The use of animation to boost tourism in Japan is an idea which takes an unremarkable place and turns it into a tourist attraction on the strength of its appearance in a Japanese cartoon (anime). Anime is perhaps Japan’s number one cultural export to the world and instantly recognisable.
Manga comic books and cartoons both tend to use real places as locations for their stories, making them known to their audience and drawing them to visit. Although the few stories that don’t mention the names of the real-life places used as settings, the idea of visiting the hometown of the creators of their favourite comic books inspires many fans to make a trip.
sawasdeemagazine.com takes you on a tour of some of the popular locations of much-loved Japanese animation.
Doraemon, Kawasaki City, Kanagawa Prefecture
Fujiko F. Fujio is the museum where the works of manga artist Fujiko F Fujio, (the pen name of Fujimoto Hiroshi and creator of the much-loved Doraemon) are exhibited. The museum, lovingly called Doraemon Museum, is located in Kawasaki City in Kanagawa Prefecture and also exhibits Hiroshi’s other works, such as Perman, Ninja Hattori and Little Ghost Q-Taro. Separate galleries exhibit Hiroshi’s life, his study and personal items, including original manuscripts. Exhibition areas are located both indoors and outdoors, and there is a café and restaurants and plenty of spots to take photos.
Your Name, Tokyo
Your Name was a blockbuster animated romantic drama and Japan’s highest-grossing anime film - so successful that Hollywood produced a live-action remake. There are about ten locations around Japan’s capital city that are featured in the animated Your Name, and many travellers come to track down these places. Several locations that inspired Your Name also allow fans to take photos. The red staircase of Suga Shrine, where the two leading characters walk past each other (also featured on the movie’s promotioinal poster), NTT Docomo (Yoyogi) Building is featured at sunrise in the opening scene. This high-rise can be seen from faraway Shinjuku and surrounding districts. The National Art Centre, in the heart of Roppongi, is where Taki and Okudera date at a restaurant.
Detective Conan, Hokuei, Tottori Prefecture
Gosho Aoyama Manga Factory is a museum in the town of Hokuei in Tottori Prefecture. Hokuei is the hometown of Aoyama Gosho, the creator of Conan. The fame of Detective Conan has led this small town to develop its landscape into the full-blown tourist attraction that it is today. Along the walkway from the train station to the museum, the whole town is decorated with Conan themes, such as bas relief sculptures of Conan and his friends at the bridge over the river, and even the manhole covers have Conan’s figure on them! Besides Detective Conan, the two-storey museum exhibits the other works of Aoyama Gosho such as Magic Kaito (Kaito Kid) and Yaiba.
Crayon Shin-chan - Crayon Shin Chan Theme Park, Kasukabe, Saitama Prefecture
Kasukabe in Saitama Prefecture is Shin-chan’s hometown and also the site of the Crayon Shin Chan Theme Park. This small theme park features Yoshito Usui’s drawings of Shin-chan, a spot to take photos with figures of Shin-chan’s family, souvenir shops for special items available nowhere else, and a gashapon (lucky dip box) to grab a Shin-chan doll.
Tokyo One Piece Tower, Minato, Tokyo Prefecture
The first One Piece theme park in Tokyo is located in Tokyo One Piece Tower, where you can experience the city tower and immerse yourself in the One Piece anime theme park. You can take pictures with life-size Luffy, Chopper and their gang, watch a movie on a 360-degree screen and see a giant poster featuring Tokyo One Piece Tower, drawn by One Piece’s creator Eiichiro Oda. There is an area that simulates the Thousand Sunny ship, featuring Nami and Robin’s bedroom, dining area and bathroom. Not to be missed is the live show “One Piece Live Attraction” with multiple scheduled showings.
Gun dam, Koto, Tokyo Prefecture
A life-size Unicorn Gundum statue stands tall in front of Diver City on the artificial island of Odaiba. The 19.7-metre tall Unicorn Gundum is normally in unicorn mode but at specified times you can see its face and other parts such as arms, neck and hip move as the unicorn mode turns into Destroy mode.
Ikkyu-san, Shuonan Ikkyuji Temple, Kyotanabe City, Kyoto Prefecture
Kyoto's famed Golden Pavilion, Kinkaku-ji, is a building featured regularly in scenes of Ikkyu-san anime, as the place where Ikkyu-san has audiences with shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu. The Golden Pavillion was the retirement villa of the shogun and was destroyed repeatedly by wars. The present Golden Pavillion was reconstructed according to the original design and is listed as a World Heritage Site in 1964.
Sanrio Puroland, Tama New Town, Tokyo Prefecture
Sanrio Puroland is an indoor theme park for animes under Sanrio Company, especially Hello Kitty which brings back childhood memories for many fans. Created in 1974, the famous character has fans the world over and Sanrio Puroland is the place where fans can meet their much-loved pink feline. The theme park hosts many indoor attractions, shows and parades, and theme rides, often with Kitty as the host of the activities. Game zones use character theme; you can choose to have a good time in the zone of your favourite character.
Ultraman Hometown, Sukagawa , Fukushima Prefecture
The must-visit destination for fans of the Ultraman series is Sukagawa in Fukushima Prefecture. This is the birthplace of Tsuburaya Eiji, the creator of Ultraman and Godzilla. On May 5, 2013, Sukagawa city became a sister city to the “Land of Light, Nebula M78”, the home of Ultraman, so it is no surprise that Ultraman figures and all those monsters make an appearance along the city’s streets. Sukagawa decorated Taimatsu Road, where Eiji grew up, and in front of the City Hall stand replicas of Ultraman, Ultra Seven, and the monsters from series such as Gomora and Eleking to honour him.
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