Japan is slowly opening up as a tourism-oriented country and it has recently relaxed the Visa requirements for three South East Asian countries, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Vietnam. Its goal of attracting 20 Million visitors by the 2020 Olympics may be coming to a reality because of its recently enacted tourism policies.
One of the biggest tourist draws for Japan is of course, its unique culture which is a unique mix of ancient tradition and modern culture. Rising from this unique blend of traditional and modern is the otaku subculture which centers around anime, mangas, and video games, and this very subculture has spread all over the world, attracting millions of visitors to the country. In other words, anime tourism is BIG in the country, so big that an anime pilgrimage guidebook has even been published.
We take a look at ten of these anime hot spots and rank them. Here is SGCafe’s list of the Top 10 places anime fans should visit whenever in Japan:
10) J World, Tokyo
Believe it or not, there is actually a theme park dedicated to Japan’s most well known shounen manga magazine, Weekly Shounen Jump!, and it is known as J World. This indoor theme park celebrates the magazine’s various titles from Dragon Ball Z, Naruto, and One Piece, to Haikyuu, Kuroko’s Basketball and Hunter X Hunter. You can enjoy a variety of activities from eating a variety of Jump!-inspired food like the Majin-buu Buns to riding through the world of One Piece. J World can be found at the third floor of the Sunshine City World Import Mart in Ikebukuro, Tokyo and is open from 10:00 am until 10:00 pm.
9) Toyosato Elementary School, Shiga Prefecture
Used as a basis for Sakuragaoka High School, which is the school moe anime K-On!’s characters go to, Toyosato Elementary School‘s old school building has become a major anime tourism spot ever since the anime first aired back in 2006. It has been used by fans to celebrate the birthdays of their favorite K-On! characters as well as to hold cosplay photo shoots.
8) Dogo Onsen, Ehime Prefecture
When in Japan, hot springs, or onsen, are a must and what better way for an anime fan to relax than in the very place Yubaba’s bath house from Spirited Away is based on, which is the Dogo Onsen in Ehime Prefecture. The place has gotten a surge of visitors from outside Japan ever since the Academy Award-winning anime movie was first shown.
7) Iwami town, Totori Prefecture
This picturesque Japanese small town may be centered around fishing and hot springs, but thanks to Free!, it has now become a major anime tourism venue. The town has somehow embraced the abtastic swimming anime as it even offers up some Free! maps to guide tourists to where the important scenes in the anime took place. The town also sells several Free! merchandise (which are not free by the way) like key chains and postcards.
6) Chichibu City, Saitama
When the anime AnoHana first aired, the city of Chichibu in Saitama was suddenly thrust into the spotlight, all thanks to the anime. Several key locations around the city has been frequented by AnoHana fans who have greatly contributed to the city’s tourism income. Its most famous spot is the Chichiburu Bridge which has been featured in many of the anime’s visuals and posters.
5) Washimiya, Saitama
Even after a few years, Washimiya is still one of the biggest anime tourism hot spots in all of Japan, and its momentum thanks to Lucky Star does not seem to be slowing down. The area has been so much involved in anime tourism that a Lucky ☆ Star mikoshi (portable shrine) is used every single year since 2008 during the Haji Festival which is held at the Washinomiya Shrine where the Hiiragi twins serve as shrine maidens. The shrine itself has gotten a lot of visitors thanks to the anime, and it has recently topped 470,000 visitors for New Year’s Visit (Hatsumode) alone.
4) Oarai, Ibaraki Prefecture
Of there is any town that can top Washimiya’s dedication to anime, it would be the small coastal town of Oarai in Ibaraki Prefecture. In this small Japanese town, Girls und Panzer reigns as king and many of the citizens in town have practically embraced the anime as the town’s Angler Fish Festival has gotten a huge Girls und Panzer theme ever since the anime forst aired in 2012. The annual autumn event has even gathered more than 100,000 visitors, and Girls und Panzer has been attributed as the main reason for this. The town also regularly hosts birthday parties for some of the Girls und Panzer characters like Miho Nishizumi and Hana Isuzu. Like Iwami, a guided map for the anime’s hot spots has also been made.
3) Odaiba, Tokyo
From the Fuji TV Building which airs anime such as One Piece to the massive 18 meter life-size RX-78-2 Gundam, Odaiba is an anime fan’s paradise. This man-made island is home to several hot spots, including the Tokyo Big Sight which has gained notoriety as the home of the bi-annual otaku extravaganza known as Comiket. It is also home to Diver City Odaiba where both Gundam museum known as Gundam Front Tokyo and the life-size Gundam can be found. You can also cross the beautiful Rainbow Bridge, which is considered an anime pilgrimage site for Digimon fans. Odaiba is also holy ground for Love Live! fans as its finale was also performed in the island.
2) Otome Road, Ikebukuro, Tokyo
Otome Road is considered the Fujoshi capital of the world as it features shops and restaurants dedicated or themed with yaoi or Boys’ Love (BL). It has so many BL merchandise that the Japanese have nicknamed Otome Road as “Fujoshi Street”. As Akihabara is considered by fujoshis as the “male otaku capital”, Otome Road is considered as the “female otaku capital” as it not only caters to yaoi fans, but also more female-oriented non-BL series.
Also known as “Electric City”, “Electric Town”, “Akiba”, or as OreImo’s Kirino would put it, A-Ki-Ha-Ba-Raaaaaaaaaaaaaa, this otaku hot spot is the undisputed capital for many anime fans around the world. Known for its various electronic shops, Akiba has become THE top destination for many foreign anime fans as it features several shops selling mangas, doujinshis, sound tracks, figures, and many other anime merchandise. The area is also famous for the various maid cafes which are not only popular towards men, but women as well. It is home to the Tokyo Anime Center where a life-size Hatsune Miku will greet you as you enter, as well as several iconic anime shops like Gamers, Animate, Mandrake, and Tora no Ana. Sundays are special in Akiba as Chuo Dori, the area’s main street, will be closed to traffic allowing for more activities such as cosplay and other events. Akihabara is every anime fan’s dream destination and it was not hard to place it at the very top of our list.
There you have it, our list of the Top 10 places that anime fans should visit when in Japan. Where do you wanna go when in the land of the rising sun?
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