Tokyo-3 might be a fictional location, but its inspiration certainly isn’t! Creator Hideaki Anno based his critically acclaimed giant robot series Neon Genesis Evangelion on Hakone. When you go sightseeing here, you’ll get treated to majestic views of Mt. Fuji and the chance to recreate your favorite scenes!
Hakone is about an hour south of Tokyo by train. You can make your journey a simple day trip or stay overnight at a traditional Japanese ryokan. Many of these inns have access to natural hot springs because Hakone is a seismically active town.
Subterranean bases and retractable skyscrapers aside, Tokyo-3 looks nearly identical to Hakone in the 1990s. Since the show’s initial run, the town has gone through a few renovations here and there. But that won’t stop you from identifying these places on your anime pilgrimage!
Lake Ashi is a caldera that formed 3000 years ago during an eruption on Mt. Hakone. Maple-spotted mountains surround the lake, and you can board a sightseeing cruise, including ones that look like pirate ships, to take in the scenery. The sight is particularly breathtaking in autumn when the leaves change colors.
On a clear day, Lake Ashi is one of the best places to see Mt. Fuji. However, before you go, check the weather forecast and try to plan accordingly. Under the right conditions, Hakone can get extremely foggy, and the clouds will impede on the otherwise gorgeous sights.
Neon Genesis Evangelion fans will immediately recognize Lake Ashi from its several cameos throughout the original series. It appears in the background in several scenes and is also where Shinji Ikari and Rei battle the Angel Ramiel.
If you’ve ever dreamed of exploring an active volcanic zone, hop aboard the Hakone Ropeway to Owakudani. On the way up, you’ll be able to see Lake Ashi from end to end with Mt. Fuji in the background. The scenic ride is only half the fun, though!
At the top, the sulfuric smell of the gases will hit you, but so will the realization that you’re where Shinji ends up when he runs away from Misato’s apartment. That’s right! It isn’t a cloudy day when he leaves. The fumes spewing forth from Owakudani are surrounding him.
Owakudani is also one of the few places where you can buy kuro tamago (black eggs). Every morning, the workers at Owakudani Station hard-boil eggs in sulfur water until their shells turn black. They say that eating one can extend your life expectancy by seven years. But since the smallest portion they sell is a pack of five, you better be prepared to live a long time if you try them!
Hakone-Yumoto Station went through a large-scale renovation in the early 2000s. It no longer looks exactly like how it appears in Neon Genesis Evangelion, but it’s still worth including it on your anime pilgrimage. Arriving in Hakone-Yumoto Station is one of the easiest ways to get to Hakone from Tokyo. But transportation isn’t the only thing it has going for it.
The station is home to one of the few official Evangelion shops in Japan. Their goods include T-shirts, sachels, office supplies, and more. You can pick up merchandise that bears NERV logos and images of the characters, or something a little more subtle that only another fan would be able to spot. As you browse, look out for their branch-specific items and seasonal or limited-edition releases.
The Hakone-Yumoto Evangelion store (Hakone-ya), also sells Japanese soft serve ice cream in Eva 01’s signature purple and green colors. Enjoying a cone before you leave is a fantastic way to relax after all that shopping!
As of this article’s publication, there are several official Evangelion stores in Japan. If you can’t make it to Hakone, check these places out!
Ikebukuro, Tokyo - This branch is in the P’Parco shopping annex near Ikebukuro Station. Be careful that you go to P’Parco and not the mall next door called Parco!
Shinjuku, Tokyo - Although its address includes the word “Shinjuku,” you can reach it via Shinjuku Station or the much less hectic Shinjuku Sanchome Station.
Shibuya, Tokyo - Being in the center of Tokyo’s most fashionable district, the Shibuya location sells stylish Evangelion-themed men’s and women’s clothes. You can pick up an entire Evangelion outfit, including shoes, hats, bags, and accessories!
Namba, Osaka - As of this article’s publication, this location isn’t open quite yet. The Osaka branch will be the first shop in Kansai, and projections show it will launch on March 20th, 2020.
Hakata, Fukuoka - If you’ll only be traveling in southern Japan, don’t miss the Hakata location in Canal City. From apparel to miscellaneous household items, there’s a lot to browse! Check their calendar to see if your travel dates coincide with their periodic fairs and events.