Japan truly is a Mecca for fans of anime and manga. From Godzilla to Spirited Away, from Astro Boy to Pikachu, no other country can boast such a myriad of animated cartoons, movies, video games, comic books and toys. Highlights of an anime-themed tour of Japan simply must include a thorough exploration of Godzilla’s favourite stomping ground (Tokyo of course!) as well as stops at Miyazaki’s Ghibli museum and Tezuka Osamu’s exhibition in Takaruzuka near Osaka. You can even take home a little bit of the neon-dream - Japan is the place to check out all of the latest electronic equipment.
To help you plan your anime-inspired trip to Japan we have put together a sample itinerary packed with manga treats!
|From Tokyo’s Narita airport take the fast, reserved seat N’ex train bound for the bright lights and blade-runner cityscapes of Shinjuku, Tokyo. This area of Tokyo has a great range of western style hotels – from cheap and cheerful business hotels through to deluxe five star retreats.|
If you have some time this afternoon then you can check out the myriad of electronics shops in this area as well making a trip to the famous (and huge) Mandrake Comics Book store which is located near Nakano station (4 minutes, 150yen on the JR Chuo line from Shinjuku).
|A full day in Tokyo – if you time your visit well then you may be able to go to one of the major Anime festivals held in Tokyo such as the Tokyo International Anime Fair 2004 (March 27th to 28th). Even if you are not in town for a fair there are loads of other things to see. For starters take the JR line from Shinjuku to Shimbashi and then the monorail from Shimbashi station across the Rainbow Bridge to the Sega Joypolis games centre, Toyota Mega-web and Fuji TV headquarters in Odaiba – Tokyo’s new bay-side development. If the weather is good then the artificial beach is a great spot for a bit of lunch.|
From Odaiba head back to Shimbashi and then on to Asakusa for a bit of culture at Senso-ji temple – Tokyo’s oldest. You’ll also find the Bandai Company’s headquarters here and just up the road in Asakusa-bashi is an area famous for wholesale toy shops. A short subway ride from Asakusa (take the Ginza line and get off at Suehiro-cho station) is Akihabara, Tokyo’s main electronics shopping district and the place to come for comics, DVDs, videos and software.
Next, for all your Godzilla merchandise (not to mention Gundam, Anpanman and Ultraman), perhaps you should squeeze in a visit to the excellent Bandai Museum. This museum is located north of Tokyo, right by the east exit of Matsuto station (35 minutes, 290 yen from JR Akihabara station on JR lines changing at Ueno).
|For something completely different why not make a visit to the Edo Tokyo Tatemono-en? This open air architectural park has a Sento (Public Bath) which was reputedly the inspiration behind one of the baths in "Spirited Away". The park is located 7 minutes by bus from Musashi Koganei station on the JR Chuo Line (28 minutes, 290 yen on the JR Chuo line from Shinjuku).|
This afternoon we would recommend paying a visit to the Ghibli Museum which is at the same end of town as the Tatemono-en. This museum was created based on the ideas of Hayao Miyazaki and the architecture resembles that of Antonio Gaudi. The museum features numerous cells from “Spirited Away” and guests can enter Hayao’s studio or touch the cat-bus from "My Neighbour Totoro". The museum is located near Mitaka station (10 minutes, 150yen on the JR Chuo line from Musashi Koganei station and then a free shuttle bus to the museum). Tickets for the museum, which have a date and time for your visit on them, must be purchased in advance.
|Today you could head out into the countryside for a visit to the Fuji Five Lakes area. From Shinjuku station you can take a direct bus to Lake Kawaguchi or Lake Yamanaka. A beautiful area which enjoys great views of Mt. Fuji, Lake Yamanaka is also the home of the Igarashi Yumiko Museum. This museum specializes in the works of the famous women’s manga artist. There is a full range of hotels and ryokan around the lake, many of which enjoy mountain views.|
|A full day to enjoy Lake Yamanaka which is known especially for its summertime fun - the lake attracts many people for yachting, boardsailing and tennis. There are also two hot spring baths in the area for relaxing in - "Benifuji-no-yu" and "Ishiwari-no-yu”.|
Another option would be to make a day trip to the Hakone National Park with its volcano, open-air sculpture park and cable car rides. If the weather is good there are great views of Mt. Fuji from the “Pirate” ships which cruise across Lake Ashi. If you are planning to visit Hakone then we recommend getting a Hakone Free Pass to cover your transport in this area. Hakone is accessed by taking a bus from Lake Yamanaka to Gotemba and then a further bus to Togendai at the northern end of Lake Ashi.
Fuji Five Lakes and surrounding area
|You’ll need to make your way by bus from Lake Yamanaka to Mishima station (1 hour and 50 minutes, 1750yen) in order to catch the super-fast Shinkansen (bullet train) down to Kyoto, Japan’s ancient capital city. Kyoto is a great place to try a stay at a traditional Japanese Inn (ryokan), and we recommend having an evening meal included for at least one night of your stay – it’s a great way to try some traditional Japanese cuisine without having to even place an order! There is also a full range of hotels available in this popular tourist city.|
|A full day in Kyoto - how about a visit to the Kyoto Toei Movie Land? This Samurai-styled theme park is great fun and even includes live action shows! Kyoto Toei Movie land is a short walk from Hanazono station (11 minutes, 190yen on the JR line from Kyoto station) or you can get to it on a number of busses. You should also check out some of Kyoto’s must see sights including the Golden Pavilion, Kiyomizu temple and the stunning new station building.|
|It’s back to the bright lights today for a last night’s stay in Osaka – Japan’s hip and happening second city. As well as fantastic shopping and eating out, Osaka has some incredible buildings such as the Sky Building which has views across the city. Osaka also has a Pokemon Centre and nearby Takarazuka City (30 minutes by JR or Hankyu line from Osaka station) is home to the Tezuka Osamu Museum, which is dedicated to the founding father of Japanese comics and a must see for fans of Astro Boy and Black Jack. Whilst in Takarazuka, you could even check-out the all-female Takarazuka dance revue|
|Alas time to head home – a direct reserved seat train can whisk you from Shin Osaka station to Osaka Kansai airport for your return flight.|
|Seikan Tunnel Doraemon Exhibition|
Located under the sea and in the middle of the world’s longest tunnel, this exhibition centre is a must see for fans of the cutesy-but-smart robot dog from the future. It’s a fair old journey (4 hours and 18 minutes) from Tokyo but you’ll get to see some stunning countryside as the Shinkansen (bullet train) and Limited Express trains whisk you the 730 kilometers to Aomori where you pick up the specially chartered Doraemon Express to take you into the Seikan Tunnel and to your goal!
Okinawa Busena Terrace Hotel
Miffy Room: As well as being a great beach and sunshine resort Okinawa is also the place to fulfill all of your miffy fantasies! This is one of the many hotels in Japan that has themed rooms.