By Amanda Little
Japan has stunning sights to see, from the neon tangle of Tokyo to breathtaking countryside decked in sakura blossoms and shrines. But the big draw for any otaku is the sites focusing on anime. You can follow the anime trail leading you through scenes of your favorite show, but you can also wander through the endless land of anime-made-real at the places below.
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Dogo Onsen • Ehime
Visit the mesmerizing Meiji Period onsen that inspired the majestic bathhouse in Miyazaki’s classic, “Spirited Away.” Dogo Onsen is a stunning attraction with many ryokan and the beautiful wooden bathhouse, which dates back to 1894. The maze of halls, stairs, and rooms are quickly navigated by staff attending to bathers, many of which have been prestigious, like the imperial family! Bathe in history and warm waters while imagining Chihiro and Haku running from Yubaba through its corridors.
Photo by Instagram user @kathleenfly
Animate • Tokyo
Standing proudly in the Akihabara district is the one-stop shop for all anime fans: Animate. Huge posters of anime characters, bright lights, and an eye-catching yellow color scheme stands out to bring all eyes to it. It’s perfect for otakus, anime fans, and offers a menagerie of goods like manga, figures, stationery, posters, and so much more. All anime fans could spend hours exploring this shopping mall of manga, and those looking for a little excitement can head to the floor dedicated to holding events where anime creators and voice characters hold meet and greets. Pick up memorabilia, souvenirs, and maybe meet someone in the business!
Photo by Instagram user @ryotakks
Ghibli Museum • Tokyo
Take a trip down to Totoro Town to visit the amazing Ghibli Museum. Officially called Mitaka Forest Ghibli Museum in Mitaka City, the Ghibli Museum was designed by Hayao Miyazaki himself, with the intention to make the entire building feel like an exhibit itself. Exhibits change throughout the seasons, but there are five rooms with permanent exhibitions, including a very large Totoro to welcome visitors. Here you can see how a film is born, watch original short movies in the theater, purchase artwork, visit the library and art collection room, and more. Revel in all things Miyazaki while exploring his worlds here.
Photo by Instagram user @ayumilk248
J-World • Tokyo
Anime fans with a taste for action will love diving head first into J-World, an indoor theme park dedicated to Naruto, One Piece, and Dragon Ball. Put your ninja skills to the test in Naruto-themed games, set sail for devil fruit with Luffy, or seek out all seven dragon balls for your wish with Goku. Visit the cosplay section of J-World, where you can take the opportunity to dress up as your favorite characters and take photos with scenery and props! After, take a trip down to J-World Kitchen for a fantastic spread of meals, snacks, drinks, and desserts based on manga characters and worlds. Slurp down a bowl of Naruto’s favorite ramen or dig into the loco moco plates seen devoured in Dragon Ball. There may be devil fruit lurking among the stalls, but you’ll have to decide if you want to eat that or not!
Pokémon Center • Tokyo
Poké-fans unite, and be sure to bring along your pokemon! Set foot inside a real Pokémon Center run by Nurse Joy, and all of her identical cousins. Revel in the nostalgia as you make your way through the Poké Center, which is filled with all sorts of pokémon plushies. Enjoy picking up all sorts of poké-goods, from stationary to toys, and even exclusive items you can only find in a Poké Center. Bring your best team to join in the fun in the arena, where other trainers battle one another, or make friends and trade your pokémon to complete your ‘dex. Any anime fan or Pokémon fan will find fun and childhood memories here.
Scrumble Crossing • Shibuya
Catch your breath before braving the Shibuya Scrumble, since it's set right in the center of one of Tokyo’s most colorful district, surrounded by endless entertainment, Shibuya Station, and packed with people. Here you’ll find shopping opportunities, endless cafes and restaurants, swarming nightclubs, and more. This fashion center has made its way to countless anime scenes, and remains a highly popular destination for locals and tourists. Scrumble Crossing offers entertainment for all, so anime fans can see it for themselves, live-action film fans can pick it out of their scenes too, and those just looking to party, eat or shop can find it under the dazzling neon signs adorning Hachiko Exit.
Photo by Instagram user @bigphoo
Nakano Broadway • Tokyo
Nicknamed the Sacred Place of Otaku Culture, Nakano Broadway is an indoor shopping mall dedicated to selling only manga, anime magazines, collectors’ items, figurines, video games, anime, game consoles, idol merchandise, idol CDs and DVDs, novelties, and even more otaku things. The mall has over 100 stores, and while all of them are dedicated to various aspect of the otaku life, they all have specific niches to fill. Mandrake is a store in Nakano Broadway that hosts more than a dozen small shops on its own! Eight-layer ice cream cones are served up in Daily Chico, and even more shops pile on the otaku goodness, from the basement to the top floor.
Photo by Instagram user @subarusama
Character Street • Tokyo
Take it up a notch from Nakano Broadway to Character Street, and entire line of underground stores all selling anime-related merchandise. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to see a special event or special pop-up store in Ichiban Plaza, which is surrounded by Character Street. With over 20 stores, it isn’t the mecca of Nakano Broadway, but it offers more space, unique events you won’t see anywhere else, and is divided by character. For those looking for character specific merch, it makes shopping a breeze. You’ll find this exclusive otaku haven tucked away in the underground section of Tokyo Station, so if you get a little lost follow North Underground Exit signs until you see signs for Character Street.
Tokyo One Piece Tower • Tokyo
You could visit the sacred otaku space, you could explore the hidden anime layer of Tokyo Station, or you could make your love for anime well known by visiting the massive Tokyo Tower. Tokyo Tower is easily a fun sight for anyone, but it’s been overrun by pirates! Join the Mugiwara Crew at the tower, nicknamed Tongari Island, since it’s become the perfect stop for any One Piece fan. Now the tower is filled with places for photos with statues of the characters, fun attractions, themed restaurants, and even a live-action show made to excite and engage all ages. Take note of the themes of each attraction, because each one is based on a different Mugiwara crew member.
Photo by Instagram user @keisazuki
AnimeJapan • Tokyo
If you’re making your way to Japan in March, there’s no way you could miss AnimeJapan. Not only is it a huge draw to anime fans everywhere, it is also the largest anime fair in the world. Wander through endless exhibition booths, admire cosplayers, meet voice characters and creators, find exclusive merchandise, watch performances and concerts, and of course take tons of photos. Be sure to visit the three main stages where the really big events are held, and check out the itinerary to see what your favorite anime is up to!