Go Deep into Japan
Japan is a hot spot for the latest trends in manga, anime, games, fashion, and music. Naomitsu Kodaka, the CEO of Japan’s premier otaku platform, offers some tips on how you can immerse yourself in pop culture as you explore the vibrant cities of Japan.
Co-founder, CEO and CFO of Tokyo Otaku Mode
Naomitsu Kodaka is the co-founder of Tokyo Otaku Mode, a platform that shares information about the latest news and trends in Japanese pop culture with fans around the world and serves as a marketplace for curated merchandise.
We launched in 2012, not long after the Great East Japan Earthquake. Social media had just begun gaining traction in Japan, and we wanted to use it as a platform to let the world know how we were doing after the disaster.
Tokyo Otaku Mode sets the spotlight on otaku culture—an otaku is someone dedicated to a certain hobby, whether it’s games, anime, fashion, or art. In recent years, the number of people with an interest in Japanese pop culture has been growing. The rise in numbers was particularly sharp during the pandemic, when everyone was spending so much time at home. They sought out new forms of entertainment, and this led to more and more people getting hooked on anime and games. Japan, in particular, produces a goldmine of top-notch original content—the sheer quantity and variety is astounding. Whether it’s cult classics like Dragon Ball and One Piece, or new hits like Demon Slayer and Spy x Family, Japanese entertainment has a huge following. Through our page, we try to connect with pop culture fans around the world and keep them updated on the latest trends.
Tokyo Otaku Mode Shop
Ordinary cityscapes in Japan serve as a backdrop for many anime and manga. Fans coming here can check out the actual locations of their favorite scenes, whether it’s a bustling train station or an avenue lined with cherry blossom trees. For example, the district of Shinjuku was beautifully depicted in the hit film Your Name. You can even take it a step further by dressing up in cosplay when you visit the location.
I’ve noticed that food plays an important role in many anime. You often see the characters slurping ramen or gobbling up takoyaki. It’s fun to watch, but what’s even more exciting is to actually taste these foods and re-live these scenes yourself. It’s something you won’t be able to do anywhere else except Japan. What’s great is that a basic dish, such as ramen, can be prepared in so many different styles. I recommend going to different parts of Japan to try their regional take on various dishes.
I personally love trying eateries around Tokyo. You never run out of options. Tokyo actually has the greatest number of Michelin stars in the world! And it’s not just great for Japanese food—you can sample authentic French, Italian, Chinese—you name it! For foodies, I suggest paying a visit to Shinjuku Golden Gai, where you can go bar-hopping and try out a variety of local fare. In the pre-pandemic days, I heard that it was quite popular with international visitors.
Summer festivals are also often featured on many shows—it’s something so uniquely Japanese. You can dress up in a summer kimono, go watch fireworks, and sample local treats at the food
stalls. For us Japanese, it’s such a nostalgic experience. It really takes you back to your early years.
One of the most iconic places in Tokyo is the Shibuya Scramble Crossing. You can just stand there and watch swaths of people moving across one of the busiest intersections in the world—it’s quite a sight to see. With so many people coming here, a lot of new buildings and
attractions have also been popping up in the area, making it one of the hottest spots in Tokyo. You can check out places like Miyashita Park—it’s actually a former park which has been converted into an ultra-modern shopping complex, complete with a rooftop lawn and skateboard park. This fun facility has done collaborations with franchises like Tokyo Revengers. Shibuya Sky, an open-air observation deck, offers fantastic panoramic views of the city. It’s set on the rooftop of the Shibuya Scramble Square building and has been featured in recent animations and music videos. Needless to say, Shibuya is jam-packed with entertainment, so just wandering around its busy streets can be a fun activity.
In Akihabara—affectionately referred to as Akiba—maid cafes offer a fun and unique experience. There are all kinds of maid cafes, but what they all have in common is waitresses dressed in maid outfits and menus packed with cute dishes. In some places, the servers will make ketchup drawings on your omelet-rice. Akiba also has plenty of shops where you can browse for figurines and other merch. If you’re not a hardcore fan, you’ll probably be surprised to see the prices of some of these items. Rare collectables can go up to thousands of dollars!
If you’re a fan of Studio Ghibli animations like Spirited Away and My Neighbor Totoro, pay a visit to the Ghibli Museum. It’s located in Mitaka, just a 20-minute train ride away from Shinjuku—another central hub. There’s also a Ghibli theme park set to open close to another major city, Nagoya, in late 2022.
Hardcore enthusiasts can pay a pilgrimage to the site of their favorite show. For example, fans of the Love Live! franchise can head to Numazu, a bayside town in Shizuoka, where you can actually explore spots and eat at restaurants that have been featured in the story. With posters and other embellishments throughout the town, it’s packed with photo opportunities.
If you’re into GeGeGe no Kitaro or Detective Conan, visit Tottori—the hometown of their creators. Even the two airports in the area are named after these shows and you’ll find plenty of shops with collaborative knickknacks.
Universal Studio Japan is a great place to visit—I think it deserves more attention as it’s quite different from many of the theme parks I’ve been to around the world. It features collaborations with plenty of well-known movie and game franchises. The most recent addition is the Super Nintendo World with the world’s first interactive Mario Kart theme ride. Apart from that, Osaka has some great eateries and a fun nightlife scene. It’s totally worth a trip!
Love Live! Sunshine! based in Numazu, Shizuoka
Themed hotel rooms have been growing in popularity recently and can be found all around the country, open for limited periods of time. For example, the Prince Hotel in Ikebukuro collaborated with the game Fate/Grand Order to create a truly immersive experience. Each room had its own unique concept, complete with elaborate decorations and life-size cutouts of
the characters. Our company was actually involved in the project, so it was an interesting experience for me.
In major cities, you’ll find plenty of exhibitions featuring artwork from various games and animations, as well as collab-cafes with character-inspired menus and decor. Even convenience stores throughout the country pay homage to popular franchises—you’ll find sweets, snacks, and other items featuring your favorite idols and characters. They get sold out pretty fast, and I often hear stories of people lining up super early in the morning or visiting multiple stores in a day to get their hands on these collab items.
Pop culture has even been fusing with traditional crafts. For example, the traditional doll manufacturer Yoshitoku makes character figurines adorned in carefully-crafted kimono. I think these pieces are like works of art—I know that many people collect them as decorative pieces for their home.
Anime, games, and manga can give us a glimpse into Japanese culture and daily life. Whether you’re a diehard otaku or a casual hobbyist, you can take your fandom a step further by visiting the country and experience everything it has to offer—vibrant theme parks, mouthwatering cuisine, or even just leisurely townscapes.
Fate/Grand Order theme room in Sunshine City Prince Hotel, Ikebukuro
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