Enjoy Your Otaku Trip to Tokyo to the Fullest: Tips from The Anime Man on his Experiences as an Anime Fan in and Around Tokyo

The Anime Man has found some incredible spots while exploring Tokyo.

TOM: It’s in the middle of a random residential area, so now that authenticity is something people are seeking in their travels, looking to recreate shots like that is one way to learn how people really live.

TAM: That’s another thing that I tell a lot of people who come to Japan for the first time. There’s nothing wrong with just walking through a residential area because that gives you a real-life perspective of how people live. It may not be a place where lots of interesting things are going on, but I always enjoy walking through residential areas because it gives me a broader perspective of how people are living in this country.

TOM: In Japan, the back alleys are where you see the coolest little hidden stores and restaurants, like bookshops that have been there for decades that I’d love to discover as a tourist. So, in that vein, where would you recommend that fans who have never been to Tokyo before go?

TAM: I have my personal preferences, but anime fans should go to Akihabara as it’s the mecca for weebs. It’s full of so much anime that it’s a sensory overload, but in a good way. Speaking of small hidden stores that have been around for a long time, Akihabara is the pivotal place for them, especially around the backstreets. It has a good mixture of new and old. There are still plenty of remnants of when it was called “Electric Town,” but now I feel like it’s more of an “Anime City.” If you’re an anime fan and you’ve been to Japan but not to Akihabara, can you really call yourself an anime fan? It’s a rite of passage for otaku to go to Akihabara.

I personally frequent Nakano Broadway more than Akihabara nowadays because I prefer its traditional old-school style. In general, there are fewer people and more interesting stores that are immediately accessible. Akihabara has more variety and some cool, unique stores but they also take a little more effort to find, so if you’re short on time, then Nakano Broadway is much more cut and dry since it’s simply four floors of accessible shops. My current favorite store there is one that sells nothing but cels (transparent materials used to make frames in traditional animation) from old anime so you can rummage through them and see if you can find your favorite scene or character. Having that original cel is a very nerdy thing to get excited about, but it’s a different way to enjoy anime. There are also a lot of older subculture-based stores in Nakano Broadway, such as some that feature kaiju and tokusatsu culture, so I always recommend checking them out. Obviously, Shinjuku, Shibuya, Ueno, and Asakusa are all obvious must-sees. Another place that I like to recommend to people is Odaiba. It’s a little out of the way, but it’s one of the few places where you can experience what an ocean view is from Tokyo. There’s also the giant Gundam statue which is pretty dope even if you’re not a Gundam fan.

TOM: I enjoyed Nakano Broadway, but I prefer Ikebukuro to go down Otome Road, personally, since it caters more to women. So, where would you recommend for those who have been to Tokyo multiple times and have done the Akiba and Odaiba scenes before?

TAM: I would say explore outside of the 23 wards in Tokyo, like Okutama and Mitaka for the Ghibli Museum. West Tokyo is a very unexplored area that a lot of visitors don’t realize is full of amazing places to see. Ogikubo has a lot of great food places, and a lot of the anime studios are based out there. If you keep going west, you can get more of the freeing outdoorsy breezy country life, but it’s also not so country that it becomes inaccessible. A lot of it are built-up towns that just aren’t huge cities. I was born and raised in that kind of place, so I love it. The big city is always great, but especially with Tokyo, there is so much more than the city. Even within the city, there are quiet spots you can go to, such as all of the incredible parks here. The number one thing I always tell people is to just walk everywhere. That is the best way to find a ton of cool things in Tokyo. You’ll miss so much if you’re on a train or in a car. Don’t even open a map. Just walk in a direction that you feel is the correct path and see what you can find. I do that as a hobby on my days off and I’ve found some amazing hidden locations that way. That’s the most authentic way you can experience the inner workings of Tokyo.

TOM: What are some of the great things you’ve been able to experience in Tokyo as an anime fan?

TAM: Because Tokyo is such a massive hub, literally every kind of event or store is always available. There is always something going on that is anime-related. Museums in Roppongi often have big anime exhibits, and I went to the Attack on Titan and the EXHIBITION of PRETTY GUARDIAN SAILOR MOON (2016) there. The museum exhibits are constantly changing, but there’s always something going on that’s anime-related around those parts. Another thing that Japan does well is collaboration cafes. There are a ton of places in Shibuya, Shinjuku, and Ikebukuro that are event locations where they just go, “Okay, for the next two weeks here’s a Jujutsu Kaisen or Demon Slayer cafe, and you can get exclusive merch there.” You know, when anime fans hear the term “exclusive merch,” they start foaming at the mouth. That’s bragging rights for a lot of weebs, so regardless if the food is good, it’s still a good time. Another thing that gets anime fans really giddy is walking around a random place and spotting anime girl posters or ads for your favorite or upcoming anime. It’s not just in Akihabara. There are little bits and tastes of anime in regular life. Anime is such a normal thing that has been integrated into society in Japan. Japanese McDonalds recently came out with an ad that was an anime and the weebs were like “I never thought an ad would make me want to work at McDonalds, but this did!” I feel that it’s so commonplace in Tokyo and Japan that it gets people excited when they first get here.

TOM: There’s also the fact that Japan is so otaku-friendly. In Shibuya and Shinjuku Stations, there are these huge walls that are used for ads specifically because they know people are going to make their way over there to see it and take pictures of it.

TAM: There was a construction site in Shibuya where the white barriers around the site were covered in beautiful art from the Akira movie. I didn’t know about it beforehand. I just found it when I was randomly walking around Shibuya, and it blew my mind. I took a ton of photos. So if you go out and explore, you might stumble upon something really cool that is anime-related. It’s that joy of mystery that keeps anime fans coming back to look around.

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Tokyo Anime Spot Guidemap profiles locations from anime productions set in Tokyo.
Discover Tokyo anew as you navigate your way to “sacred sites” from the list of Japanese Anime 88-Spots (2023 Edition), a collection of real-life locations featured in anime productions. Visit the Guidemap website for more information here.

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