"Anime Pilgrimages" in Japan

When making their travel plans in Japan, many anime fans consider visiting locations which inspired their favorite works, or as Japanese anime otaku put it, seichi junrei 聖地巡礼 ("anime pilgrimage to holy sites").

For locations within Tokyo or other major cities, this may be a relatively easy task, even if you don't speak the language. For example, "Love Live!" and "Steins:Gate" fans can visit Akihabra, fans of Shinkai Makoto's film "The Garden of Words" or "your name." can visit Shinjuku Gyoen park, Roppongi and the famous staircase near Suga Shrine, fans of "Tokyo Ghoul" or Hosoda Mamoru's film "The Beast and the Boy" can visit Shibuya and fans of "Durarara!!" can visit Ikebukuro.

However, for anime with settings in the countryside or other locations which may be unfamiliar to tourists, making such pilgrimages can be a more daunting task.

"Anime Tourism" plans by otomo

Thankfully, in a new initiative in collaboration with the Anime Tourism Association, private tour operator otomo is offering "anime tours" as part of a project called "Unique Experience Japan."

Otomo will be adding new anime locations regularly but their first round, which begins on October 1st, 2019, includes tours to the settings of three popular anime series from the Heisei Era, two of them from beleaguered anime studio Kyoto Animation.

Let's see what the lineup looks like:

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya (Hyogo Pref.)

Let’s go on a tour to visit the real-life places of the huge succeeded anime all over the world, ”The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya”.
You will visit Nishinomiya and Koyoen, which are the places where the author grew up. Since it is his hometown, there are a lot of spots you want to visit that are described in the anime.
You will first visit the station where the SOS Brigade used to hook up. The cafe of which they were regulars is busy with Haruhi fans so you might find a mate to have a chat over the anime.
You will experience a daily life in Japan that you saw in the anime including the school SOS Brigade attended to. Visit the world of Haruhi with your otomo guide!

otomo "Anime Tours" page

Visit the page:
Anime Tourism: Explore "The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya" World!

Hyouka (Gifu Pref.)

The Anime "Hyouka" is a mystery anime that began with the catchphrase "I wonder".
You will tour Takayama, Gifu, where this anime was set. Even today, many visitors from Japan and abroad continuously travel to this pilgrimage site.
You will start at Miyagawa Morning Market, a spot from the opening scene, where you can eat various delicious food!
The school and the shopping district are the ones that you saw in the anime series!
At the cafe, you can order from the same menu as the main characters. There is even a notebook prepared for fans in which you can write your thoughts.
You can also visit the library and shrine that appeared in the anime♪
The world of "Hyouka" is waiting for you!

otomo "Anime Tours" page

Visit the page:
Anime Tourism: Visit Places appeared in "Hyouka" in Takayama!

Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai (Kanagawa Pref.)

“Aobuta” starts with a surprising scene when the main character meets a Senpai dressed as a bunny girl. This story fascinates people due to a wide variety of categories: rom-com, sci-fi, fantasy, school life, etc.
This tour begins in Fujisawa city where the main character lives and heads to Enoshima. You will find many spots - stations, alleys, and more scenes just as they are in the anime, making you feel as if you have fallen into the “Aobuta” world.
Enoshima has many fascinating sights that attract tourists. Enjoy famous seafood dish and the beautiful view of the ocean from the observatory all while experiencing "Aobuta".
Are you ready to jump into the “Aobuta” world now? Let’s go!

otomo "Anime Tours" page

Visit the page:
Anime Tourism: Where "Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai" Began!

For more information

For more information about otomo's anime-themed travel plans and to sign up, please visit the Anime Tourism page here.

If you'd like to learn more about anime tourism in Japan, please visit the Anime Tourism Association's very useful website (also available in English) which provides an extensive and yearly updated database of 88 selected anime sites throughout the country, together with useful travel-related information and links for each location.

By - Ben K.