The Pop Culture Fan Guide to Japan

■Godzilla Interception Operation Awaji
TM & © TOHO CO., LTD.

Mario, Pikachu, and Godzilla have one thing in common; they are world-class celebrities that come from Japan! Pop culture was a starting point for many Japan-fans who have later discovered the country's rich cultural heritage, delicious cuisine, and breathtaking outdoors. Exploring Japan, you will uncover different areas and spots that have inspired creators of your favourite series or games. Walking around places like the Ojiya City in Niigata you can stumble upon special Pokémon manhole covers - your chance to catch them all. There are plenty of spots that will transport you straight into the world of your favourite characters but to make the choice a wee bit easier, we picked our top pop culture spots across the country! 


It's a me Mario!

Images courtesy of Universal Studios Japan ©Nintendo

We’ll start with the recent 2021 addition to Japan’s map of marvels - Super Nintendo World in Osaka’s Universal Studios Japan. It’s their first multi-level section with two buildings towering over the park: Peach’s Castle and Browser’s Castle. You will be surprised by how realistic they look! Hop on the Mario Kart ride or join the immersive experience which lets you become a part of the game and punch ‘?’ blocks to collect virtual coins!

Images courtesy of Universal Studios Japan ©Nintendo

After working up a sweat, don’t forget to check out their limited edition merchandise and try one of the delicious Mario-themed lunch sets! Make sure to set aside a whole day for this park and explore its other incredible sections like The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Minion Park.

Shopping in Tokyo

©TCVB

Japan’s capital has a lot to offer to a pop culture aficionado so let’s dive straight in.

We recommend Akihabara for all anime and manga fans, especially action-packed series aimed at male audiences like shounen and seinen. That’s where you can get goods from the newer series, stock up on figurines, and grab some manga volumes. 

If you’re hunting for goods from older series, head to Nakano Broadway which is a famous shopping complex with dozens of anime stores.

©TCVB

Another great location is Ikebukuro with its wide assortment of anime shops. We especially recommend its ‘Otome Road’ to people more interested in goods from the romantic shoujo series.

There are plenty of shops for anime and manga fans across Japan - look out for the well-known Mandrake and Animate - and all self-respecting Pokémon fans need to visit at least one of the many Pokémon Centers. You can also give the second-hand chain Book-Off a chance, for manga in particular but a plethora of other goodies too!

See the 'King of Monsters'

We’ve seen Tokyo’s destruction at the hands of this celebrity monster many times. Make your way to Shinjuku’s Kabukicho district to find the famous Godzilla peeking from behind Hotel Gracery (and potentially flashing his eyes at you)! Fun fact: the statue’s size reflects Godzilla’s height in the original movies.

Get your fix

■NARUTO&BORUTO SHINOBI-ZATO
ⒸMasashi Kishimoto Scott / Shueisha · TV Tokyo · Pierro

Located on Awaji Island, just outside of Kobe, is every pop culture fan’s paradise - the Nijigen no Mori Theme Park. It consists of several sections and one of them is fully devoted to the all-time ninja favourites, Naruto and his son Boruto! Called 'Naruto & Boruto Shinobi-zato', it's the best place to put your ninja skills to a test and pay a visit to Naruto's favourite ramen shop, Ichiraku Ramen! Thanks to the park's special smartphone app, you can take pictures that make it look like you’re performing some high-level ninjutsu, too!

■NARUTO&BORUTO SHINOBI-ZATO
ⒸMasashi Kishimoto Scott / Shueisha · TV Tokyo · Pierrot

Next on our must-try list is the park’s Godzilla attraction, 'Godzilla Interception Operation Awaji - National Awaji-Island Institute of Godzilla Disaster'. Join the 'National Awaji-Island Institute of Godzilla Disaster' team and protect the island from the world's largest 120 metre long Godzilla! Choose one of the two zip line courses to fly into the Godzilla’s jaws and then shoot its cells to prevent a disaster. Once you’ve saved the day, you can explore the world's first permanent Godzilla museum and fill yourself up with some Godzilla curry!

■Godzilla Interception Operation Awaji
TM & © TOHO CO., LTD.

Nijigen no Mori offers other exciting attractions, including the newly opened ‘Dragon Quest Island’ devoted to one of Japan’s greatest games, and the stunning Night Walk Firebird. The best part is that you can get tickets to each section separately so you can keep coming back for more, without breaking the bank! 

■Godzilla Interception Operation Awaji
TM & © TOHO CO., LTD

Say hello to the Titans

© Hajime Isayama/ Kodansha

We were all sad when one of the most popular manga series of all time, “Attack on Titan'' ended this April. However, all those hungry for more, can now step into the world of Titans at the community-integrated project, "Shingeki no Kyojin in HITA”! It’s located in Oita Prefecture’s Hita City which is the hometown of Hajime Isayama - the original author behind “Attack on Titan ''. You can first visit the local dam to watch the terrifying Titans appear from behind the wall using a special AR smartphone app. Then, head to the museum to see priceless original paintings and impactful Titan artworks. Don’t forget to try the delicious “Attack on Titan'' plum wine made from Hita City’s specialty plums. You can get to Hita City in around an hour and half by highway bus from Fukuoka so it’s perfect for a daytrip!

There are other worth visiting places, Studio Gihbli and Hayao Miyazaki fans, should visit the Studio Ghibli Museum just outside of Tokyo. Make sure to book way in advance not to miss out on their interactive exhibitions! If you're still hungry for more, a Studio Ghibli Park is in the works in Aichi prefecture and it's set to open in autumn 2022.

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