Japan is famous for its breathtaking scenery, mouth-watering cuisine, and its polite and hospitable locals. But did you know that you can also visit locations from your favorite anime in real life? Here are our top 5 picks for the seichi junrei (聖地巡礼)—or anime pilgrimage—of your dreams!
1) Toyosato Elementary School (from: K-ON!)
Probably one of the most popular CGDCT (cute girls doing cute things) animes, K-ON! remains a cult classic nearly a decade after it stopped airing. Most of the series takes place at the fictional Sakuragaoka High, where the protagonists meet at the Light Music Club after school.
The high school is actually based on Toyosato Elementary School, located in the real-life town of Toyosato. It’s about a four-hour ride from Tokyo by train, so pack your school uniform and your instruments, and get ready to hit the road!
2) Yakushima (from: Princess Mononoke)
If you’re looking for a serene, picturesque spot to visit, we recommend Yakushima Island. It inspired the exquisitely illustrated scenes in Studio Ghibli’s Princess Mononoke, a film that pays homage to nature and its spirits.
Yakushima is only accessible via plane or ferry from the city of Kagoshima. When you get there, take the opportunity to explore its lush forests, pristine beaches, and lofty mountains by visiting Yakushima National Park or taking the Yakushima Geographic Tour!
3) Shirakawa-go (from: Higurashi no Naku Koro ni/When They Cry)
Teenager Keiichi Maebara moves to the seemingly innocuous rural village of Hinamizawa and is plunged into a murder mystery revolving around the village’s annual Watanagashi Festival. Don’t fret—Shirakawa Village, which served as the basis for Hinamizawa, is quite harmless in real life. In fact, thanks to the gassho-zukuri (prayer-hands) style of architecture used for its houses, the village is a UNESCO World Heritage Site!
While you’re there, be sure to visit the Shirakawa Hachiman Shrine. Estimated to have been built back between 708 and 715 CE, it’s the site of the Doboroku Festival every October. They’ve even set aside an area where fans of the anime can leave notes!
4) Azabu Hikawa Shrine (From: Sailor Moon)
For our last two picks, we head to Tokyo! As ExpatBets’ guide to Japan explains, just about every municipality has a temple as a place of worship, and visiting at least a couple of them is something that every tourist should try. The same can be said of anime fans, as many shrines in anime are based on real-world temples. That’s why it’s no surprise that we’ve got two more shrines on this list!
In Azabu Hikawa Shrine, Rei Hino (Sailor Mars) acted as a shrine maiden. Surrounded by trees, you wouldn’t have known that the shrine is just a ten-minute walk away from Azabu-Juban train station. Nearby is a residential area where Sailor Moon’s author, Naoko Takeuchi, lived while the anime was airing.
5) Yotsuya (from: Kimi no Na Wa/Your Name)
We can’t finish this list without mentioning the staircase from the hit 2016 anime film, Your Name. Spoiler alert: protagonists Mitsuha and Taki finally meet—on the steps of another shrine!
Located 10 minutes away from the Yotsuya train station, Suga Shrine is actually a combination of two older shrines, Gozutennou and Inari. The iconic staircase with red railings is now a tourist hotspot. We recommend you take your photos (we know you will!) at sunset.