Anime in real life – There are literally thousands reasons to visit Japan once in your life. The traditional culture, the food, the amazing landscapes and so on.. But with the rising popularity of Japanese anime in the world, more and more people are coming to Japan to see the places that inspired they favorite anime.
I’m a big fan of GTO so the first time I came to Japan, I couldn’t resist to visit Kichijoji and the beautiful Inokashira park where a lot of GTO scenes took place. The feeling was amazing! So if you are (like us) a real Otaku, make sure you visit some of the following spots.
Anime in Real Life – 10 Must-see spots in Japan
Below we’ve listed 10 places to visit in Japan for your Anime Pilgrimage. Read on and find out where and how you can find them!
- Yotsuya, Tokyo – Your Name, Kimo No Na
- Yakushima – Princess Mononoke
- Chichibu Bridge – The Flower We Saw That Day (Ano Hana)
- Dogo Onsen, Matsuyama – Spirited Away
- Washinomiya Shrine, Saitama – Lucky Star
- Akihabara, Tokyo – Steins Gate
- Inokashira Park, Kichijoji – Great Teacher Onizuka (GTO)
- Odaiba, Tokyo – Gundam
- Yufuin – Kiki’s Delivery Service
- Tomonoura – Ponyo on the cliff
1. Yotsuya, Tokyo – Your Name, Kimo No Na
The anime ‘Your Name’ (aka Kimo No Na) exploded into worldwide cinemas in 2016 and touched the hearts of many. It is about two characters from two different timelines who somehow switch bodies. They embark on separate adventures and communicate through hand-written notes left behind when they switch back. This all culminates in an event that is seemingly tragic, but there is a twist.
One of the most poignant moments in this anime is when the two main characters, Mitsuha and Taki, finally meet. If you throw your mind back to that scene, they’re both standing atop a staircase with red handles. This exact scene was influenced by the staircase at the Suga Shrine in Yotsuya.
If you visit this location, you’ll find many people will have the same idea of taking photos here. The stairs itself is surrounded by older-style buildings and trees. There is an air of nostalgia that seems to make people feel like they’re actually in an anime. The perfect time to take a photo would be during sunset.
Access: From Yotsuya Station, Suga Shrine is only a 10-minute walk away.
2. Yakushima – Princess Mononoke
Princess Mononoke is an anime film that probably resonates the most with audiences around the world. It’s definitely one of the best Japanese movie of all time!
It is essentially about the struggle between the guarding spirits of a forest and civilisation who want to take over and exploit its resources. Princess Mononoke is the main character. She is a wolf goddess who rises to become the lead protector of the forest. The anime is set in a lush forest, full of vegetation, towering trees, and looming mountains in the distance.
The majority of the forest setting in Princess Mononoke was influenced by the beautiful island of Yakushima. Yakushima is located in western Japan, south of the Kagoshima prefecture. This island sits off the coast and can only be accessed via plane or ferry. You can fish, swim, hike, and explore on this island to your heart’s content. The very few locals on the island will welcome you with open arms.
Access: From Kagoshima port, you can take a ferry or a jetfoil across to Yakushima. The travel time is 4 hours or 2 hours respectively. You can also fly across from Kagoshima airport which will only take 35-minutes.
3. Chichibu Bridge – The Flower We Saw That Day (Ano Hana)
The poignant anime series ‘The Flower We Saw That Day’ is a beautiful story about friendship and being able to tie up loose ends. In this series, we see a group of friends slowly drift apart after one of them passes away in an accident. When she returns again in a ghost-like form, they all eventually come back together to help her achieve her goal of passing onto the after-life completely. Throughout the series, you will see them clear up the air around their friendships and past burdens. The characters are lively and relatable.
The bridge in the background of some of the main scenes as well as in the opening sequence of the anime is none other than Chichibu Bridge. This unique bridge is located in Saitama which is only one prefecture over from Tokyo. It can definitely be visited as a day trip!
Access: From Tokyo Station, take the Takasaki Line towards Kumagai station and alight. From Kumagai station, take the train to Onohara station and alight. From there, walk 12-minute and you will arrive at the bridge.
4. Dogo Onsen, Matsuyama – Spirited Away
We continue our anime pilgrimage with the gorgeous and super popular ‘Spirited Away’. In fact, it might be the most well-known anime in the world. In this anime, you follow the adventures of 10-year-old Chihiro as she inadvertently falls into a magical world of witches, dragons and monsters. She is thrown problem after problem but uses her strong will and wit to get past them. In the end, she manages to save her parents and you can breathe a sigh of relief.
The onsen where the primary action takes place in the anime is actually influenced by Dogo Onsen. Dogo Onsen is located in Matsuyama on Shikoku Island. Even without the fame that came along with ‘Spirited Away’, Dogo Onsen is a gem to visit. Its distinct exterior and maze-like interior full of stairways and passages makes it a unique bathhouse to visit. Once you’re inside, you can see how a place so detailed and charming can serve as an inspiration for a film.
Access: From Dogo Onsen Station, it is a 4-minute walk through the shopping arcade to get to the onsen itself.
For more information, you can read all full guide about Dogo Onsen >>
5. Washinomiya Shrine, Saitama – Lucky Star
Otakus, this is the anime for you. Lucky Star is a slice-of-life series that follows super-fan Konata Izumi around and tells of her everyday albeit interesting life. Her friends, Tsukasa and Kagami (twins) and Miyuki also play a part in the telling of the story. The main settings are their lives at home and at school. Their lively friendships are what make the show so addictive. It is one of the easiest anime to watch if you’re looking for something chilled out.
The tori gates which are shown in the opening sequence of the magazine are actually a replica of Washinomiya Shrine. You can visit this real-life location yourself quite easily. It is often a popular spot for worshippers as well as festivals held in the area.
Access: From Tokyo Station, take the JR Utsunomiya Line to Kuki Station and alight. From Kuki station, take the Tobu Isesaki Line to Washinomiya Station and alight. From there, it is a 10-minute walk.
6. Akihabara, Tokyo – Steins Gate
Akihabara is a suburb that doesn’t really need introduction. It’s an anime lover’s paradise. For those who don’t watch anime, it’s like a feast for all the senses. The visuals here are particularly overwhelming – in the best way possible.
Walk along the streets on any given day and you’ll be bombarded with billboards and posters of anime characters selling anything and everything. On Sundays, they generally close off the roads so that people can roam the streets freely. It is a great tourist attraction on its own.
Did you know that Akihabara, the suburb itself, serves as the influence for the setting of ‘Steins’? Steins is a sci-fi anime about time travelling. It’s based in a different 2010, when a scientist accidentally develops time-travel technology. He and his friends use the device to manipulate the past. However, their actions eventually catch up to them and hard decisions must be made.
We highly recommend a visit to this city right in the heart of Tokyo. It’s a great way to spend a few hours just wandering around. Peruse the stores, visit the maid cafes, and maybe even buy a camera!
Access: Akihabara can be easily reached from most stations in Tokyo. It sits on the JR Yamanote Line, Keihin-Tohoku Line, and Tokyo Metro Hibiya Line.
Check out what Akihabara looks like in this night walk video:
7. Inokashira Park, Kichijoji – Great Teacher Onizuka (GTO)
Great Teacher Onizuka (GTO) is a classic anime that transcends time. It’s a humorous yet heart-warming story about a teacher who transforms a group of rebellious private school kids using unorthodox methods. Eikichi Onizuka only became a teacher because he witnessed how a young school girl was infatuated with her older unattractive teacher. However, upon becoming the homeroom teacher to a class of delinquents, he goes on a journey of self-discovery. Along the way, he breaks down student walls and traditional norms of achieving things.
The main premise of the series is set in Kichijoji, with Inokashira Park having a big influence. The local street scenes are similar to the arcades currently operating in Kichijoji. Any park scenes as well as scenes with the lake are directly influenced by Inokashira Park and the lake in the middle.
Access: From Shinjuku station, take the Chuo line to Kichijoji. It is a 10-minute train ride.
8. Odaiba, Tokyo – Gundam
Gundam is one of the most popular anime series in Japan. It was first conceptualised and brought to market in 1979. Since then it’s become so famous that various TV series, OVAs, films, manga, novels, and video games have spawned from the original work.
The premise of ‘Gundam’ is set in a military-focused world. Giant robots called Gundam are the main mechanisms used in fights and wars. You can follow different Gundam robots and pilots throughout the seven different timelines that are represented across all the stories in the series.
Odaiba is often referred to as the futuristic city in Tokyo. Unlike the aforementioned locations, it doesn’t serve as an influence on the anime itself. However, it does offer visitors a chance to see a life size Gundam robot up close!
The statue itself is based on the RX-0 Unicorn Gundam. It actually measures up correctly to the real-life size of the robot, making it 19.7m tall! Who wouldn’t want a photo with that?
Access: The Gunbam statue is located outside of Diver City in Odaiba. From Shibuya, take the Yamanote Line or the Tokyo Metro Ginza Line headed for Shimbashi and alight at Daiba station. It is a 7-minute walk from there.
9. Yufuin – Kiki’s Delivery Service
Kiki’s Delivery Service is a golden classic anime of the late 80s. This anime was produced by the internationally acclaimed Studio Ghibli who also produced the aforementioned Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke. It follows the adventures of a 13-year-old witch named Kiki. She leaves home with her cat and lands a role at a bakery delivering goodies. Kiki eventually runs into some trouble but with the help of those around her, she finds her way out.
There is actually a real-life replica of the bakery in Japan! Aptly named Kiki’s bakery, it is situated in the Yufuin Floral Village. It sells all sorts of pastries and cakes that are inspired by the anime. The village that it is located in has been developed with a nostalgic and charming English influence. Think low-roofs, cobblestones, hanging flowers at the entrances, and adorable ornaments. Throw yourself back in time in these wonderful alley ways!
Access: From Yufuin Station, it is a leisurely 15-minute stroll to get to Yufuin Floral Village.
If you want to know more about this village, check out this article: Yufuin Onsen >>
10. Tomonoura – Ponyo on the cliff
Ponyo on the cliff is another amazing anime produced by the Studio Ghibli and directed and written by Hayao Miyazaki. It’s not as popular as Princess Mononoke or Spirited Away but it’s really worth watching. To create the scenery of this masterpiece, rumors say that Miyazaki got inspired by the gorgeous port town of Tomonoura located in the south of Hiroshima prefecture.
If you want more details on where is this city and how to get there, make sure to read this blog post: Tomonoura Japan >>
We are 10/10 for our blog post about Anime in Real Life. We hope that in due time, you are able to visit all of these wonderful places during your Anime Pilgrimage. When you witness them with your own eyes, you will see just how inspiring they are to have influenced major animations. They all have their own unique charm so make a checklist and let’s see how many you can cross off!