Sunday, April 28, 2019

An Anime Otaku Itinerary For Tokyo

If you're an anime fan, then a visit to Tokyo is not just a visit to Japan, but a bit of a pilgrimage to the heart of Anime Culture or a visit to the dreamlands of your imagination.  Anime or Japanese animation is a distinct art form that often showcases Japanese culture, locations around Japan (with a fair bit of Tokyo), and builds on Japanese history and myth.

Some of this animation becomes popular enough begin crossing over from the 2D to the 3D real world.  The most accessible and visible artifacts are signage, advertising, and posters featuring anime characters found throughout public spaces.  Then there are stores full of all kinds of anime character goods, toys, videos, magazines, books, manga (Japanese comics), and soundtrack CDs.  It's on par with the immersion you get at a giant Disney Store for their characters on a city-wide scale.  In Akihabara, you get an entire city neighbourhood devoted to anime stores, maid cafes, video arcades, and electronics.  There are also events with the voice actors, art exhibits, toy exhibits, fan and anime industry conventions, giant robot statues, life-size character figures, and cafes featuring various anime-themed food.

The first time an anime fan steps off the plane in Japan, they begin an odyssey in which everything they saw as animated frames begins to relate to real-life locations and experiences.  This journey usually brings a smile as they try food they saw in the anime, ride the crowded and efficient train system, see real world locations that were replicated in animation, or visit their first konbini (Japanese convenience store).  It's just a lot of fun to visit Japan for the first time for real, but for the second time in their mind, as they have already had so much exposure to it from animation.

This article is an example itinerary for an otaku visit, but there is lots in it for any visitor as there is a great deal of crossover if you're interested in contemporary culture, shrines, or history.  You can also check out  my post: http://tokyoexcess.blogspot.com/2013/10/tostzillas-top-ten-list-of-sights-in.html

 Day 0
  • Arrival, usually you only have a half day at best if you are coming from North America.
  • Get through customs and immigration.  Bet on at least a half hour to get to your luggage after existing the aircraft.
  • Get a PASMO or SUICA Card for local train travel or purchase Narita Express tickets if you are taking this train.
  • Take the train in from Narita or Haneda Airport.  Narita Express usually from Narita to Tokyo Station, Shinjuku, Shibuya, or Shinagawa.  If you are taking the Narita Express, it takes awhile, despite the name, so stop at your first Japanese convenience store at the airport or use your first Japanese vending machine.  You could also do the Skyliner to Nippori Station from Narita and transfer trains to the Yamanote Line unless you are staying near the Skytree.  If coming in from Haneda, your transit is shorter and you can take a local Tokyo Monorail train.  No food or drinks on the local trains.
  • You will likely have luggage and be a little tired, but probably be pretty excited too.
  • Check into your accomodation.
  • Go out and get some dinner.  Ramen makes a great first meal of comfort food.  If you are in a trendy area like Shibuya or Shinjuku you can walk around and check out the evening crowds, shop, or have a drink.
  • Crash after staying up a bit and set your alarm to get up early the next morning to start getting over jetlag.
Day 1

Day 2
  • Tokyo Skytree is a good one to visit early in the morning as they open before 8 AM.  This beats the crowds that will show up later.  However, seeing Tokyo transition from evening to night from the super tall tower is amazing too.
  • The Tokyo Solomachi Mall around the base of the tower has some great shopping.
    • Visit the 8th floor Chiba Institute of Technology Robot Museum to see a life-size Macross Valkyrie in Gerwalk mode.
    • http://tokyoexcess.blogspot.com/2015/05/tokyo-skytree-and-giant-macross-valkyrie.html
    • Pokemon Center.  There is a nice sized Pokemon Center here  for your Pokemon needs.  It even features a giant statue of Rayquaza.
    • http://tokyoexcess.blogspot.com/2018/03/hokusai-museum-skytree-and-pokemon.html
    • NHK TV Character Store.  All kinds of character goods in a big store.  I always find something interesting here.
    • Jump Store for Shonen Jump character goods like Naruto, Bleach, Dragonball, My Hero Academia, Fairy Tail, Black Clover, etc.
    • Donguri Kyowakoku Store for Studio Ghibli character goods.  There is a big Totoro in the window display.
    • Hello Kitty Store for all kinds of cuteness.
    • The main floor also has a mall with local goods and there is a great food court here.  One of the coolest things about eating at the food court is that you are served on real dishes and you need to return them to the shop you bought the meal from.  You can get ramen, curry, tempura, and more here.
  • In the afternoon you can visit nearby Asakusa where Sensoji Temple, Kitchen Street, and Nakamise Dori shopping street are.
    • Sensoji is the oldest temple in Tokyo and the major attraction in the Asakusa area for itself and the Nakamise shopping street that leads up to it.  The Kaminarimon or Thunder Gate is a very popular photospot.  On the opposite side of the street is a very good tourist information center with an observation deck up top.
    • http://tokyoexcess.blogspot.com/2018/05/sensoji-temple-and-nakamise-dori.html
    • http://tokyoexcess.blogspot.com/2018/01/asakusa-tori-no-ichi-shrine-festival.html
    • The shrine is large and the area around the shrine is full of small shops and restaurants.  You can see an older style district here and even take a rickshaw tour or walk along the Sumida River.
    • If you're into cooking and need Japanese cooking implements, visit the relatively close Kitchen Street or Kappabashi Street.
  •  In the late afternoon or early evening go out for dinner or see another part of Tokyo when the city lights are on.

Day 3
Day 4

Day 5
  • This is a bit of a field trip day to see some famous anime sights and to see the other place to shop for anime goods.  There are also other anime museums in the area, but they are more work to get to and you may find your time better spent elsewhere.
  • The Ghibli Museum in Mitaka is a must visit if you have never been there.  There are exhibits about the process of animation, a cool building with Ghibli characters, giant catbuses you can enter, and a short film you will have never seen before.
  • Nakano Broadway Mall has that old school Akihabara feel with lots of shops crammed into a small space.  There is plenty to shop and look at here.  It is an easy visit on the way to or fromd the Ghibli Museum if you are coming from Shinjuku.
Day 6
  • Ikebukuro is famous area in anime circles due to the show Durarara!  You can find most of the areas in the show east of the station like the Russia Sushi location, Higashi Ikebukuro Central Park, the owl statue, the musical note statue and where the main characters first meet.  The area is a big hub and full of entertainment and shopping.  The penguins at the aquarium at Sunshine City were shown in the anime Penguindrum.  It is a bit of the way out though, so it is judgement call to visit if you have already seen a bunch of anime stuff already.  Otome Road is out here too though.
Optional
More Information
My ebook, Tokyo Stories, Visitors' Introduction to Sights and Pop Culture, builds on the concepts in this article to provide even more background.  If you like this article, please consider purchasing a copy of this book as it presents more information for a visit.

Amazon e-book available.
Follow me on Twitter a @Tostzilla or my feedburner for this blog.

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