Kashihara City: Nara’s Very Own Street Fighter Stage

Wondering about the meaning of the title for this blog? Well, let me address this riddle by throwing a question your way: would you call yourself a video game fan with a further interest in visiting beautiful, yet relatively “undiscovered” areas of Japan? If you answered “yes” (or “no” is fine too, really) you may want to open up some space in your travel plans to check out the city of Kashihara, where the famous video game / pop culture story of  “Street Fighter” is now being celebrated through the creation of numerous pieces of fun artwork around town.

So what is the connection between a city in Nara and this game which has garnered worldwide renown for over 3 decades?  Well, the founder of Capcom (the company which makes Street Fighter), Tsujimoto Kenzo, was born right here in Nara’s 2nd largest city, and is now working in cooperation with his home town to promote the area through the amazing art his company has produced.





What is Street Fighter?

For the uninitiated, “Street Fighter” is fighting game based around the concept of different fictional characters from countries all around the world squaring off with each other using various fighting styles (somewhat) linked to actual martial arts. It is no exaggeration to say some of these characters and their signature styles and moves can now be considered iconic — from the “hadoken” fireball of characters like Ryu and Ken, to the “sonic boom” of Guile, it is probably no exaggeration to say that you could go almost anywhere in the world and find comradery in expressing these concepts with someone. Don’t know how to bridge the language barrier while traveling? Mime throwing a hadoken fireball (see photo below) with your hands while saying “hadoken” and watch as everyone’s eye’s sparkle with recognition! You may be considered a bit odd after this, but at least you’ll have (hopefully) found something in common.


The Street Fighter character Ryu doing the classic hadoken fireball move in a mural next to Yamato-Yagi Station. Position yourself (or a loved one) under the “you” life bar for a fun photo of someone about to get clobbered by a molten ball of energy.  The real historic Fujiwara Palace Ruins Site, upon which this is based, is also located not far from the mural.


A manhole cover near Yamato-Yagi Station depicting the Steet Fighter character “Chun-Li.”


I’d like to think Kashihara being host to displays of Street Fighter art makes it a more interesting and welcoming place to visit, and it contributes to a landscape with an already long tradition of cultural creation. The heavily muscled and expressive characters of Street Fighter don’t seem too far off in design from the fierce Buddhist guardian “Nio” deities found in many of Nara’s ancient local temples; in fact it seems like they could fit in a Street Fighter character selection screen, or perhaps even the other way around — I’m sure characters like Akuma (who literally has been depicted in media dressed like a Nio and a yamabushi) would fit right in as a temple guardians. All jesting aside, it is clear to see that the aesthetics of Street Fighter (and other capcom fighting games) have taken inspiration from Japanese traditional art in both stage and character design throughout the years, so it indeed seems fitting that Street Fighter should now find a home in the southern Nara Basin — the birthplace of Japan and the mind who helped create the franchise itself.


Statue of the Street Fighter character Ryu in front of Kashihara Navi Plaza.



Example of a Nio guardian deity at Horyu-ji Temple in Nara. These fierce icons can be found at many temples throughout the country.

Where can you see the art?

Currently, the majority of the artwork is based around Yamato-Yagi Station, an important crossroads point for transportation with routes connecting to different regions in all four directions.  A mural of depicting Street Fighter characters at different places in Kashihara can be found to the north of the station gate – in the summer time, this area gets especially lively, with crowds of students, street musicians, and skateboarders practicing tricks. Golden statues of the iconic characters “Ryu” and “Chun Li” can be found in front of Kashihara Navi Plaza and the City Hall, respectively (both within a few minutes walk of the front gate of the station). Further displays include Street Fighter-themed manhole covers along the sidewalk and banners on streetlights. Kashihara City isn’t stopping there though, with plans for 2 more statues of characters now in the planning stages.




Street Fighter-themed mural next to Yamato-yagi Station in Kashihara City.



What’s nearby?

Want to make a day of visiting this part of Nara? Well that is a great idea! This region of Nara is packed full of fascinating history, and you can rent a bicycle from Kashihara Navi Plaza to go and check everything out with ease.

Nearby sightseeing spots (all can be reasonably accessed by bicycle) include:

Imai-cho Town: Edo period merchant town with the largest amount of preserved buildings from that time located in one place

Fujiwara-kyo Palace Site: The heart of Japan’s first planned Imperial City. It is especially popular during the spring and fall seasons for the amazingly beautiful fields of canola and cosmos.

Ofusa-Kannon Temple: temple built and looked after by local people which features seasonal festivals of roses and wind chime displays.

Kashihara-jingu Shrine: Built to enshrine the first legendary Emperor of Japan (Jinmu) and his wife (Ahiratsu). Features beautiful wide open spaces and long walkways through forest similar to that of Tokyo’s Meiji Shrine.

Omiwa Shrine: Known as Japan’s oldest shrine, here Mt. Miwa is worshiped directly as it is considered the body of the god.

This being the center of Kashihara City, there are also numerous shops and restaurants to tie the bow on a great overall place to visit for sightseeing.


To conclude, it won’t be much longer until Street Fighter becomes a 40-year-old franchise that a huge chunk of the population of the world has grown up with or at least experienced on the periphery. Art is important part of human existence and having such an internationally recognized part of pop culture infuse its art into the cityscape here feels nice. Why not come check it all out for yourself?


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