I observe my friends with unbridled envy as they plaster pictures of their Japan trip all over their social media. Ah, my jealousy as they fulfilled the ultimate weeaboo dream–to visit Japan.
Aside from the iconic stops of Mount Fuji, deer in Nara, or cherry blossoms during springtime, more recently, many anime culture sites have made it into the typical tourist rotation, such as Akihabara for merchandise shopping, maid cafes for the authentic meido experience, and the life-sized Gundam statue in Tokyo. Not to mention… Manga cafés! As the popularity of modern Japanese media spreads worldwide, a new breed of tourist is attracted to Japan, the anime-centric tourist.
But how much of a role does otaku culture actually play in increasing tourism in Japan? According to The Japan Times, a pretty big role. Not only is there a government-sanctioned “Anime Tourism Association” in Japan, but the Japanese government plans to actively take advantage of the popularity of Japanese pop culture overseas to further promote tourism, especially to more rural or lesser-known locations featured in anime. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe appearing on the Rio de Janeiro Olympics stage in a Mario costume is a good summary of Japan’s attitude towards anime tourism–Japan is ready to welcome foreign anime tourists with open arms.
Some notable options for anime tourists include:
- A government-sponsored contest for a pilgrimage to real-life Your Name locations
- Yuri!!! On Ice-themed tourist attractions in Karatsu, the real-life equivalent of Hasetsu (Yuri’s home town)
- An annual international cosplay competition and festival, World Cosplay Summit, held in Nagoya
- Airbnb experience packages targeted to anime fans, such as anime figurine shopping in Akihabara with a professional buyer (That’s a real job? Where do I sign up?!!)