"Anime Pilgrimage" is a term that not all fans may be acquainted with, but it’s something every anime fan should try out for themselves given the time and money. It's basically all about fans visiting real-life locations that their favorite anime were either inspired by or directly based in.
This can range from big cities like Tokyo and Kyoto to smaller urban areas spread out across Japan. The locations can be general or incredibly specific. It’s a cool way of seeing and experiencing the country while being to appreciate their pop culture. These locations are an absolute must for any hardcore anime fan. On the other hand, you should check them out regardless of whether or not you’ve seen them on Toonami or Crunchyroll.
10 Dōgo Onsen – Spirited Away
Spirited Away is one of the most well-known anime films out there. Many fans saw it while they were getting into anime, and, as a result, it’s left a pretty big mark on people. One location in the film, the Dōgo Onsen, has become a particularly popular pilgrimage site.
The onsen is located on the island of Shikoku in the south of Japan. You’ll find it in the city of Matsuyama. After taking some pictures, be sure to go and take a nice bath.
9 Shimonada Station – Nekomonogatari (Kuro)
The Monogatari series is filled with beautiful scenery and visuals. Studio SHAFT really did a great job of animating the light novel adaptation, and fans of the series can visit a pretty niche area from the Nekomonogatari (Kuro) arc.
Shimonada Station isn’t all that notable and only appeared briefly in the series. However, it has a pretty memorable look to it, and fans might as well pass through or get on while they’re in Iyo.
8 Minobu – Laid-Back Camp
Laid-Back Camp is a stunning, fun and heartwarming anime that’s popularity really helped the Yamanashi prefecture fill up its camping grounds. The series inspired a ton of travelers to check out Minobu’s camping sites, and things have been very beneficial for the area’s tourism.
Minobu is a small town that has some pretty awesome scenery and has a great view of Mt. Fuji. It’s a great spot to visit if you’re an outdoorsy traveler. The photos seriously don't do it justice, it's really the sort of thing travelers will need to experience for themselves!
7 Yakushima – Princess Mononoke
Yakushima is a beautiful island that isn’t necessarily the most easily accessible on this list, but a great place to visit regardless. The island served as the inspiration for the forest area in Princess Mononoke.
The island is beautiful and perfect for those who like to see and explore the outdoors on vacation. Japan has a lot of unique and beautiful landscapes, and what you’ll find in Yakushima really highlights that.
6 Ikebukuro – Durarara
If you’re visiting Tokyo, then chances are that you’re going to be visiting the Ikebukuro area at some point or another. But, if you’re a fan of Durarara, then spending as much time possible there is a must.
Ikebukuro serves as the anime and light novel’s setting and includes a ton of real-world areas you can visit and most certainly recognize. While it’s not the most specific pilgrimage site, it still has a lot to show and offer fans.
5 Washinomiya Shrine – Lucky Star
The Washinomiya Shrine is a pilgrimage location that really helped start the trend. It appears in the hit slice of life series Lucky Star, where the main characters’ father is the shrine's chief priest.
The shrine is an incredibly popular pilgrimage site that sees many anime fans visit it every year. Remember though that it still is a shrine, so taking it in while practicing the proper etiquette is the way to go.
4 Iwami – Free!
Kyoto Animation has a knack for making things look beautiful. Their character designs, backgrounds, and settings are all amazing. Free! Is no different.
Free!’s Iwatobi was heavily inspired by Iwami. The area certainly takes advantage of this connection, but it’s absolutely worth visiting regardless. It’s a beautiful alternative to city life during your trip.
3 Toyosato Elementary School – K-ON
K-ON is an anime that many saw as an introduction to the medium. As a result, it has one of the most well-known pilgrimage sites out there.
The school in which the series takes place was actually modeled after an elementary school in Toyosato, a small town in Shiga. It’s been abandoned since 2004, but people still visit it to get a look at the exterior and hallways that were featured so prominently in the show.
2 Radio Kaikan – Steins;Gate
One of the most well-known shots in anime is that of the time machine crashed into Radio Kaikan in Steins;Gate. The building is located in the Akihabara area in Tokyo, which is itself a pretty popular spot for anime fans and tourists in the area.
Radio Kaikan is filled with stores selling anime merchandise and memorabilia. You’ll find anything from figures, games, CDs, cards, Blu-rays and all sorts of other stuff. The scene in question was even recreated as a promotional campaign, which would’ve made it the ultimate pilgrimage site at the time.
1 Ogimachi Village – Higurashi: When They Cry
Higurashi is a pretty terrifying series. But the show’s setting is undoubtedly beautiful. Hinamizawa just looks like a really comfortable and peaceful place to live... not counting all the mysterious murders. The village is pretty much identical to Ogimachi Village in the Gifu prefecture.
The village is stunning, and it looks like something straight from Japan's past. It’s a must-visit for those wanting to experience some really unique Japanese scenery. It may be a little out of the way, but that’s part of the adventure!