When you think of Japan, you think pink sakura blossoms, cobbled streets, the majestic Fujiyama, shinkansen bullet trains, cutting-edge tech, and, of course, anime. Japanese films have captivated the world for years. The brilliance of the craft, the tech used, and eye for details are factors that have all made sure that Japanese anime reaches out to millions across the globe, and acquires a cult following.
Since the early days of Studio Ghibli, fans and viewers have multiplied with audiences ranging from 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 scene.
One can actually travel through and discover iconic locations of Japan through anime films, much like a virtual tour. 'Anime Pilgrimage' is a term that not all fans may be acquainted with, but it’s something everyone should try out.
Here are 6 iconic anime films which take you around Japan with their detailed backgrounds and frames. The next time you find yourself in Japan, don’t forget to go on this anime tour for a transition from reel to real.
This 2016 masterpiece by Makoto Shinkai is set in urban Tokyo. The famous scene where Mitsuha and Tokyoite Taki cross paths is created to replicate the red-handled stairs of Yotsuya, Shinjuku. These stairs lead up to the Suga Shrine which is easy to visit if you happen to be in Tokyo. Soon after the release of the film, millions of cinema enthusiasts flocked to the sight to replicate the scene and click selfies at the famous stairs. Even the sailor school uniform is replicated with intricate detailing. Shinkansen trains, typical Japanese roadside bus stops, the Shinjuku neighbourhood, all get a fresh dose of life when viewed on the screenin this film. Even the katsu curry depicted here seem so real.
Tenki No Ko
Yet another Makoto Shinkai masterpiece, Tenki No Ko captured the pulse of Japanese urban life in a rather unusual love story which centres on Hodaka Morishima and Hina Amano. Hodaka moves to Tokyo and encounters a girl who can somehow control the weather. The movie was released in July 2019, and was a huge success. Set in Kabukicho of Shinjuku province, where Hodaka stayed, it brings alive the colourful and glittery manga cafes and stores, the lights of the Kabukicho streets, and the hustle-bustle of the city.
One of the most popular crossings of the world, the Shibuya crossing in Tokyo, is vividly portrayed in the film. Incidentally, the Japan Foundation of India had organised a special screening during their 2019 Cinema Nippon festival, and as part of a contest, a Shinkai autographed life-sized poster of the film was given out to one lucky winner.
Five Centimeters Per Second
This 2007 anime film by the stellar Makoto Shinkai captures the themes of love lost, and regained, the pangs of separation and the constant dilemma of juggling career and family. The soulful music and the mastery of the anime craft shows the genius that Shinkai is. There is a scene where Takaki Tono is outside a bank building, staring up at the sky as it snows. Where Takaki stands is a real place in Shinjuku and can be found outside the Shinjuku Sumitomo building.
The time when Takaki Tono hurries to catch the night train to meet his beloved is set vividly in Shinjuku station. The minute detailings of the railings, the platform scenes and even the ticket counters all make anime films like these a true representation of Japan.
A 1997 Studio Ghibli movie directed by the co-founder Hayao Miyazaki, this film is set in the late Muromachi period of Japan. The story follows young Emishi prince 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 supernatural, shape-shifting beings that possess people and cause suffering, disease, or death. Yakushima is an island which served as the inspiration for the forest area in the film. Japan has a many unique and beautiful landscapes, and what you’ll find in Yakushima tops the list.
This 2001 Miyazaki film by Studio Ghibli tells the story of Chihiro Ogino (Hiiragi), a 10-year-old girl who, while moving to a new neighbourhood, enters the world of Kami. After her parents are turned into pigs by the witch Yubaba (Natsuki), Chihiro takes a job working in 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 the south of Japan in the city of Matsuyama, is a classic example of real-time depiction of an actual place in an anime film.
Steins Gate: The Movie − Load Region of Déjà Vu
The 2013 anime film was a follow-up to the 2011 anime television series Steins; Gate. Directed by Hiroshi Hamasaki, Takuya Sato and Kanji Wakabayashi, the film is a part of the science fiction genre and captures the Mecca of Otaku-Akihabara in Tokyo. Often regarded as a manga and anime city, Akihabara is a wonderland for all anime lovers and manga-obsessed people across the globe. The famous bright yellow lights of the Radio Kaikan building located at the city junction are very hard to miss and are replicated accurately in the film.