Anime and manga have deep ties with Japanese culture and Japanese people. From elementary school students watching Sazae-san on the weekends to salaryman catching up on the latest Shonen Jump, everyone has a favorite. For international travelers looking for manga and anime places in Japan, you don’t have to go further than your local convenience store to find it. But if you want to delve into the world of geekery, here are the best places to visit in Japan for anime fans!
With endless rows of merchandise stores, multi-storied arcades, and themed cafes, Akihabara is the capital of Otakudom. Up until a few years ago, it was most famous for its hundreds of electronics shops, ranging from one-person stalls to large retailers. Now, you’ll find dozens of stores specializing in manga, anime, retro video games, figurines, and other collectibles.
On Sundays, the main road shuts down to car traffic, and you can leisurely shop and explore. Some places like Radio Kaikan are one-stop-shops with a wide variety of goods, while others sell specific items, like collectible card games at Yellow Submarine. You can also try your hand at winning limited edition toys from UFO Catchers at the game centers, or buy them outright at Mulan. When you need a break, stop in the Gundam, AKB48, or Square Enix cafes.
You could just die from all of the kawaii at this theme park. Sanrio Puroland transports you to a sugary-sweet fantasyland where you can meet Hello Kitty and all of her friends. It’s a little ways away from the center of Tokyo, but you can easily access it by train. It usually isn’t very crowded on weekday afternoons, but if the lines to the different attractions are long, you can skip ahead of everyone with a Puro Pass.
Foreign travelers and locals love Gudetama Land, where you can bounce between mini-games and photo-ops with the lazy egg himself. Throughout the day, you can also see parades and theatrical performances like Kawaii Kabuki and an illusion show with projection mapping. Don’t forget to stop by the Wisdom Tree Stage, where you can celebrate a character’s upcoming birthday.
Akihabara might be the mecca of anime culture now, but Nakano is slowly creeping up to take the crown. On your way from the station, you’ll walk through the 225-meter long Sun Mall shopping street, which has restaurants and arcades. The Sun Mall ends at Nakano Broadway, which has four levels for browsing.
The first floor mostly sells eclectic used clothing, while the second and third floors have shops dedicated to anime, manga, and idol-related merchandise. One of the most notable retailers is Mandarake, which started as a second-hand manga store, but is now one of the largest anime and manga dealers in the world.
Odaiba is an artificial island in Tokyo Bay with futuristic residences and architectural creations. Travelers love the shopping and entertainment centers like the indoor amusement park Joyopolis. Not too far from here, you can also find DiverCity, which houses Legoland Discovery Center and a Ninja Trick Art Museum.
Outside of DiverCity, an RX-0 Unicorn Gundam welcomes visitors inside. Throughout the day, it transforms between “unicorn” and “destroy” mode. At night, spotlights illuminate it from 7:30 pm to 9:30 pm, giving you lots of photo opportunities. On the 7th floor of DiverCity is Gundam Base Tokyo, which sells models and figurines based on the franchise.
Japanese animation has such deep ties with the traditional culture that you can sometimes experience both at the same time. Dogo Onsen is one of the oldest hot springs resorts in Japan, with a history stretching back 1,000 years. Legend has it that an egret healed its injured leg in the onsen, and now it's your turn to soak in its therapeutic waters.
What makes this place a must-visit for manga and anime fans? You'll see once you arrive at the Dogo Onsen Honkan bathhouse. Hayao Miyazaki drew inspiration from this place for his movie Spirited Away. To memorialize your visit, you can shop for souvenirs at Donguri no Mori, which sells all things Studio Ghibli.
Speaking of Studio Ghibli, you can’t leave Japan without a visit to this eponymic museum—if you can get tickets. Although Totoro will “greet” you at the box office, the Ghibli Museum is so crowd-pleasing that they can't sell onsite tickets. You must purchase them in advance, but the system isn’t as simple as it might seem.
The Ghibli Museum releases a limited number of tickets one month before their reservation dates. If you want to go in February, you need to buy your tickets in January. From within Japan, you can only purchase them at Lawson convenience stores, and they tend to sell out within minutes of their release. Or, you can go through a third party like us, and save yourself the trouble!
The Ishinomori Manga Musem houses 500 original works by manga artist Ishinomori Shotaro. If you aren’t familiar with this influential figure, his comic Sentai Rangers inspired the U.S. Power Rangers franchise. The oval shape of the museum reflects the futuristic genres of his works.
From Ishinomaki Station, you can follow Manga Road, where dozens of statues of characters scatter along the path. The Ishinomori Manga Museum displays collections of his comics, as well as artwork from his series. You can also watch screenings of his original animations.
Tokyoites sometimes refer to the Suginami district as “Anime Town” for its animation studios and companies. The Sugninami Animation Museum provides a fun and systematic way for you to experience and learn about anime production. Best of all, it’s free to enter, and you can rent multi-language audio guides.
First, you’ll learn about the history of Japanese animation. You’ll also pass displays of beloved director’s desks and a wall decorated with autographs by creators such as Ayumu Watanabe, who made the animated series Doraemon. As you continue, you’ll find hands-on activities where you can draw or dub your voice over a scene.
If you’ve ever dreamed of walking into a library filled with nothing but comic books, the Kyoto International Manga Museum is for you. The entire building consists of three floors and a basement, and stacks of manga cover nearly every wall. In total, there are about 300,000 books that range from contemporary works to Meiji Period magazines.
The museum also focuses on the development of manga and how the rest of the world has adopted it. In addition to its permanent collection, there are often temporary exhibits and events that feature foreign artists. Most of the books are in Japanese, but there's a small section with translated manga.
Although Japanese animation has existed since the 1900s, it didn’t take off until the 1970s, due to its distinct “Mecha” and “Super Robot” genres. Osamu Tezuka was one of the foremost animators of this time and earned the nickname “The Godfather of Anime” thanks to his creations like Astro Boy and Kimba the White Lion.
The first floor features replicas of the life support tanks from his masterpiece Fire Bird. At the Atom Vision Theater, you can watch short films that rotate every month. On the second floor, you can browse the bookshelves for your favorite Osamu serial. Finally, you can take a break at the Jungle Cafe before searching for a keepsake at the gift shop.