Japanese pop culture is an important showcase for Japan. Japanese manga, anime, and video games are very popular and conquer fans worldwide and, in the country, lovers of these products, also called otakus, represent a unique Japanese cultural identity that is worth exploring.
The Japanese geek universe already has so much visibility that it has become a tourist attraction. Today, it is possible to travel around the country and explore the places where the animations and comics were inspired, the neighborhoods dedicated to this culture, and thematic events, parks, and museums. The National Japanese Tourism Organization (JNTO) introduces Japan’s otaku and gives tips on places and attractions to experience this culture.
The neighborhoods dedicated to Japanese pop culture are in several cities. In these places, it is possible to find stores specializing in anime and manga, themed cafes and arcades, in addition to cosplayers on the streets.
Akihabara, Tokyo, is considered the epicenter of otaku culture. It is a very famous tourist spot, with a multitude of stores dedicated to animations, comics, and cosplay. There is also trade dedicated to technology such as computers and video games. The region is full of themed cafes, such as the Gundam Cafe that pays homage to the famous series of giant robot anime Mobile Suit Gundam. For those who enjoy electronic games, it is worth visiting the Super Potato store, which has three floors filled with retro games, old consoles, and an arcade with games from the 80s and 90s.
In Nagoya, fans of Japanese pop culture have fun in Osudenkigai, a large shopping center with anime, manga, and game stores. The neighborhood is known for being the precursor of otaku cafes and a meeting point for cosplayers. However, the highlight of this region is the GAMERS Nagoya Shop, which sells everything electronic game enthusiasts are looking for.
In Osaka, Nipponbashi Otaku Road has countless stores, notably the GEE! Store Osaka, which in addition to selling a wide variety of products for manga and anime fans, is famous for the clothes specially produced for cosplayers. The neighborhood also has a character, developed especially for him. Neon was created by artist Ito-Noizi, illustrator of the Haruhi Suzumiya series to stimulate the revitalization of the region.
To immerse yourself in the history of Japanese pop culture and learn a little more about the artists and producers responsible for the art of anime and manga, there are several thematic museums in Japan.
The Kyoto International Manga Museum is the first in the world dedicated to this art. The place is fun and colorful and has about 300,000 different manga on its shelves. It tells the history and development of this literature in Japan and exhibits original works of art by famous authors. In addition, it is allowed to browse and read the copies available to the public.
The Museum of Manga Tezuka Osamu, in the city of Takarazuka, in the province of Hyogo, is dedicated to the life and art of Osamu Tezuka, one of the most famous manga and animation artists in Japan, who also became known as the Japanese Walt Disney. Osamu has created works of worldwide success, such as Astro Boy, the gentle android boy who goes through several adventures in the future. In the museum, it is possible to discover the artist’s world of imagination, his works and see a series of different exhibitions.
Fans of Doraemon, the famous manga that was later transformed into an anime, which tells the story of a robot cat that came back two centuries to help a clumsy student, can visit the Fujiko F Fujio Museum in Kanagawa, near Tokyo. The site tells the story of the creative duo Hiroshi Fujimoto and Moto Abiko, through original sketches, work tools, and authentic comics. There is a manga library and, outside, visitors can take fun pictures in the Doraemon universe.
Another museum that cannot be left out of the list is the Ghibli Museum, in Mitaka, 40 minutes from Tokyo, which is dedicated to the famous Studio Ghibli. The anime studio is responsible for productions that enchanted the world like Meu Amigo Totoro and A Viagem de Chihiro. The visit to the museum is an immersion in the films. Each room is a small wonderland with life-sized recreations of the many worlds of Ghibli.
Japan hosts a series of events annually aimed at fans and the otaku industry. The biggest one is the Comic Market, which usually takes place in August and December in Tokyo, brings together anime and manga fans from Japan and visitors from all over the world. The event opens space for the public to sell their copyrighted works. There is also the World Cosplay Summit, where cosplayers from all over the world come together to choose the best ones and it takes place in July or August in Nagoya.
Famous anime sites worth visiting
Many of Japan’s famous animated series is inspired by lesser-known cities, urban environments, and rural landscapes. It is the custom of the otaku to make a pilgrimage to these places and some cities even offer a thematic tour of the destinations that became known in the world through Japanese productions.
Tokyo is depicted a lot in animations. The Tokyo Tower, one of the postcards of the city, has appeared in several of them, like Sailor Moon, which tells the story of the warrior magic destined to save the Earth from evil forces. The district of Shibuya and its busy intersection are also recurring scenarios, it has already appeared in Chaos; Head, an animation that tells the adventure of a young otaku who lives in a container and spends his days playing and watching animes.
The capital of Japan also appears in several scenes from the movie Your Name. Its train stations, buildings, and neighborhoods are depicted in the anime that tells the story of two young people who do not know each other and want to move to the city and end up being mysteriously connected by their dreams. A very visited place due to the animation is the staircase of the Suga Shinto shrine, which was faithfully represented.
The province of Saitama is also a destination otaku. Lucky Star fans often visit the region. The anime tells the story of four girls, high school students with very different personalities. The characters live in a city inspired by Kasukabe and Kasukabe Station and its surroundings appear extensively in the production, as does the Washinomiya Shrine.
In the city of Tokorozawa, there is the Park of the Sayama Hills, which received the nickname Totoro Forest for having inspired the scenes of the famous film by Studio Ghibli, My Friend Totoro. The film tells the story of two sisters who venture into the forest with friendly spirits in rural post-war Japan. The location is conducive to walking and is also home to a giant statue of Totoro.
Still in the universe of the Studio Ghibli films, however, in Matsuyama, in Ehime Prefecture, is Dogo Onsen. The place is the oldest spa in Japan and served as inspiration for the iconic bathroom “Aburaya” from the Oscar-winning film Spirited Away.