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In the most recent Travel and Tourism Development Index, Japan topped the list as the leading tourist destination in the world. There is no doubt that the country’s nature spots, food, and rich cultural elements have always captured the hearts of local and foreign tourists alike. The development of web-based marketing on the internet made it possible for Japan to introduce new trends and promote tourism through features on TV shows, movies, and web advertisements. Apart from the vibrant streets and colorful cities, crowds are getting drawn to ordinary spaces where people pass by. These seemingly mundane locations are getting massive attention thanks to the love for anime and manga. Trips become more delightful to fans visiting anime attractions as the sights they see on screen come to life. Discover the growth of Japan’s tourism industry and how it flourished even more through this so-called ‘Anime Pilgrimage’.

Anime in the Real World

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As more and more viewers become fond of anime, there is also an increasing number of insights and comments not just about the main elements such as the plot, character design, and voice acting, but also about the backgrounds that make up the world of the shows. It is not rare for an anime movie or series to receive applause for its illustrations and backgrounds, whether they depict a sophisticated landscape or a beautiful scenery.

Though animators are quite popular in their profession name, these people are focused on the work involving the creation of characters and other objects in motion, and are not part of the show’s background production. Background artists and staff are dedicated to draw thos non-moving objects in the animation. The background art in an anime is a profession in itself since it is important to have backgrounds that elevate world-building, also considering how it matches the flow of the story, setting, as well as the characters.

Animation studios in Japan were the first to establish many limited techniques in animation, and have created a unique set of norms for anime. Unlike Western animation studios, where the emphasis is on the movement, Japanese animation gives emphasis on art quality and let those limited animation techniques compensate for shifting the focus away and the lack of time spent on movement. Scenes from anime show give importance to achieving three-dimensional views, and the details put into backgrounds are crucial to build the desired atmosphere in the work. Depending on the style or genre, backgrounds can be invented or based on real locations.

Image Credit: Wallpaper Crafter

There are different ways that anime backgrounds can be created to liven a production. According to the actual content of an anime and the style of the studios expression, there are more than one method to draw them. Some of the most common ways to draw backgrounds are starting from scratch, retouching images of 3-dimensional models, and transforming an existing drawing or photograph to create a realistic landscape that still gives cartoon-like feel.

As digital technology further developed in the 2000s, anime production companies made it a standard to create anime backgrounds by using digital photos. Production companies started to capture photographs of real places in Japan and process them digitally through software in order to produce the backgrounds. Since then, this style of production has really upscaled anime-related tourism and invited more tourist fans.

Media and Travel Intentions

The quick transfer of information on tourism stimulates the interest of people and influences their desire to visit new places. Through the internet, countries are able to pique the attention of modern travellers and make them want to see the views of the digital screen in real life. A study developed by Haci Yildrim and his group observes that the sense of wonder which comes from being exposed to media affects an individual’s purchase intention. The group mentioned that movies give a positive motivation for viewers to go to the destination shown to them. Viewers create a connection with the movies and characters by wanting to have a similar experience.

Every year, a large number of anime productions are developed and released to the public. The market reach of anime is truly increasing on a local and global scale. With the mentioned limited techniques of studios, Japan has placed itself in a high position when it comes to the extent of their market size. This is caused by the ability of anime to show relatable culture and artistic elements. Yildrim’s group found that anime viewers appreciate the community that they build when conversing with other people about culture and environment featured in similar shows.

A factor that elevated anime-induced tourism is the changes that occured in the effective promotion and marketing of TV anime series. There was an increased demand for the production of works that show backgrounds of everyday life. In the past two decades, viewers became more fond of anime productions that tell the stories of the characters’ daily lives. This made animation studios to take on a more reality-based approach when depicting their plot. Another change is the continuous increase of anime productions since the 2000s. The increased pressure and competition posed a challenge for studios to get better at creating their work.

Local and Foreign Craze on Anime Pilgrimage

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With the passion and talent in anime brought into the global audience, there emerged a cultural phenomenon called the Anime Pilgrimage in Japan. The Anime Pilgrimage or ‘seichi junrei’ is a fast-growing phenomenon within the avid lovers of anime called otakus. Members of the otaku subculture have spent a huge amount of time and effort in visiting real-life anime locations. The term seichi junrei in Japanese literally translates to ‘holy land pilgrimage’ but is contextualized as anime pilgrimage and it is rising as a niche tourism phenomenon. This pilgrimage is considered to be niche since some of the activities are very unique to Japan. Some otakus do cosplay or dress as their favorite anime character, while some even attend Shinto anime rituals.

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Previously recognized as a peculiar interest, anime pilgrimage now has turned mainstream as it brings high value to the tourism industry in different parts of Japan. Companies or productions even have official trips and partnerships to take people around. Different shows tie technology with a full pack of excitement as tourists go from one place to another. For instance, in the trip dedicated to the high school drama called ‘I Want to Eat Your Pancreas’, the operators of trams seen in the film provided passengers with souvenir tickets and gave announcements with the recorded voice of the actual actors. The city of Takaoka in the Toyama prefecture even has a map and a mobile app for the anime pilgrims.

Apart from the anime pilgrimage, Butaitanbou, or “scene hunting,” is also done by a small group of avid fans taking on a much greater challenge. Participants who take part of this have a goal to look for and visit a location, then take a photograph that resembles as closely as possible to screenshots from the anime that it is featured in, and then share the photo online. While the background art may actually depict a real location, that particular place might not be named in the anime or may just be given a fictional name.

Popular Types of Anime Destinations

Whether you’re up for a thrilling adventure or just a trip to relax and unwind, Japan certainly won’t disappoint when it comes to fulfilling the anime dream. These tourist spots can surely elevate the travel experience of anime fans from all ages.

Theme Parks

Nijigen no Mori Anime Park
Image Credit: Moshi Moshi Nippon

One of the most exciting things to do as an anime fan is to visit theme parks! Attractions, rides, food, and many more activities are in store for everyone who wants to see their favorites animes off the screen. Parks like Nijigen no Mori (ニジゲンノモリ) also offer food featured in shows like Naruto’s favorite ichiran ramen. Meanwhile, the live shows in parks like the One Piece Tower let you relive the show before your own eyes.


Studio Ghibli Museum
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Visiting museums are great to get a deeper learning about history and culture, and anime is no stranger to this. When you go to anime museums, you can expect to have a visual experience by going through elements of shows in exhibits or even see original movie clips that are exclusively available there. In some museums, they provide the opportunity for you to experience first-hand the process of making and editing an anime.

Anime Cafes

Kirby Cafe Tokyo
Image Credit: Nintendo Soup

Crowds also love not-so typical dining experiences in places like anime or character cafes. You can go to some permanent cafes in specific locations, while there are several pop-ups that are just set up temporarily especially during events. Surprisingly, it is recommended to have a reservation even for these pop-up cafes for a booking fee given the volume of customers who want to try it out.

Events and Exhibits

One Piece in Anime Festival
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In the past decades, festivals and gatherings done for the otaku community have spread from Japan to different parts of the world. Many fans of pop culture in Japan have the dream of experiencing those events in the country where it originated from. But even if you cannot go to Japan just yet, there are a lot of grand conventions related to anime and Japanese culture overseas nowadays. Otakus make time and effort to participate in anime events that are held in their own countries.

Merchandise Stores

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If you want to take home a piece of memory from your anime-related travels, there are also stores dedicated for anime merchandise. Different sorts of goods like costumes, toys, figurines, and other souvenirs are available to check out and purchase!



Hacı Mehmet Yıldırım, Pınar Yalçınkaya, Öykü Çöker, Abdurrahman Küçük, & Nedim Görman. (2017). A study to determine the impact of movies on travel intention: Anime Movies and Japan sample. J. Of Tourism and Hospitality Management, 5(5). https://doi.org/10.17265/2328-2169/2017.10.003