters.
Bottom box: To Strasbourg by plane (Setsuna’s route)
When traveling from Japan to France, you’ll likely touch down at the Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris. ANA and Air France both offer nonstop flights from Japan, so it’s possible for you to get to Paris without having to make any connecting flights. The flight time is around 12 hours, so you’ll need something to pass the time. Next, you’ll need to make a connection at Orly Airport. The distance from Charles de Gaulle to Orly is about 50 km, but there is a bus that connects the two airports, so using that could be a good idea. It takes about an hour, and is cheaper (about €19) than a taxi, with more rides available.
Between Orly and Strasbourg, the flight time is about an hour, so perhaps you could heighten your emotions by listening to Setsuna’s album on the way to your heart’s destination in Strasbourg.
*Just for reference, my schedule fell out so that I went to Paris via Qatar, rather than taking a direct flight. I found it interesting to make a stop in a country while in transit that I wouldn’t normally visit, so you could try doing the same thing for yourself, just to check it out. Incidentally, my round trip fare was 92,000 yen, by rates that were current at the time, and with fuel surcharges included.
Top box: To Strasbourg by TGV (Haruki’s route)
For Haruki’s route, once you touch down in Paris, transfer over to the TGV to head for Strasbourg. There are trains for Strasbourg from the TGV station in Charles de Gaulle, but there aren’t many, so it may be better to make your way to the Paris metropolitan area and take a train from the Gare de l’Est. Its top speed contends with that of the Shinkansen, and you should arrive in Strasbourg in just over two hours. As another benefit to taking the TGV, you might just encounter a pilgrimage spot the moment you leave the station. When I myself departed the station, I nearly collapsed on the spot, seeing before my own eyes a sight that was almost entirely unchanged from the game scenery. One important thing to note, regarding tickets: I strongly suggest that you purchase your tickets before you depart (you can get a discount for making reservations in advance). I foolishly decided that I didn’t want to be tied down to a particular time, and figured I could buy my ticket immediately before boarding, only to find that the train I had planned to ride was sold out… I managed to snag a first-class seat that was open on the following train, but I was very nearly left adrift. For the outgoing trip I paid €134 for a first-class seat, and for the return trip I paid €77 for a second-class seat.
Picture caption: Gare de l’Est
Bottom box: Christmastime in Paris
The Arc de Triomphe, the Eiffel Tower, the Champs-Élysées… Paris is endlessly abundant in sightseeing spots, and it would not be an overstatement to say that out of the whole year, the season in which it is at its most gorgeous is Christmastime. While all of Europe is enveloped in the Christmas mood, in Paris, every street without exception is dyed in its colors. In addition, while Christmas markets open up all throughout Europe, the market at the Champs-Élysées is certainly preeminent among them in scale. A great many shops line both sides, and in addition to the obvious food and drink, you can enjoy yourself simply looking around at the souvenirs, clothing, and all the rest in turn. Within the duration of my stay, I wasn’t able to enjoy it quite as fully as I would have liked, but the atmosphere overflowing throughout the city, everyone’s excitement for Christmas, reaffirmed my desire to return at some point.
Picture 1 caption: Champs-Élysées
Picture 2 caption: Place de la Concorde
Header: Kazusa’s Route: Vienna -> Strasbourg
Top box: What is Vienna?
The capital city of Austria, a German-speaking country in the European Union; also known as the “City of Music.” (Largely excerpted from Haruki and Setsuna’s pillow talk at the start of Coda)
Its unit of currency is the euro (€), and its primary language is German, both of which are shared by Strasbourg, so I don’t think too much extra time in trip preparation should be necessary. Airfare is a bit higher than Setsuna’s route (Japan->Paris), but if you’re a fan of Kazusa, I recommend it.
By the way, regarding Vienna’s treatment in the game itself, it is where Kazusa and her mother Youko spend the five years between the end of IC and the start of Coda, as well as the Extra Episode added for the PS3 edition, and where Haruki and Kazusa go after Kazusa’s True End; it appears in name only in the story. As there aren’t any depictions of city scenery at present, there aren’t really “Pilgrimage Spots” in town like with Strasbourg, but if one deeply ponders and imagines how Kazusa might have spent her time in this city after parting ways with Haruki, thinking of him always, how the two of them might spend their time here after choosing to leave everything else behind and remain together for life, might that not also be considered a type of pilgrimage?
Now, once you arrive at the Vienna International Airport, you’ll need to take the CAT (City Airport Train) to the metropolitan area. The ride to Wien-Mitte Station takes about fifteen minutes, so perhaps you might listen to the WA2 Original Soundtrack on your trusty Digital Audio Player, to heighten your mood. This “time calmly passed,” listening and gazing out at the unfamiliar scenery through the train window, is guaranteed to elevate your feelings of expectation for the vacation you are about to begin.
To digress for a moment, in Europe, beer is as cheap as water, which is wonderful. There are many bottled types sold locally, so having a portable bottle opener on hand will make your trip all the richer.
Picture caption: Vienna International Airport (City Airport Train)
Middle box: During the Christmas season, Christmas markets open up all throughout Europe, and Strasbourg and Vienna are no exception. The warmth of the atmosphere that spreads through the entire city is wholly unlike Christmas in Japan, and will leave you with a fresh new impression.
You will find large markets within the metropolitan area—particularly at the Rathausplatz, Maria-Theresien-Platz, and Karlsplatz—and outside it, such as the square at the entrance to Schönbrunn Palace, so I recommend that you visit a variety of them. They primarily deal in ornaments that local families use to decorate their homes, but beyond the fact that there is much to be found at a moderate price, or that the open-air format itself makes things light and easy for vendors and buyers alike, there is the fact that even if you aren’t accustomed to conversing in the local language, you can conduct exchanges through gestures (such as pointing), allowing you to obtain souvenirs, food, and so on with ease.
At this point, you may be accustoming yourself to foreign streets, hearing “Illumination Town” in your ears, your heart dancing amid the lively moods of the place; but if “After All ~tsuzuru omoi~” should happen to come on, the second verse will have you collapsing to your knees on the spot, so be very careful with the shuffle function on your DAP.
Picture caption: Christmas market at Rathausplatz
Bottom box: The Vienna metropolitan area is very walkable if you’re inclined to wander, but if you’re traveling under time constraints, its public transportation is both inexpensive and convenient. You can buy 24-hour tickets for €6.7 that can be used for both aboveground and underground trains; through my own personal use, I got the impression that aboveground trains are more convenient for getting around within the metropolitan area, while the underground is more convenient if you want to go outside of it.
You may feel a little confused at first, using unfamiliar transportation facilities in a foreign country, but if you imagine Kazusa looking baffled because of her lack of experience in everyday things like this, then imagine her later on, opening the manual doors with an experienced hand and looking at Haruki with a satisfied smile, you’ll have no trouble. The manual doors are pretty heavy, which I think is probably what most people have trouble with at the start.
I’ve included some pictures I took myself on this page, but there are many other gorgeous buildings to be found. For more details, please check with an official guidebook.
Picture 1 caption: The Prunksaal (Austrian National Library)
Picture 2 caption: The Staatsoper (Vienna State Opera)
Top box: Hop on the underground to head outside the metropolitan area. You’ll find the Prater park, which has been used as a film setting; Schönbrunn Palace, which is full of historical scenery; the Hundertwasserhaus, which is famous for its novel exterior; and many other points of note that rival those within the metropolitan area. If you go strolling with camera in hand, taking a few pictures of each of these famous spots, you should be able to answer any questions that your real-life friends may have waiting for you back at home with eloquence.
Incidentally, the weather during Christmas season in Strasbourg last year was clear from beginning to end, so unfortunately it did not provide a perfect recreation of the story, but in Vienna, snow occasionally fell in the early morning hours. It wasn’t “Powder Snow,” per se, but Vienna and Strasbourg are both 48° North in latitude, so really, it’ll be cold regardless of whether there’s snow. Cold enough that walking around town in black stockings and no shoes, for example, would be madness even for one who wasn’t a local gentleman. HeatTech tights underneath and fleece on top could be enough, but just barely. If you’re going to take this pilgrimage, I urge you to be careful how you dress.
Picture 1 caption: The Ferris wheel at the Prater
Picture 2 caption: Gloriette (Schönbrunn Palace Garden)
Middle box: When night falls, take the underground (U6) for Meidling Station. If you’re taking a night train for Vienna, there’s a EuroNight train that departs from this station around midnight, and you will arrive in Munich around 6:00 the next morning. There, you will transfer to the TGV for Strasbourg. (I believe Youko Touma used the Orient Express in the story, but this railway line was discontinued in 2009.)
This night train is the biggest obstacle in Kazusa’s route; as of last year’s timetable, the EuroNight reached Munich at 6:15, and the TGV for Strasbourg departed at 6:28, leaving a mere 13 minutes to make the connection, and on top of that, European trains, as a point of pride, run late once every several days or so, so it is not uncommon to hear “We’ve arrived in Munich, but the connecting train left ten minutes ago.” This is one thing that the traveler cannot do anything to prevent, so just in case it does happen, it would be a good idea to have a conversation handbook with phrases related to such a case stashed away in your luggage.
Regarding the main trains, you can make advance reservations from home for EuroNight through the ÖBB (Austrian Federal Railways) homepage, and for the TGV through the TGV-Europe homepage. For reference, costs during last year’s Christmas season were €79 for the EuroNight (first-class, two-person cabin, berth charge included) and €88.4 for the TGV (first-class), bringing the total train travel cost to €167.4 and total travel time to about 10 hours.
Picture caption: Wien Meidling station platform
Bottom box: When making your reservations, be sure to pay attention to alterations in Europe’s train schedules for the winter. Under usual circumstances, one can make reservations for most railways three months in advance, but because of major alterations that go into effect every year at the start of December, it’s possible that even with three months to go before you board, there won’t be reservations open. There doesn’t even seem to be a clear rule for what day it starts, so I recommend that you be diligent about checking the railway companies’ homepages starting around three months before your trip. (Last year, for a December 22nd EuroNight trip, reservations opened on October 16th.)
Also—this is just my personal sense—the railway homepages are generally written in the local language, but it’s possible to switch to English text, so if you take the time to read and decipher it, it should be more than possible to make your own arrangements.
Regarding my own EuroNight ride, it was a perfectly ordinary night train, so compared with the scenery in game CGs, my impression was somewhat plain. That said, as I had arranged for a first-class cabin, the construction of the bed itself was quite sturdy, with plenty of space to sprawl out and sleep and eat frozen mandarins (if you can’t freeze them yourself at the hotel, you can compromise with normal temperature ones). Since you’ve come this far, why not take it Youko-san style?
I’ve rambled on a lot here, but this is the basic gist of the itinerary I followed for Kazusa’s route last year. I believe there are even more planning to do this pilgrimage this year, so I pray that everyone’s trips will be a success, including the sort of chance meeting that led me to participate in this book as a guest.
Author: Dejima no Hito (twitter: @dejimacom)
Picture caption: Mandarins can be purchased at local supermarkets.
Header: Setsuna & Haruki’s Route or Kazusa’s Route: Which Will You Choose?
Pink map text: Setsuna & Haruki’s Route
Blue map text: Kazusa’s Route
Bottom left box: Setsuna & Haruki’s Route
I believe Setsuna and Haruki’s route from Paris, as I’ve introduced it here, could be recommended to those who can’t take an especially long trip for work or other reasons, or who are traveling abroad for the first time. As a matter of fact, this pilgrimage was my own first solo trip abroad. On top of that, I was working under the constraints of a five-day, three-night trip, and I wanted to enjoy France as fully as I could, and then I hit upon an extraordinarily simple idea—“If you want France, go to Paris!” And if that meant I could follow the same route as in the game, well, there was no reason not to choose it.
As such a prominent sightseeing spot within the world at large, Paris naturally draws its fair share of tourists from Japan as well, and you should be able to do plenty of preliminary investigating from home, with travel guides, magazines, and so on.
Once you reach Paris, you can get to Strasbourg in a matter of hours, whether by plane or by train, so one option to consider might be taking some time in Paris to recover from the long flight from Japan, then heading to Strasbourg fully ready.
I’ve digressed a bit, but whenever you find yourself leaving Paris, I hope you can fully savor your journey to Strasbourg, turning your thoughts to the Coda tale that’s about to begin.
Bottom right box: Kazusa’s Route
I feel that the biggest appeal of Kazusa’s route may be the sheer amount of fantasizing one can do with it. Between the end of IC and the point in CC when she temporarily comes back to Japan, between that and the beginning of Coda, and following each of the route endings in Coda, while we don’t have any concrete information within the story of how Haruki and Kazusa spent their time there, we do know that they did spend it, which really makes the entire city a holy ground, in a way. It’s basically free real estate for generating short stories in your head. On the other hand, the biggest drawback may be that, when you’re planning your itinerary, options are pretty limited. There aren’t as many flights available as there would be for Paris, and the transfer from the night train relies upon the luck factor of the train arriving on schedule, so it’s not suited for short, tightly-packed itineraries, and may be better suited for those who can plan their trips with a certain amount of wiggle room. Also, if you want to limit travel expenses, you may end up sharing a room with a local traveler on the night train, so some nerve-toughening may be necessary. As I’m writing this, the degree of difficulty with this trip seems high, but you can acquire a floor plan of the station in advance as a PDF, and you can check train arrival and departure times with a mobile app, so as long as you’re careful and thorough in your preparation, you’ll probably find that things work out. (*Take this advice at your own risk)
To conclude, I believe that traveling overseas for a pilgrimage based on a work of media that you like is a rare and valuable experience.
Go with all your love for Kazusa in your heart.
*no Japanese text
Top label: 1. Strasbourg Station
Locations TL-TR: Stationfront plaza
Place de l’Homme de Fer
Bottom location: École Nationale d’Administration
Bottom left label: Rue Adolphe Seyboth (see column)
Bottom right label: 3. Petite France
Top left label: 2. Kleber Square
Top right label: 5. Hôtel Régent Contades
Locations TL-TR: Saint Leon Square
Place de la République
St. Paul’s Church
Middle location: Opéra national du Rhin
Bottom location: Strasbourg Cathedral
Map title: Strasbourg Pilgrimage Map
Bottom label: 4. Rue des Orfèvres
Header: Strasbourg Pilgrimage Spots
Top box: 1. Strasbourg Station
Address: 20 Place de la Gare, 67000
The setting of the beginning of Coda, and the gateway to the land of Strasbourg. The scene in which Kazusa finds Haruki left an extraordinarily deep impression. It’s an interesting structure, a magnificent old station building with a glass dome over the top.
Middle box: 2. Kleber Square, part 1
Address: Place Kleber, 67000
This location is seen behind Kazusa when she and Haruki reunite. The view is almost unchanged from the in-game CG, and it is absolutely worth a look.
Bottom box: 2. Kleber Square, part 2
The place where Haruki and Setsuna planned to meet up. Originally, the idea was to go to Christmas Mass at the nearby cathedral after meeting here…
Incidentally, this Christmas tree is apparently the largest in Europe. It was even more stunning up close. (Only set up at Christmastime)
Header: Strasbourg Pilgrimage Spots
Top box: 3. Petite France (Le Lohkäs)
Address: 25 Rue du Bain-aux-Plantes, 67000
The model for the package art of the PS3 Premium Edition. There are many medieval streets and buildings remaining in this area, and you may find yourself feeling as though you had just wandered into the world of the Middle Ages.
Middle box: 4. Rue des Orfèvres
Address: 26 Rue des Orfèvres, 67000
The model for the title screen that will be familiar to any who have played White Album 2. When I played IC, I had no idea that this was an image of Strasbourg. The Golden Goose is a landmark.
Bottom box: 5. Hôtel Régent Contades
Address: 8 Avenue de la Liberté, 67000
The model for the exterior of the hotel where Haruki stayed. It’s a four-star hotel, and its interior and service were both flawless. The Cour du Corbeau, which Haruki mentioned to the driver, also exists in real life, but its exterior appearance differs.
Header: Pilgrimage Column: Strasbourg
Top box: It all began with a single game magazine
In February of 2012, a certain game magazine was released. That magazine contained a round-table discussion with Fumiaki Maruto, Naoya Shimokawa, and Takeshi Nakamura, commemorating the release of Closing Chapter. The conversation covered many extraordinarily interesting topics, such as their official views on Kazusa’s ending and the inside story on Coda, but among them was a heading that caught my eye: “We recommend this year for a pilgrimage.” “If you want to fully experience moments from the story, this year [winter of 2012) is the time.” “You won’t find a pilgrimage with a higher threshold than this.” And so on… With the wording they used, they may as well have come right out and said, “Do it.” The fact that the “holy land” in question was in a foreign country almost 10,000 kilometers from Japan was already a pretty high barrier, but on top of that, there was a specifically designated timeframe for it—all in all, it was pretty brutal. However, when the reunion scene with Kazusa in Strasbourg and the shock of Coda came to my mind, I found myself strongly compelled to experience it at the same time and in the same place as in the story, and before I knew it, I had started working to sort out travel expenses and vacation time.
(Quotes taken from the March, 2012 edition of GameMaga)
Bottom box: The album’s blank spaces
I believe there was one entry on the Strasbourg Pilgrimage Map with “see column” written beneath. This is, unfortunately, a place that I was unable to find during my own pilgrimage (Dejima no Hito-san found it after I returned). It’s a street called Rue Adolphe Seyboth, and it’s used as a model for the background behind the character portraits in the Strasbourg metropolitan area. Beyond that, there are other points I was unable to confirm during my pilgrimage—for example, the Hôtel Régent Petite France, thought to be the model for the interior of the hotel where Haruki stayed. I urge everyone who undertakes this pilgrimage in the future to fill all the blank spaces in the album, and I myself would like to retry at some point.
Picture caption: Régent Petite France
Top box: Walking around the city
As the capital of the Alsace region, Strasbourg itself boasts a certain scale. However, most of the pilgrimage spots and tourist attractions are located on the Grand Île in the midst of the Ill River (roughly 2 kilometers around), and in general, going on foot is the main mode of travel. In addition, there are trams running within the city, which I recommend if you want to go somewhere a little further away. There are different types of tickets, including single-ride and 24-hour unlimited ride passes, so you can find the one that best suits your needs.
As a small digression, the Strasbourg Cathedral is very much worth seeing. The Christmas Mass that Setsuna talked about wanting to attend in the story is held here, and above all, you’re sure to be overwhelmed by its grandeur!
Picture caption: Strasbourg Cathedral
Bottom box: A place for WA2 fans to gather?
If you look closely at the packaging for the PS3 premium edition of the game, you may notice a sign that reads “Lohkäs” right near Setsuna’s head. As a matter of fact, that is the sign of a French restaurant that actually exists (see Pilgrimage Spot #3 for the location). Dejima no Hito-san and I went together to enjoy their limited Christmas menu in commemoration of our pilgrimages. The price was a little on the high end at €42, but we greatly enjoyed traditional French Christmas dishes, such as foie gras and guineafowl.
The atmosphere inside the restaurant was very low-key, allowing one to simply enjoy one’s food and wine, so if you go in a group, I advise you to keep that in mind.
Picture caption: Lohkäs exterior
Header: Massively popular (in a certain corner of the world)! White Album 2
Second Edition Special Round Table Discussion
Interviewer: Asukake @asukakeng
Text: Meeting by chance & aiming for maximum cringiness
<The two of you came to Strasbourg by different routes. Did your linking up there go well?>
Dejima no Hito: About that, our meeting up there was actually by complete coincidence. (laughs) We were mutuals on Twitter before we left on our respective trips, but we didn’t really have plans to meet up or anything like that.
Meister: Yes, [Dejima-san] did start following me shortly before I left, and at that point I simply thought, “Oh, there’s someone who’s doing the same thing as I am.”
D: Right. I hadn’t imagined that there would be anyone other than me who would take the challenge from that specific GameMaga interview so directly and actually act on it. (laughs)
M: (laughs) So, when we arrived there, we did exchange information now and then, but even within all of that, it never really led to any discussion of meeting up.
D: We were both fully engrossed in just walking around at that point. So, how were we able to run into each other? …It came down to a Kazusa tote bag. (laughs)
M: Within Dejima-san’s tweets from Strasbourg was one that remarked, “A Kazusa tote bag probably stands out a bit in a foreign country,” and that stuck with me.
D: I’d been carrying it around ever since I left from Haneda Airport.
M: It was nighttime on Christmas Eve, right near Kleber Square. I was wandering around, and suddenly a Kazusa tote bag leapt into my field of vision! I went, “Hang on!”, and “the first time I spoke” to another tourist in Strasbourg…
D: I did indeed “turn to” [Meister-san].
M: The Kazusa tote bag was so dazzling that I couldn’t look straight at it. (laughs)
D: Here I was walking around downtown Strasbourg, and I heard someone call out in Japanese—I was like, “Wait, Japanese…?” And it turned out I was the one being addressed, and by a fellow pilgrim, at that. The instrumental version of “After All” was playing in my head. (laughs)
<That’s amazing! Incidentally, what happened once you met up?>
M: It was like we were soul mates from the moment we met. As fellow fools of the sort who would travel all the way to Strasbourg for a pilgrimage, we immediately opened up to each other and went to get dinner.
D: Yeah, honestly, when I first met Meister-san, I also thought, “Ah, this person is the same kind of fool as I am.” (laughs)
Initial determination from Route choices
<I see. So there wasn’t really any arrangement beforehand, each of you just decided on your own to go to Strasbourg. That’s some pretty impressive motivation! By the way, at what point was it that you first started thinking about doing these pilgrimages and making plans?>
D: I think I went into action pretty immediately after reading that GameMaga issue. It came out in January or February of 2012, so within whichever month it was, I went to my boss and said I wanted to take a vacation at the end of the year. My boss was pretty surprised that I would bring up an end-of-year vacation at the beginning of the year. (laughs)
M: As for me, I also sort of vaguely made up my mind to take a trip right after I read that interview, but it wasn’t until a good bit later that I firmed anything up. Whether I would be able to take a vacation was uncertain, so I was agonizing over it until August or September. Around that point, it was settled that I could take a vacation in December, and I finally started making plans for flights and lodging and things around September and October. Though, at that point in the year, making hotel reservations was tricky. I got caught in the last-minute rush.
D: This was going to be my first time going abroad on my own. Though I never imagined it would be because of a game! So, I first went to a travel agency in March, but I guess it was too early, and they weren’t taking consultations for end-of-year travel plans. Ultimately, I bought my plane tickets around June.
M: I also got my flights through a travel agency. But I made my own hotel reservations online.
Text: D: Setsuna’s route goes through Paris, and with that being a pretty major itinerary for France, getting it set up through a travel agency might be easy. But Kazusa’s route requires taking a night train, which makes it a little unusual. (laughs)
Everything was for the Pilgrimage
<Did you both have travel agencies handle travel insurance?>
D: If I’d paid with my credit card, it would have brought insurance with it, but the travel agency I was working with only dealt in cash. After that, it occurred to me that I shouldn’t leave absolutely everything up to the travel agency, so I arranged everything myself. I looked up insurance companies that did damage insurance, and by entering the place I was going and the number of days, I was able to go through the whole process online, including getting an estimate.
M: After getting my plane tickets, I went ahead and entered the travel insurance handled by that travel agency. I didn’t know much about travel insurance, so I figured talking to an agent before I decided would help me feel more at ease about it.
D: The details and monetary amounts of guarantees can vary a lot, so if you can handle the arrangements on your own, it might be best to pick and choose what you need and how much.
<So, when did you start thinking about foreign currency exchange?>
D: The Euro was less expensive last year (2012) than it is this year (2013), so I did my currency exchange domestically in advance, but I also didn’t know much about public safety in Strasbourg. Around October, I exchanged just as much as I thought I needed to avoid getting into trouble.
M: I also exchanged just as much as I thought I would need to be comfortable, at a domestic bank, around a month before my departure. It was around 50,000 yen. I had already paid for my plane tickets, so my biggest on-location spending was going to be on hotels and the TGV, but I knew that I could look those up and pay for them in advance by credit card. I mainly used my European currency on food, traveling short distances on the metro, and the like.
D: I exchanged about 30,000 to start with. I had also paid for the night train and all of that from home in advance, and I was scared of carrying around too much money at once. I think paying in advance whenever possible helped a lot.
M: It helps cut down on rushing around once you’ve reached your destination.
The TGV: advance reservations vs. just leaping in
D: Also, regarding making reservations online from home, there’s a lot you can do with Google Translate. (laughs)
M: Ah. (laughs)
D: I made my TGV reservations from home, but I can’t read any English, so I had no idea what first-class and second-class cabins were. I just threw everything into the translator and carefully clicked my way through the reservation process.
M: I skipped making my reservation before I went, but I had completely underestimated the chaos of the TGV in Christmas season. The train that I had initially looked up and planned to ride was completely sold out of seats.
D: Oh, boy.
M: The very last train from Paris to Strasbourg that day had a single first-class seat left. I was ready to go, so I just went, “Sure, I’ll take it,” and rode first-class. (laughs)
D: How bold. (laughs)
M: So, in general, I think making your reservations online before you leave will give you better certainty. You can also get discounts that way.
D: It’s kind of like getting plane tickets in Japan. They’ll be cheaper if you buy them early, but you also can’t cancel them later.
M: At any rate, there were a whole lot of people going from Paris to Strasbourg for Christmas. The daytime trains there were almost completely packed, and I was miraculously able to board one at a weird hour of the night. So I definitely recommend getting tickets in advance for that kind of thing.
D: Definitely. In the pages I wrote about Kazusa’s route, I talked a little about changes in Europe’s train schedules in winter, so you can refer to that as well.
Unofficial opinions of the GameMaga interview
<I imagine it’s important to get communication equipment, like a cell phone, to help avoid getting into trouble while abroad. What did you do in that realm?>
D: I used rental Wi-Fi. I paid for it before my departure, and I picked it up in the airport before I left Japan.
M: My own smartphone was compatible for overseas use, so I used a fixed-amount data packet service. I think that sort of thing changes depending on your itinerary and way of using it, though.
D: Right. I looked up whether I could use my own phone abroad, just to see, but in my case, my itinerary was longer on account of my travel through countries other than France. I compared the two options, and though there’s an initial expense for rental Wi-Fi, the longer you use it, the more cost-effective it becomes.
Text: On top of that, I took my tablet computer with me, so rental Wi-Fi wound up being my choice for using both of them. There is a drawback, though. If you’re going through several different countries like I did, the equipment you use for rental Wi-Fi changes, so while the rental fee itself doesn’t change, you do end up with more stuff to lug around. (laughs) Also, I had to pay attention to the Wi-Fi’s battery.
M: As for me, I made my decision because my stay abroad was comparatively short at three days, and more importantly, because the lack of advance preparations necessary was appealing. (laughs) On the flip side, it you accidentally connect to an unaffiliated mobile phone company while you’re there, the fixed-amount service won’t apply, and you’ll find yourself with a hefty bill when you get back.
D: Well, in any case, it’s essential that you have a setup that will allow you to communicate at any time.
M: Right. The relief of being able to look things up online whenever you’re in a pinch is hard to deny.
<Now, regarding luggage, how much did the two of you take on your trips?>
D: I went light—a small suitcase and a Boston bag that I could take with me on the plane. My particular route had eating frozen mandarins on the night train as a major event, and if I had too much to carry with me at that time it would make things that much more difficult to manage, so I tried to keep it as compact as possible. I figured I could buy anything I was missing once I got there.
M: I took a large suitcase (about hip-height standing up) and a small Boston bag that I could take with me when walking around town. I figured better to go too big than too small, and I was also taking careful measures against the cold.
D: There’s some room left for this year, right?
M: Hm? What do you mean?
D: Well, when we went, it was right after the PS3 edition had come out. It was tough, trying to make enough space for the Premium Edition with all its packaging. (laughs)
M: My suitcase was pretty big, so I did have room, but I guess it was more difficult for Dejima-san. (laughs)
D: And this one wanted to take the PS3 itself, too. Why don’t you give us all the details that led you to give that up?
M: No, no, I don’t think anyone would seriously try to do that. (laughs)
German vs. French
<What did you do when it came to communication abroad?>
D: I mainly relied on gesturing and broken English. I learned almost no French. I was pretty much okay in my hotel, but out in town it was a struggle.
M: I did basically the same thing as Dejima-san. The only French phrase I learned before I left was “Please take me to the Hotel Cour du Corbeau.” I practiced it plenty of times so that I could say it as smoothly as Haruki-kun.
D: You probably said it to the guy driving the taxi with a big grin on your face. (laughs)
M: Yep. (laughs) Well, I wasn’t able to say anything beyond that, so when it came to using taxis in other cases, I generally just pointed to the place on Google Maps. “Merci” was also extremely handy.
D: Indeed. If I just said “Merci” with a smile, things tended to work out. (laughs)
M: And the people there will make an effort to understand what you’re saying, so it’s important to try your best to put your point across, without being shy.
A pilgrimage record to be imitated?
<Next, are there any points to keep in mind when it comes to spending time over there, particularly with a focus on safety?>
D: I was mindful of luggage theft on the night train, and pickpockets when walking around town. Of course, even before that, I took the minimum security precautions that you find in travel guides. Also, regarding Strasbourg itself, it was extremely lively for Christmas, but I didn’t get the impression that that made public safety any worse.
M: Yeah. I actually got the sense that public safety was pretty good, but I think one should always err on the side of caution when in a foreign country. It’s important to keep in mind at all times that this place is different from Japan.
D: What did you do about your passport, by the way?
M: I had it with me at all times—I put it in a passport holder that I wore around my neck, and kept it under my clothes so no one else could see it. I kept my cards and large bills in there, too, rather than in my wallet.
Text: D: Good point. If you keep it in a bag or something while you’re walking around, then you’ll be hopelessly stuck if someone steals it. There might be a few other ways of managing all of that, so I think it’s a good idea to prepare very carefully before you leave.
M: Right. This is all done at your own risk, so if you do decide to take a pilgrimage, you should pay close attention.
Beyond the pilgrimage
<You never know what’s going to happen when you’re abroad, so you should be thorough in your safety measures. Now, for the next question, what did you eat while you were there?>
D: I imagine most of the people reading this are thinking of going at Christmastime. I touched on this a bit in my route explanation, but at this time of year, there are Christmas markets open in major cities throughout Europe. It’s the same for Strasbourg, with tons of street stalls, so it’s fairly simple to buy food, I think.
M: You can find anything from fast food like hotdogs and French fries to hot soup, so you shouldn’t have too much trouble. Apart from that, if you can, since you’ve come all this way for your trip, it might be nice to find a local restaurant or café where you can relax and enjoy your meal.
D: Very true. It might be tempting to shy away from it for fear of not being able to read the menu, but try it out with Google Translate or a dictionary. I think you’ll find it’s well worth it.
M: Strasbourg’s character is a mix of German and French cultures, so of course you can find French cuisine, but also German-style potatoes and sausages. You can enjoy a bit of both.
D: For those who like alcohol, you have German beer and French wine in the same place, so I recommend trying them both! There were a few bottles in the hotel fridge, but if you want to see more of a variety, you’ve got to visit this place called Le Village de la Bière near the cathedral! You can find it by plugging the name into Google Maps! This fantastic beer-only establishment is waiting for YOU!! (*Note: quite tipsy at this point)
M: Alcohol prices are quite cheap compared to Japan. Just be careful not to drink too much. (laughs)
Recommendations for this year
<Finally, do you have any messages for those who are considering going on a pilgrimage of their own?>
D: I already mentioned this in my submission to the Club Radio show, but the impression I got was that Christmas in Strasbourg is completely different from Christmas in Japan. It really changed my view of things. My aim was to take a pilgrimage based on a game I love, but above that, there was a certain type of culture shock to walking around European streets in person. My hope is for people to walk all through the city, not just the spots that showed up in the game, and dream about how Kazusa, Haruki, and Setsuna might have walked around the city themselves. I think you’ll enjoy it.
M: Just as a certain GameMaga interview gave us the push to take our pilgrimages, perhaps there are a few commendable persons who might consider taking pilgrimages of their own with this guidebook’s influence. There are sights that can only be seen at Christmas, so I urge you to take the challenge at that time of year!
Header: Major Domestic Pilgrimage Spots
Top left box: Yurikamome Shinbashi Station
It doesn’t appear super frequently, but this is the station where Haruki transferred when on the way to meet Setsuna at Arumi (Odaiba) in the common route of CC.
Top right box: JR Airport Building 2 Station
Appears at the end of IC on the way to the airport. It’s possible to get to the airport by other lines, but if you want to take the same Narita Express as in the game, this is the place.
Bottom left box: Nagano Electric Railway Snow Monkey
Inside the Narita Express that Haruki and Setsuna took to the airport. The cars that match the scene have been converted, and at present belong to the Nagano Electric Railway.
Bottom right box: Narita Airport Terminal 2 Observation Deck
Haruki stands, watching Kazusa’s plane in a daze as it takes her away from Japan, while Setsuna embraces him from behind. This is a fair match for that CG.
Header: Major Domestic Pilgrimage Spots
Top left box: JR Shinjuku Station East Exit
The exit for Alta and Kabuki-cho, which appears in the game as Onjuku Station. Looking at this view makes one unconsciously want to gather living supplies, or look for a phone booth.
Top right box: Narita Airport Terminal 2
Mainly shows up in the last scene of IC and in Mari’s departure scene, but the impression is most overwhelmingly left by the end of IC. The transition from this scene to “Todokanai koi” should be considered foul play.
Bottom left box: Shinjuku Central Park
The scene with Setsuna shouting and crying in the common route was extremely painful to watch. The CG shows the Tokyo Government Office, but the angle is different, so one couldn’t say it was exactly the same.
Word balloon: All of these places left deep impressions, huh… Let’s hope the anime will provide even more pilgrimage spots!
Text: Thank you for reading this far. The content was a little slapdash, but maybe some of the appeal in making a White Album 2 pilgrimage, starting with Strasbourg, came across?
First of all, I want to express my deep gratitude to Dejima no Hito-san and Ayasaka-san, who helped me enormously with this reprint. The fact that we were able to connect in this way again is thanks to the existence of the game known as White Album 2. I thank everyone who brought this game into the world, from all of the staff at Leaf and Aquaplus to all the rest who took part in its production, with the whole of my heart.
Now, I’ve gotten a little formal here, but I’d like to talk a bit about what’s to come. I started my doujin work solely to produce this pilgrimage guidebook, so for the time being, my work ends here. Supposing Coda also gets an anime adaptation, and the number of pilgrimage spots increases starting from Strasbourg, maybe, just maybe, we’ll meet again in this form. In any case, I’ll be praying that the Introductory Chapter anime that starts in October is a hit, and continuing to support this work wholeheartedly.
Lastly, to anyone who’s reading at this moment and thinking of going to Strasbourg (if there are any of you)—I close with a prayer that your trip will be both safe and marvelous.
Publishing info: White Album 2 Pilgrimage Guidebook
Author: Meister Twitter ID: meisterquality
Date published: August 11th, 2013
Guest contribution & collaboration: Dejima no Hito
Twitter ID: dejimacom
Illustration: Ayasaka Twitter ID: ayayayasaka
Pixiv ID: 35137