When you think of Japan, you think of pink sakura blossoms, cobblestone streets, majestic Fujiyama, shinkansen bullet trains, cutting-edge technology, and, of course, anime. Japanese films have captivated the world for years. The brilliance of craftsmanship, the technology used, and the attention to detail are factors that have all resulted in Japanese anime reaching millions across the world and gaining a cult following.
Since the early days of Studio Ghibli, fans and viewers have multiplied with audiences of all ages. Acclaimed directors like Isao Takahata, Makoto Shinkai, Hayao Miyazaki, and Satoshi Kon have firmly placed the flag of anime on the global entertainment stage.
You can actually travel and discover emblematic places in Japan through animated films, a bit like a virtual tour. “Anime Pilgrimage” is a term that all fans may not be familiar with, but it’s something everyone should try.
Here are 6 iconic anime movies that take you through Japan with their detailed backgrounds and frames. The next time you find yourself in Japan, don’t forget to join this lively tour for a transition from real to real.
This 2016 masterpiece by Makoto Shinkai is set in the city of Tokyo. The famous scene where Mitsuha and Tokyoite Taki pass each other is created to replicate the red-handled stairs of Yotsuya, Shinjuku. These stairs lead to Suga Shrine, which is easy to visit if you are in Tokyo. Shortly after the film’s release, millions of moviegoers flocked to the view to replicate the scene and click selfies on the famous stairs. Even the sailor school uniform is reproduced in intricate detail. Shinkansen trains, typical Japanese roadside bus stops, the Shinjuku district, all take on a new dose of life when seen on screen in this film. Even the katsu curry pictured here looks so real.
Tenki No Ko
Yet another Makoto Shinkai masterpiece, Tenki No Ko captured the pulse of Japanese city life in a rather unusual love story centered on Hodaka Morishima and Hina Amano. Hodaka moves to Tokyo and meets a girl who can somehow control the weather. The movie was released in July 2019 and was a huge hit. Located in Kabukicho in the province of Shinjuku, where Hodaka stayed, it brings to life the colorful and sparkling manga cafes and shops, the street lights of Kabukicho and the hustle and bustle of the city.
One of the most popular crossings in the world, the crossing from Shibuya to Tokyo, is vividly depicted in the film. Incidentally, the Japan Foundation of India had held a special screening during its 2019 Cinema Nippon festival, and as part of a competition, a life-size poster autographed by Shinkai from the film was given to one lucky winner.
five centimeters per second
This 2007 animated film from stellar Makoto Shinkai captures themes of love lost and found, the pangs of separation, and the constant dilemma of juggling career and family. The moving music and mastery of the anime craft show the genius that is Shinkai. There is a scene where Takaki Tono is outside a bank building, staring up at the sky as it snows. The place where Takaki is is a real place in Shinjuku and is outside the Shinjuku Sumitomo building.
The moment when Takaki Tono hurries to catch the night train to meet his beloved takes place vividly at Shinjuku Station. The painstaking details of railings, platform scenes, and even ticket booths all make animated films like these a true representation of Japan.
A 1997 Studio Ghibli film directed by co-founder Hayao Miyazaki, this film is set during the late Muromachi period in Japan. The story follows the young prince Emishi Ashitaka and his involvement in a struggle between the gods of a forest and the humans who consume its resources. The term Mononoke is a Japanese word for shape-shifting supernatural beings that possess people and cause suffering, disease, or death. Yakushima is an island that inspired the film’s forest area. Japan has many unique and beautiful landscapes, and what you’ll find in Yakushima tops the list.
Taken away as if by magic
This 2001 Miyazaki film from Studio Ghibli tells the story of Chihiro Ogino (Hiiragi), a 10-year-old girl who, moving to a new neighborhood, enters the world of Kami. After her parents are turned into pigs by the witch Yubaba (Natsuki), Chihiro takes a job at Yubaba’s bathhouse to find a way to free herself and her parents and return to the human world. The Dogo Onsen Shrine, located on the island of Shikoku in southern Japan in the city of Matsuyama, is a classic example of a real-time depiction of a real location in an animated film.
Steins Gate: The Movie − Load Deja Vu Region
The 2013 animated film was a sequel to the 2011 animated television series Steins; Gate. Directed by Hiroshi Hamasaki, Takuya Sato and Kanji Wakabayashi, the film is part of the sci-fi genre and captures the mecca of Otaku-Akihabara in Tokyo. Often referred to as a manga and anime town, Akihabara is a wonderland for all anime lovers and manga obsessives around the world. The famous bright yellow lights of the Radio Kaikan building located at the crossroads of the city are very hard to miss and are accurately reproduced in the film.