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

There are so many spots in Tokyo that let you enjoy otaku culture.

TOM: What sort of otaku-related events do you like to go to?

TAM: A lot of the exhibits and museums I like going to are those that highlight a particular series where they display the original artworks or celworks. Going to those is always fun. I’m one of those anime fans who love collecting exclusive artworks, to the point that I have a wall in my room just covered in them. Places like that are really cool because going to those kinds of exhibits gives you a whole new level of appreciation of this series that you enjoy that you can’t get anywhere else. You can read the same manga or watch the same anime a hundred times, but it isn’t until you go to one of these museums that you go, “Wow, this is crazy.” It gives you a whole new relationship with how you view this piece of art. It’s always a great feeling as a fan of a particular show.

I’m a massive music nerd, so I also love to go to concerts by bands that I found through an anime opening or ending. I know for international audiences, that’s a big way that people discover Japanese bands. Like, I’m sure everyone found Asian Kung-fu Generation from shows like NARUTO. The concert culture in Japan is so unique and fun. If the timing is right, you can go see the band that played your favorite anime songs. When they play that song, it’s hype as hell.

TOM: I went to the My Hero Academia and Card Captor Sakura exhibits at the Mori Art Museum, and something that stood out to me was seeing the notes that they would leave their assistants. It really makes you think about how the art that you enjoy is created.

TAM: It is something that takes a lot of time and work from a lot of people. It takes a lot of planning. It should give anime fans a whole new level of patience when it comes to the next installment, since it isn’t something that is made by one person overnight. The EXHIBITION of PRETTY GUARDIAN SAILOR MOON (2016) was one of the first exhibits I ever went to because I watched it growing up and read all of the manga. (Though at the exhibit, I was the only non-Japanese male and I got very weird looks!) Seeing the details of how Naoko Takeuchi made the manga and the inner workings of the series made me think, “If this is like that, then every anime must be like this on varying levels.” There’s so much time and money sunk into it. It made me think about whether there was a way for me as a fan to be able to support that in any way, whether it be monetarily or by doing “activism” to urge people to support the artists behind their favorite anime. It reinforced my desire to shoot the message out to my audience on my channel to think about what we as fans can do. Instead of complaining about how long things are taking, one of the most respectful things we can do as fans is to be patient.

TOM: Going back to the music thing, a lot of people don’t realize that a lot of the bands that are chosen for anime songs aren’t necessarily huge. A lot of them are actually pretty indie. Tokyo has a ton of music venues, so it is extremely possible for a traveler to find a concert going on of a group they’ve heard of while they’re in town, so I think that was a good point as well. This is similar, but do you keep an eye out for pop-up, limited events?

TAM: Definitely. It depends on what the series is or if I have a huge fascination with it. One that I fought tooth and nail to go to was the final Berserk exhibit that opened after Miura Kentaro passed away. That’s one of my favorite manga series of all time and one of the best fictional stories ever written. I was going to that exhibit whether it killed me, and it gave me an entirely new level of appreciation for Miura and his work and the sheer effort that went into it. My favorite thing about going to this kind of event is that you get this reassurance when you see other people that’s like, “Oh, I’m not the only one who loves this show.” It’s a shared thing and you get this sense of community. For a long time, especially in the early days of the Internet, a lot of people have worried whether they’re the only ones who like this stuff. In the past five to ten years, it’s gotten very commonplace, but before that, it wasn’t, so it’s reassuring for an anime fan to know you’re not the only one.

TOM: Going to Ikebukuro and seeing just cosplay stores where you can walk in and buy whole outfits, but when I was a teenager, I just had to cobble it together from thrift stores, so those shops blew my mind.

TAM: Totally. That’s a great point. Cosplay culture is all over Tokyo. You can find affordable cosplay studios very easily. A lot of them are English-friendly, and you can go with your own outfit from home or one you picked up while in Tokyo. So if you want to have a photoshoot while you’re in Tokyo, that’s totally doable and acceptable. It’s a lot of fun and it’s a great way to immerse yourself in the culture.

TOM: What do you think is the fun part about checking out anime-related spots?

TAM: What I really enjoy is getting into the heads of the people who decide on the locations of these places. For example, I understand that Ikebukuro is the place for Durarara!!, but why? Why did he decide to set it in Ikebukuro, of all places? Going there gives you a new perspective and understanding of the show you love, but it’s also an excuse to see every nook and cranny of these locations. People who come to Tokyo often stop at the top ten tourist locations, but a lot of the scenes recreated in its anime counterpart aren’t necessarily the touristy places. It’s usually on the outskirts or in off-beat places, like nondescript streets, corners, buildings. I used to do this thing where I’d have my phone in one hand with a screenshot from an anime and hold it up to align it with the street itself. There’s a level of euphoria in that moment where everything clicks together. Taking the photo and comparing it to real life, putting myself in that scene, really made me feel like I was in that show. And if you’re a fan, what more could you want?

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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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