There’s so much to love about anime: the epic soundtracks, the timeless characters and, of course, the settings and locations that encase them all. Read on to explore must-visit locations to relive your favourite anime, from quaint bakeries to massive green woodlands clicking with Kodamas!
Stepping into Japan itself is like entering a real-life anime, bustling with stories and characters and quirks all around. And this isn’t just a fantasy: anime’s own Seichi Junrei, or ‘anime pilgrimage’ created by dedicated otakus, allows you to visit the well-researched places and spots that inspired these shows and movies. While most animes are based on fictional and fantasy worlds, nothing can be more satisfying than finding these iconic spots tucked away in the cities and outskirts of Japan (and the hope that you could take some of that magic with you). So here are some iconic anime destinations to visit in Japan to bring those beloved shows to life!
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1. Kimi no Na Wa (Your Name): Suga Shrine Staircase
Image credits: Tofugo
Breaking the box office in Japan and worldwide, this masterwork by Makoto Shinkai tells the deep love story of Taki, a boy living in urban Tokyo, juxtaposed delicately with the idyllic countryside beauty of Itomori, where Mitusha, a teenage girl, lives. In a weird Freaky Friday way, they find their bodies switched and their minds mysteriously linked.
Image credits: Tofugo
Remember this classic image from the Your Name‘s promotional poster of the star-crossed protagonists meeting each other for the first time? If you go up to Suga Shrine Stairs, you’ll probably find some anime enthusiasts taking pictures of the seemingly nondescript stairs. The background is a little shorter for dramatic effect, but you get the idea! To get there, from Shinjuku Station, take the Marunouchi Line to Yotsuya Sanchome Station. An eight-minute walk away and you’ll find yourself at the base of the celebrated stairs! For the perfect shot, head down to the stairs at around 4 PM and you might just find yourself in the movie!
Address: 5, Sugacho Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan
YouTrip’s Guide To Iconic Anime Destinations To Visit In Japan: Find out more about Suga Shrine Staircase here
2. Weathering With You: Koenji Hikawa Shrine, Koenji
Image credits: Mipon
Another gorgeous film by Shinkai, Weathering with You is the story of a young teenager who befriends a girl who can control the weather. This film brims with locations all across Tokyo but one of the most prominent ones is surely Koenji Hikawa Shrine with the famous Ema display, where wishes are written on plaques.
Image credits: Yoko Lost In Japan
Fun fact: The shrine is actually a weather shrine, which is probably why it made it in the anime as well! Interact with the scene by writing a wish of your own! To get there, take the JR Chuo Line to get to Koenji Station.
Address: 4 Chome-44-19 Koenjiminanmi, Suginami City, Tokyo 166-0003
YouTrip’s Guide To Iconic Anime Destinations To Visit In Japan: Find out more about Koenji Hikawa Shrine here
3. Princess Mononoke: Yakushima
Image credits: Japan Guide
One of Studio Ghibli’s most thoughtful and beautiful films, Princess Mononoke is about the struggle between civilization and nature. Princess Mononoke, a wolf goddess, rises to protect the lush forest in which the film is set in. Green, mystical with towering trees and mountains in the distance, the woodland settings of Princess Mononoke feel like a dream.
You can find the forest that inspired Mononoke on the island of Yakushima. Located in the south of Kagoshima prefecture, the island can be visited by plane or ferry. Known best for its Yaku Sugi, some of the most ancient living trees in the world, Yakushima by itself, is a fairytale and surreal world regardless of the anime.
Address: Yakushima, Kumage District, Kagoshima, Japan
YouTrip’s Guide To Iconic Anime Destinations To Visit In Japan: Find out more about Yakushima here
4. One Punch Man: Saitama’s Apartment
Image credits: Imgur
Ever stood in front of a regular building and wondered where you’ve seen it before? Perhaps in an anime? Although not in Ghost Town, One Punch Man does exist in real life in an apartment building in Setagaya, Tokyo. Saitama and Genos both live in this apartment in the anime. We wonder, what’s life like for the ones who live there in real life? To get there, exit at Meidaimae Station and take a seven-minute walk.
Address: 156-0043 Tokyo-to, Setagaya-ku, Matsubara, 1 Chome-39-16
YouTrip’s Guide To Iconic Anime Destinations To Visit In Japan: Check out our guide to Japanese Konbinis here
5. Demon Slayer: Asakusa District
Image credits: Tokyo Night Owl
While the anime might be set in Taisho-era rural Japan, Tanjiro, the protagonist, does come down to Asakusa when he is sent to verify the rumour of a lurking demon. Right here, in the crowded street lit with lanterns and bustling with people, he meets Muzan, the antagonist of the series. While the early charm of the 1910s Taisho-era may not be found, the street still looks just as lively and exciting and compensates with the beautiful Sensoji temple.
Image credits: Tokyo Night Owl
To get there, alight at Asakusa Station and you’ll find yourself in the anime right away. Help yourself to a bowl of udon for a more authentic touch. Who knows? You might find a demon on the way too! To get there, take the JR Yamanote Line to Kanda Station and transfer to the Ginza Subway Line to Asakusa!
Address: Asakusa, Taito, Tokyo, Japan
YouTrip’s Guide To Iconic Anime Destinations To Visit In Japan: Find out more about Asakusa District here
6. Spirited Away: Lake Shikaribetsu, Ehime, & Sekizenkan
Image credits: Otaku USA Magazine
Remember the heart-breakingly beautiful scene when Chihiro takes the train to Yubaba’s Twin Zeniba’s cottage? The rails run underwater, gently into the lake and the water ripples as the twilight sets in the sky.
Image credits: 北海道観光振興機構
Along the southwestern lakeside of Lake Shikaribetsu, a similar railroad disappears gently into the water, alluding to the dreamy animated scene. It’s not really a railroad, but instead a slipway for pulling a boat up to land. But fringed with forests and mountains, the cinematic values of the image trump everything else!
Image credits: TimeOut
If you’re not in Hokkaido, there’s another location that fulfils the ethereal Spirited Away train ride — the remote station in Ehime Prefecture, Shimonada Station, has trains that run along the scenic coastline. And you too, like Chihiro, can stare out into the solemn waters from your window seat.
Image credits: Nihongo Master
For a final touch of Spirited Away, check out the Shima Onsen Bath in Sekizenkan, to take one long breath and run across the signature red bridge into the mystical Bath House.
Image credits: gltjp.com
Known to be the inspiration for the Bathhouse, Miyazaki is known to have visited this bathhouse before producing the inspired film that is Spirited Away!
YouTrip’s Guide To Iconic Anime Destinations To Visit In Japan: Find out more about Shima Onsen Bath here
7. Kiki’s Delivery Service: Kiki’s Bakery
Wouldn’t it be perfect to be living in Kiki’s world where travel is mostly on broomsticks and airships? A delightful anime, Kiki’s Delivery Service is about a young trainee witch, Kiki, experiencing the ups and downs of independence when she moves to a new town with her talking black cat, Jiji, and her signature flying broomstick. She works part-time in a bakery. And now, it’s real!
Image credits: Yufuin Flora Village
Situated in a small hamlet called Yufuin Floral Village in Southwest Japan, Kiki’s Bakery sells anime-inspired pastries and bread that are both bewitching and delectable! Adorned on the door is a flying broom and Jiji! The weathered stone of the cottage and the vibrant colours are something you’ll definitely find only in a Miyazaki film! To get there, take a train or bus from Hakata Station and then walk along the main street. You’ll find a sign directing you to the village!
Address: 1502-3 Yufuincho Kawakami, Yufu, Oita 879-5102, Japan
YouTrip’s Guide To Iconic Anime Destinations To Visit In Japan: Find out more about Kiki’s Bakery here
For hardcore anime fans, there are also attractions like the Ghibli Museum, Fujiko. F. Fujio Musem, One Piece Tower, Sanrio Puroland, and of course, countless Pokemon Centers to get a more in-depth look into the creative lives of animes and their creators!
So, Where My Otakus At?
It’s said art imitates life but sometimes the reverse is just as fun and exciting! Maybe it’s time to binge-watch all of these animes and list down all of the spots for your next trip — so gear up! While paying for your ferry tickets or buying your JR Pass, don’t forget to make use of your YouTrip Card to lock in those wholesale exchange rates and skip those pesky bank fees.
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