How does a two room B&B in a tiny village in England become the must-see destination for Japanese tourists? Well, first the Fosse Farmhouse became the setting for one of the most popular anime (animated cartoons) on Japanese TV… then the tourists flocked to see the illustrated rendition in real life.
It seems we’ve missed some steps, right? Here’s how it all happened.
In 1989 Caron Cooper, the owner of Fosse Farmhouse, met Japanese couple Shozo and Yasuko Mitani while selling antiques in London. The Mitani's said they wanted to return to Japan and create an English-themed bed and breakfast. That idea seemed curious to Caron, who invited the couple to her B&B for tea to find out more.
The next day, the Mitani’s arrived at Caron’s 250-year old country farmhouse near Castle Combe and began to laugh uncontrollably. They said that to reach the property was like falling through a tunnel in Alice in Wonderland. Even their tea and scones served under a cherry blossom tree in the garden seemed Alice-esque.
Back in Japan, the Mitani's did indeed open their own English B&B where they chose to display photographs of Fosse Farmhouse in the reception; those photos were spotted by the editor of a popular Japanese ladies magazine called LEE who asked to be introduced to Caron. A month later, LEE’s editorial team arrived in England to interview Caron. A six-page magazine featured ensued, creating huge interest among Japanese women who wanted to stay at the pretty farmhouse.
Fast forward to 2011 when Caron was contacted by a Japanese woman named Yui Hara who wanted to create a manga, a comic book, about a teenage girl named Alice who lived with her parents at Fosse Farmhouse in the Cotswolds. The premise was that Alice had a best friend living in Japan called Shinobu whom she invited to visit in England and stay at her house with her parents. The girls had many adventures including visiting the local village of Castle Combe, walking the dog, and going for a drive with Alice's father in Caron’s vintage 1954 Morris Minor car.
The Manga of Kiniro-Mosaic, also known as Kinmoza, became really popular among young professionals between the ages of 18 - 60. In 2012 an animation studio decided to make the stories into an animated TV series. “To do this they asked the author where the idea came from and she directed them to me,” explained Caron. “The cameraman and director came here and filmed me non-stop for three days looking after guests, cooking an English breakfast and baking scones in the AGA, walking the dog, etc.
"The film is then returned to the animation studio in Tokyo where 400 anime artists copy each frame and by hand draw every detail of my inn. From the tablecloths to the bed spreads, every single detail is identical.” The experience of watching the TV show Kinmoza was surreal.
“When I first saw the TV series it was unbelievable as every detail has been reproduced in animation. I absolutely love it as it is so realistic,” said Caron. That said, some of the storyline does deviate from her own life. For instance, in the series Caron appears as Alice’s mother and in the show she’s also married. “Although I do not have a husband in real life they have given me a rather handsome husband in the anime which was very nice.”
Caron said the fans who visit are super fans and already know the B&B very well. Caron estimates at least half of her guests come from Japan. She’s even had Japanese text on her website since she built her online presence. “I have had Japanese guests staying pre-internet when the Mitani's recommended their guests to stay here. I thought that it would be essential for me to include it to help guests whose English was not so strong.”
Interest in the Fosse Farmhouse hit a new all-time high in England just this April when Caron entered the B&B into a contest on the ‘Best B&B Story 2018’ hosted by AA in the UK for member inns. “To my absolute surprise I was chosen as the winner!” said Caron, who was invited to an awards ceremony in London where many media organizations were present. What followed has been a complete whirlwind.
“The general public interest began when my local paper The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald published my winning story on May 10th. Then BBC Radio Wiltshire did an interview with me the following week. Then BBC Points West TV - my local TV station interviewed me and broadcast the piece following the 6pm News. Following which the national TV ITV News and 5News both sent reporters here. The national newspapers all published my story on the same day June 5th. I have also been interviewed recently for the BBC world Service and for Japanese newspapers.”
Next, Caron will be visiting Japan in October to host a series of 'British Afternoon Tea Parties' in Tokyo for fans of KINMOZA! “They usually attend dressed as a character from the animation,” she explained. “I will teach the fans how to bake scones as I do in the animation. I have also been invited to design 'Caron Cooper's Cotswold Garden' for a Japanese architectural firm in their latest housing development in Chiba near Tokyo which is a very exciting opportunity for me.”
To learn more about the Fosse Farmhouse visit https://www.fossefarmhouse.com/