Every otaku knows that Akihabara is a must-go when they visit Japan. But, what else is there? Many guides out there tell you which shops to go to in Akihabara or which maid cafes you should try out. However, what they don’t explore are the events that few foreigners know about or the whole otaku experience in general. In this guide, we will be sharing with you on how to plan your trip, what to do, and our own experiences during our otaku pilgrimage to Tokyo, Japan!
Image Source: Justin Oh
Which time of the year to make that pilgrimage?
Before even booking that flight ticket, you need to check out the events that are taking place in Tokyo that interest you. There are many events such as Anime Japan, Comiket, music festivals like CountDown Japan (CDJ), various matsuris, etc. Make sure you plan your trip to accommodate such events as attending any one of these will definitely enhance your otaku experience in Japan!
Just a tip from us: Go during December/January so you can experience all of it in one shot! We went from 25th December 2017 to 15th January 2018, allowing us to catch CDJ, Winter Comiket (all three days) and New Year Matsuris at various shrines.
Once you’ve decided on the dates to go for your pilgrimage, finding an accommodation becomes the next challenge. Airbnb works fine in most cases, but you have to find one that is as close to a train station for easy commuting. After settling your accommodation, you can start to buy tickets for some events as they may require a local address.
Image Source: Justin Oh
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Yes, the world’s largest Doujinshi fair held at Tokyo Big Sight, where otakus from all over the world gather to purchase creative works and support their favourite creators. Best part? Free entry! There are two Comikets, namely Summer Comiket in August and Winter Comiket in December. Be warned though, the queue times are ridiculously long, especially for famous creators. If you have a lot of goods you want to purchase, do plan out which booths you want to make a beeline for as things run out pretty quickly.
Want to see your favourite artists from Studio Ghibli? Perhaps meet the seiyuu (voice actress) of your favourite anime character? Anime Japan is an anime convention where various exhibitors come down to sell merchandise, promote their upcoming series, or even premiere anime episodes or films! It takes place during late March every year at Tokyo Big Sight.
Image Source: countdownjapan
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Aside from the concerts that local artists perform, there are huge music festivals that run for several days. The one that we went for was called CountDown Japan (CDJ) 1718. It is a mega festival where a hundred over artistes perform on multiple stages within the same venue, and you get to pick and choose which artists you would like to see live. We’re talking artists like Asian Kung-Fu Generation, amazarashi, Aimer, etc. It’s an awesome experience all for roughly SGD 100 per day! Crazy right?! If you’re a huge fan of Japanese pop/rock music, CDJ is highly recommended by us. There are other festivals like Japan JAMS in May or Rock in Japan in September.
Pop-up stores in Tokyo
Throughout the year, there are various pop-up stores featuring anime/manga/j-culture related stuff. We managed to visit a HoneyWorks pop-up store in Shibuya where we could get exclusive and limited edition HoneyWorks merchandise. Pop-up stores are also great places for pictures to commemorate your visit there! So keep a look-out online for such pop-up stores when you are in Japan!
Otaku paradise! There are so many shops here that we would have to make whole other guide for it. We suggest you dedicate an entire day or two to go into every shop to explore. We personally spent three days looking for Japan exclusive Gundams and trying to find the best prices for them. Our tip: don’t dismiss the smaller, obscure stores along the streets as there is some really good merchandise just waiting to be snatched by the smart otaku traveller.
Image Source: Justin Oh
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Love shopping? Shibuya is the place to be! Lined with a plethora of shops and eateries, Shibuya is a shopping hotspot for both locals and tourists. Fans of Japanese music should visit Tower Records where they sell exclusive Japanese version albums.
Another popular spot for tourists…and otakus who love Japanese fashion! Harajuku boasts a large number of clothing shops with a lot of great deals up for grabs. If you love quirky fashion, this is your stop. Harajuku also has some street food such as giant crepes like those you see in anime. Definitely should give them a taste!
Image Source: Justin Oh
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Diver City Odaiba, Tokyo, life-sized RX-0 Unicorn Gundam!
If you are a Gundam fan, making the trip down to Gundam Base in Diver City Odaiba, Tokyo is a no-brainer. Seeing the life-sized Gundam is one thing, but seeing the Unicorn transform to Destroy Mode and back left us in awe. We suggest going to Diver City during the afternoon and staying till night time so that you can catch the transformation during the day and then seeing the whole psycho-frame of the mobile suit light up at night! Gundam Base itself is a Gundam toy store with limited edition gunplay kits, a Gundam painting class in-store and a Gundam experience booth where you get to see a larger than usual gunpla kit. Unfortunately for us, we were too late to register for a gunplay painting workshop. For those of you who want to try it out, get a High-Grade kit and go early to book a slot. You may need to book a day in advance depending on how popular it is.
If you have some spare time, you may want to include visiting some places depicted in your favourite animes! During our time in Japan, Kimi no Nawa (Your Name) aired for the first time on Japanese television. The next day, we decided to visit the staircase where Mitsuha and Taki met as adults during the last scene of the movie. It was cool to compare the real-life location to the anime drawings and see the actual location for ourselves. It took us quite awhile to find the place, and when we got there, there were quite some locals on the spot too, taking pictures and chatting about the movie. It can be an excellent way to meet local anime-lovers and make some new friends!
Planning your trip to Tokyo might be a bit stressful for some, but the experience you get from the trip is well worth it. Take your time to decide what you really want to experience as an otaku and use this guide to help you make that decision. Ganbatte ne!
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