Have you ever daydreamed about living your life as if you’re in an anime? Considering the many anime and manga I’ve enjoyed, it has always been a dream of mine to visit Japan and to see these places for myself one day.
Fortunately for me, pursuing an opportunity to study in Japan fulfilled both of my dreams at the same time. I wanted to experience what the country has to offer, and at the same time get proficient at the language to improve my skill set. I can now devote some of my free time as an international student visiting otaku-approved tourist attractions all over the country.
Table of contents
- The Best Places To Visit in Japan if You are an Otaku
- 1) Omi Jingu Shrine (Chihayafuru by Yuki Suetsugu)
- 2) Shirokuma Cafe Tokyo (Shirokuma Cafe by Aloha Higa)
- 3) Red Stairs at Yotsuya – Suga Shrine (Kimi no Nawa by Makoto Shinkai)
- 4) Iwami City (Free! by Kyoto animation)
- 5) Yokohama City (Bungo Stray Dogs by Kafka Asagiri)
- 6) Shinjuku Gyoen (Garden of Words by Makoto Shinkai)
The Best Places To Visit in Japan if You are an Otaku
Aside from Akihabara and the Pokemon Center Tokyo, where are some of the top must-visit places in Japan for otakus? Skip the crowded and mainstream spots in Japan, and go for the authentic experience. Here are some of the venues you might want to include in your anime & manga pilgrimage:
1) Omi Jingu Shrine (Chihayafuru by Yuki Suetsugu)
Address: 1-1-1 Jingucho, Otsu, Shiga 520-0015, Japan
Chihayafuru revolves around a high school student Chihaya Ayase, who gets fascinated by and absorbed into the world of karuta, a traditional Japanese card game. She is set to become the Queen (female champion) of karuta. Considering the sport is only played in Japan, becoming the Queen would instantly make her the best in the world.
A major part of the manga and anime series is set in the Omi Jingu shrine, located in Otsu, Shiga Prefecture. Starting from the familiar long staircase leading up to the shrine, fans will definitely enjoy the experience of visiting the revered shrine in real life!
It’s a moment that somehow made me feel like I am in the anime, and trust me, there’s nothing more magical than finally seeing the places that inspired the scenes in person.
I was surprised to see a poster of the anime in the shrine, as well. If you’re looking for a souvenir to commemorate your visit, they also sell Chihayafuru-themed omamori (Japanese amulets).
2) Shirokuma Cafe Tokyo (Shirokuma Cafe by Aloha Higa)
Address: 1F, TOHMA Takadanobaba, 2-1-2, Takadanobaba, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo
Perhaps the cutest anime I’ve ever watched, Shirokuma Cafe offered an interesting glimpse into the everyday lives of a group of animals living with humans. The main scenes of the anime and manga take place in the so-called Shirokuma cafe, which is run by a polar bear.
Most of the cafe ‘regulars’ are cute animals working as the respective animals in the nearby zoo. It’s no wonder why the show became so popular in Japan!
If you’re looking for a place to explore in Tokyo, consider dropping by the Shirokuma Cafe Tokyo. The exterior of the cafe looks exactly the same as the one in the anime. There’s also a small gift shop where you can buy merchandise from the series, from cute mugs to character-themed notebooks.
3) Red Stairs at Yotsuya – Suga Shrine (Kimi no Nawa by Makoto Shinkai)
Address: 5-番地 Sugacho, Shinjuku City, Tokyo 160-0018, Japan
Of course, this list won’t be complete without the iconic red stairs featured in Makoto Shinkai’s famous movie Kimi no Nawa (Your Name). It is considered as the highest-grossing anime movie of all time. Here is where the main characters of the film, Mitsuha and Taki, crossed paths after many years.
The animated film received international acclaim, prompting many visitors to visit the real-life locations of the film in Tokyo. I guarantee, once you’ve seen the film — you’ll be inclined to want to visit these steps as well.
When I first saw the film in 2016, I made a goal for myself to visit Tokyo and relive the movie’s magic in person. Now, it’s a major factor why I ended up choosing a language school within the capital. Being in Tokyo for my studies cost more than other cities in Japan, but my everyday stay is just like a magical scene ripped off Makoto Shinkai’s animated film. It’s definitely worth it.
4) Iwami City (Free! by Kyoto animation)
Free! is set in the town of Iwatobi, which is heavily inspired by the real-life quiet town of Iwami City. The story centers around high school student Haruka Nanase, who decides to revitalize the defunct Iwatobi High School swim team together with his friends.
Iwami prides itself on being the hometown of the beautifully-animated series. The tourist information in the town is full of Free! posters and merchandise, and there’s even a tour map specific for visitors who want to explore the real-life locations featured in the anime. Accordingly, there are lots of random posters of the anime scattered all over town.
Boasting beautiful coastlines and a deep blue horizon, it’s a beautiful getaway if you want to take a break from the hustle and bustle of city life.
5) Yokohama City (Bungo Stray Dogs by Kafka Asagiri)
The plot of Bungo Stray Dogs revolves around the idea of naming main characters with supernatural powers after famous late authors and poets. Hence, don’t be surprised to hear Ryūnosuke Akutagawa or Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s name in the series as they solve mysteries and carry out missions by the mafia!
Since BSD heavily revolves in Yokohama City, real-life city locations are beautifully represented to attract otakus and tourists. You can opt to visit Motomachi Park, Yokohama Chinatown, Yamashita Park, among the many other tourist attractions featured in the series.
6) Shinjuku Gyoen (Garden of Words by Makoto Shinkai)
Address: 11 Naitomachi, Shinjuku City, Tokyo 160-0014, Japan
Another Makoto Shinkai masterpiece, Garden of Words highlights the themes of subtle romance and lingering emotions. The film features Takao, a high school student, and 27-year-old Yukari, as the two keep meeting at Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden on rainy mornings.
The film is heavily praised for its use of dialogue and astounding visuals. Every detail contributes to the visual portrayals of their beautiful world — the Shinjuku Gyoen, in particular.
If you’re visiting in the springtime (March-April), enjoy the cherry blossom season at its prime. The central lawn areas of the park are particularly stunning and filled with picturesque blooms.
Suffice to say, I am living my best life as an otaku in Japan. I have always dreamed of this for as long as I can remember, and now that I am here, I am grateful to have pursued such an amazing opportunity.
Not only do I get to polish my Japanese language skills and perhaps land a long-term opportunity to stay and work in Japan once my studies are over, but I am living the dream of hundreds of thousands of otakus all around the world! It’s a great way to experience the country while appreciating their contribution to pop culture.
If you’re interested, check out Motto Japan’s list of study programs for international students. Come study and live in Japan, see the magic of anime brought to life right before your very eyes. I can assure you, it’s a life-changing experience!
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