Visiting Japan is a dream come true for anime fans. Read this article to discover ways to elevate your Japan trip experience. We introduce anime theme parks, museums, cafes and tourism spots that you can visit, and not just the typical anime towns like Akihabara and Ikebukuro.
Header Image Credit: ©芥見下々／集英社・呪術廻戦製作委員会
Table of Contents
- Best Places to Visit in Japan for Anime Fans
- Anime Theme Parks in Japan
- Anime Museums in Japan
- Anime Cafes in Japan, Themed Food and Drinks
- Anime Tourism, A Growing Trend
- Takeaway - 5 Best Anime Places to Start With
For anime fans, visiting Japan is a dream come true and can feel like you’ve reached paradise. Watching the everyday scenes of your favourite anime come to life, the food and drinks you’ve seen on screens that always seemed so out of reach now so close at hand you can give it a taste, and other beautiful experiences. But just being in Japan for a holiday might not be enough, you may want to feel even closer to your beloved anime or manga by visiting places that resemble them closely.
Note: Complimentary Poster from watching Takagi-san Movie
This is an article written for anime fans by an anime fan on the best ways to enjoy Japan for an anime fan. And here are some ways:
Playing at an Anime Themed Park
Visiting Anime & Manga Museums
Dining at an Anime Cafe or Pop-up Cafe
Anime Pilgrimage, aka Visiting Real Life Anime Places
Going to Anime Events and Exhibitions
Window-shopping for Merchandise
Watching Stage Shows and Performances
Watching an Anime Movie in the Cinema (no English subtitles but get limited edition goods)
We will discuss some of these below.
Get to know some anime-themed theme parks in Japan.
Naruto x Boruto Ninja Village at Nijigen no Mori (Hyogo-ken)
Nijigen no Mori (ニジゲンノモリ) is a theme park that combines technology, anime and nature. Their biggest draw is the Naruto theme park that reproduced the Hidden Leaf Village, Konoha in Naruto as well as other places that appeared in Naruto. Many people cosplay as their favourite characters in Naruto when visiting the park. Enjoy exploring the world of Naruto, recreating scenes for the gram, eating Naruto’s favourite Ichiraku ramen, and becoming a ninja.
Image Credit: ©吾峠呼世晴／集英社・アニプレックス・ufotable © 2022 Nijigennomori Inc.
The Naruto X Boruto Ninja Village is just one part of Nijigen no Mori. The park’s other attractions include Dragon Quest Island, Godzilla Awajima Research Centre, Crayon Shin-chan Adventure, and more. An area of the park is dedicated to limited time collaborations. At the time of writing, Nijigen no Mori is collaborating with Demon Slayer (Kimetsu no Yaiba) to provide 2 attractions.
Naruto x Boruto FUJI Hidden Leaf Village at Fuji-Q Highland (Yamanashi)
Closer to Tokyo is another Naruto theme park that can be found in Fuji-Q Highland amusement park that is famous for its many world record breaking thriller rides. Naruto village is just one of the park areas in Fuji-Q, there’s many more things to do like riding roller coasters, eating, and visiting the other park areas.
At Fuji-Q’s Hidden Leaf Village, there are life-sized reproductions of Naruto characters including Kakashi-sensei, Jiraiya (or as Naruto prefers to call ero-sannin), Gaara, and the summon Toads. You can also try Ichiraku ramen here.
Ghibli Park (Aichi) - Opening on November 1, 2022
The world has been looking forward to the opening of Ghibli Park and the time is finally approaching as the first phase of construction reaches its completion. We know that there will be life-sized reproductions of buildings and places that appeared in Ghibli movies but all else remains a mystery. The introduction of Ghibli Park says that the park will be all about the vibes with no large rides and attractions, so no thriller rollercoasters it seems but rather some slow and relaxing ones to get into the Ghibli groove - we hope.
Tokyo Joypolis (Tokyo)
Though not anime-themed per say, Tokyo Joypolis on Odaiba is an indoor amusement/theme park that frequently holds anime related events as well as has some anime themed rides and attractions - Attack on Titan (Shingeki no Kyojin) Phoenix Wright Turnabout Trial.
Photo Credit: © CA Sega Joypolis Ltd.
Collaborations with anime, or even idol groups, are commonplace at Joypolis. Depending on the collaboration, it may include original merchandise, limited time attractions, performances, elaborate decorations, and a temporary anime cafe. Past collaborations include Detective Conan, Attack on Titan, Lovelive, Tokyo Revengers, Vocaloid, and more.
Once you’re done with Joypolis, explore the rest of Odaiba, especially the full-scale Gundam statue outside DiverCity Tokyo Plaza in Odaiba. Inside the plaza, there are also many shops selling anime merchandise for a bout of window-shopping.
Museums are a great place to learn about the history of things, and anime / manga are no exceptions. For anime museums, expect lots of visual experiences with lots of exhibits and if lucky, original only available in the museum movie clips. Depending on the museum, you may also have the opportunity to enjoy hands-on experience with editing and making anime.
Ghibli Museum (Tokyo)
Image Credit: © 2001-2022 Museo d'Arte Ghibli
Ghibli Museum, full name Mitaka Forest Ghibli Art Museum (三鷹の森ジブリ美術館), is a museum founded by Miyazaki Hayao (宮崎 駿) the famed director and co-founder of Studio Ghibli. For fans of Ghibli works, the museum is a must-visit with reproductions of beloved characters like Totoro, original short-story animated films, a lesson on how Ghibli films are produced, and a museum shop with original merchandise to increase your Ghibli collection.
Fujiko F. Fujio Museum (Kanagawa)
Photo Credit: © 2015 FUJIKO-MUSEUM CO.,LTD.
Better known as the Doraemon Museum, the museum is dedicated to Fujiko F. Fujio who is one half of the duo that is Fujiko Fujio, the creators of Doraemon. The Fujiko F. Fujio Museum is located in Kawasaki City in Kanagawa Prefecture and is one of the city’s best attractions. The highlights of the museum include original sketches and concept art for Doraemon, original short movie, Doraemon statues and Doraemon-themed food.
Image Credit: © 2015 FUJIKO-MUSEUM CO.,LTD.
Suginami Animation Museum (Tokyo)
Suginami Animation Museum by Tokyo Polytechnic University was established with the aim of providing opportunities for anime enthusiasts to learn all about the art of producing anime. It is recommended not just to anime fans but also aspiring animators. Here, you can not only learn about how anime is made, you can also experience animating yourself at their digital workshop. Try your hand at making your own animation with their DIY Para Para Animation area, adding sound effects to animation, and 3D modelling, editing and colouring animation. Plus, entry is free.
NOTE: At time of writing, the museum is temporarily closed for building repair works. Expected to re-open in early December 2022, please check the website for latest updates.
Tokyo Anime Centre (Tokyo)
Image Credit: Tokyo Anime Centre
Located in DNP Plaza Shibuya, Tokyo Anime Centre was established to promote anime to both residents in Japan as well as visiting tourists. The centre’s biggest draw is its combination of physical and VR elements making for a unique experience. Rather than a traditional museum for learning the history and development of anime, since Tokyo Anime Centre’s main purpose is promotion, the concept is a lot more “fun” with exhibits of latest anime and plenty of merchandise to browse and shop.
Toei Animation Museum (Tokyo)
Image Credit: © 2022 TOEI ANIMATION Co.,Ltd.
Another free entry museum to add to the list is Toei Animation Studio’s Museum. In case you are not familiar with Toei Animation, we have them to thank for great anime including One Piece, Pretty Cure, Dragon Ball, Digimon, and Sailor Moon. At the museum, you can find exhibits of their works, displays of figurines and posters, and photo spots to take pictures with your favourite characters. Learn about Toei Animation’s history and the behind the scenes process of creating anime.
Image Credit: © 2022 TOEI ANIMATION Co.,Ltd.
Note: Visits are reservation-only as part of prevention of spread of Coronavirus measures.
Anime, character and game cafes have always been a huge hit in Japan. Though many of these “cafes” are temporary time limited events called pop-up cafes, there are a few permanent establishments as well. For limited time pop-up cafes, reservations are highly recommended though a booking fee may be incurred. That’s a small price to pay to guarantee a seat whilst competing against other adoring fans.
Themed food and drinks made in likeness to characters - you can literally eat their face
Themed cafe with anime / character motif
Extremely photographic, lots of pictures of the decorations, your food, the merch
Complimentary gift for visiting the cafe
Original design merchandise to buy
Original design merchandise included with certain food or drink orders
We won’t go into details about each, but here are some permanent anime cafe establishments you can find in Japan:
Shirokuma Cafe (Miyakojima, Okinawa)
Pokemon Cafe (Nihonbashi, Tokyo and Shinsaibashi, Osaka)
Pikachu Sweets (Ikebukuro, Tokyo)
Kirby Cafe (Tokyo Skytree and Hakata Canal City, Fukuoka)
Kamen Rider The Diner (Ikebukuro, Tokyo)
Ufotable Cafe (Nakano, Tokyo) and Ufotable Dining (Shinjuku, Tokyo)
Dining Cafe Iserlohn Fortress, Legend of the Galactic Heroes (Ueno, Tokyo)
As we mentioned above, limited time events or collaboration cafes are more commonplace in Japan. In which case, where will they be held? Although they can happen anywhere and anytime, there are places set-up specifically for collaboration events to be held, like:
GiGO Collabo Cafe, previously known as SEGA Collabo Cafe
Machi Asobi Cafe by ufotable
Smile Base Cafe
Tower Records Cafe
We asked our WeXpats Team Members about anime or similar cafes they’ve been to and how they liked it. Most of our members visited character cafes like Chiikawa and Gudetama, but there are of course some that have visited anime cafes - Gundam Cafe (all of which have now closed down in Japan), Pokemon Cafe, and Legend of the Galactic Heroes Dining Cafe.
Here are some of their comments.
Food colours are amazing. Place that uses the most food colouring in Japan is probably collaboration cafes.
It’s really expensive so I only go to my favourite anime and character ones.
Other members agreed on this as it’s very true! Food and drinks at collaboration cafes are higher priced than normal restaurants! Artistic fee perhaps?
It’s super exciting to try a dish you’ve seen in anime. It’s even more fun if you go with a friend who's also a fan!
There are boring collaborations also where they just attach a bonus gift with a subpar drink.
I love the collabs that don’t just decorate the place but actually recreate bars or restaurants that appeared in the anime. It makes me feel like I’m in the anime!
Anime tourism or anime pilgrimage is called「聖地巡礼 seichi junrei」in Japanese which translates to “pilgrimage of sacred places”. Not just anime, these pilgrimages also apply to manga, dramas and movies. For dramas and movies, the pilgrimage involves visiting the actual filming location. For anime and manga, it involves visiting places depicted in the works, or places where the anime/manga is based on.
Anime tourism has gradually grown in popularity over the past few years, especially since Makoto Shinkai’s animated film「君の名は Kimi no Na wa」”Your Name” was released and many fans were excited to visit those places. In case you’re wondering, yes many of the places in Kimi no Na wa, especially Tokyo spots do in fact exist. One of our members has visited Suga Shrine in Yotsuya, Tokyo where the emotional final scene of the movie occured.
There are 2 ways of enjoying anime tourism in Japan:
Visiting an Officially Recognized Anime Tourism Location
Walking Around the Neighbourhood and Identifying Places
The great thing about officially recognized spots are that official original merchandise availability for souvenirs plus memorial stamps to collect. Life-sized cardboard cutouts of characters may also be available for you to use as a photospot. Some places even go as far as to prepare maps for you to follow and visit all the key locations that appeared in the anime.
Image Credit: ©VISUAL ARTS / Key / 「神様になった日」Project
The second type of anime tourism can be a little complicated. It requires Googling and piecing together where these events actually happened yourselves. Luckily, there are many dedicated fans in Japan that have done the work, you just need to find the information online. We’ve actually done a bit of anime tourism for Tokyo Ghoul you can check out here: Visiting Real Life Places that Transpired in Tokyo Ghoul: Nerima City
It’s pretty cool and fun but more suitable for someone living in Japan who has spare time, if you’re here on vacation, it would be better to focus on bigger places than nosing around neighbourhoods.
As a sign of the recognition of anime tourism as a growing part of the tourism industry, an Anime Tourism Association was established in 2016. The association’s main purpose is to identify and connect anime pilgrimage sites with visitors. To that end, every year they release 88 selected anime spots in Japan following a criteria. We recommend you take a look when planning your vacation.
1. The Bathhouse in Spirited Away at Matsuyama Ehime
Located in Matsuyama City of Ehime Prefecture is Dogo Onsen, a three-storey bathhouse that was the inspiration for Aburaya (油屋), the bathhouse where Chihiro worked
Image Credit: © 2005-2022 STUDIO GHIBLI Inc.
Photo Credit: Dogo Onsen
2. Hakodate, Hokkaido in Love Live! Sunshine!! Season 2
In Episode 8 and 9, the girls of Aqours went to Hakodate. Some of the places they were at include JR Hakodate Station, Hakodate Arena, Goryokaku Tower, Hachimanzaka, Hakodate Nishi High School, Lucky Pierrot, and Mt. Hakodate.
Image Credit: © 2008-2022 City Of Hakodate
Image Credit: © 2008-2022 City Of Hakodate
The above Love Live images were taken from City of Hokkaido’s Official Tourist Information Website, specifically their coverage of Hakodate locations that appeared in Love Live. We recommend checking their page out which includes a Google Tour Route Map and photo comparisons of the anime scenes and real life locations.
3. Everywhere in Yuru Camp△ but Especially Yamanashi Prefecture
Image Credit: ©Yamanashi Tourism Organisation
Seriously though, basically anywhere the girls in Yuru Camp visit for camping exists in Japan so you can either go camping there too or just visit the place. The anime itself has inspired many people to pick up camping and It’s not too far-fetched to say that Yuru Camp turned out to be quite an effective promotion method for tourism in Japan. There are camping brands that have even collaborated with them to make Yuru Camp camping goods.
Image Credit: © あfろ・芳文社／野外活動委員会
There are many places the Yuru Camp gang visited including Izu Peninsula and Nadeshiko’s hometown Hamamatsu, but they mostly visited areas in Yamanashi Prefecture and loved Mt. Fuji. So of course, the Yamanashi Tourism Organisation went onboard with this and prepared a whole guide of the places depicted in the anime as well as trip itineraries to follow: Introduction of Model Area in Yamanashi Prefecture that Appeared in Laid-Back Camp
4. Kissui-so in Hanasaku Iroha
Image Credit: © 一般社団法人アニメツーリズム協会2022
The main setting for Hanasaku Iroha is hot spring town Yunosagi Onsen (湯乃鷺温泉). In this town, at a traditional ryokan Kissui-so (喜翆荘) is where the main cast met and worked together. Located in Kanazawa City in Ishikawa Prefecture is Yuwaku Onsen (湯涌温泉) that was the inspiration for Yunosagi Onsen. From the streets to buildings, many of them were recreated in the anime.
Photo Credit: ©Yuwaku Onsen Tourism Association
5. Itomori Lake in Kimi no Na wa
From an observatory in Tateishi Park at Nagano Prefecture, you can see Lake Suwa (諏訪湖) which is the inspiration for Itomori Lake that appeared in the movie.
With so many choices, you might be at a loss which to start with. Here’s our selection of places you should try:
Ghibli Museum - exhibitions aside, the atmosphere is also great and relaxing
Fuji-Q Highland - lots of other things to do besides Naruto Village
Pokemon Cafe or Pikachu Sweets - cute and beloved by all ages
Hakodate, Hokkaido - one of the must visit spots in Hokkaido
Odaiba - Lots of things to see and do