The Real ‘Your Name’ – Our Anime Expert’s Japan Tour Diary

Zuleika Boekhoudt

FANDOM’s anime expert Zuleika regularly covers Japanese animation for us, but she’s just now visited Japan for the first time in her life. Zuleika explored the country for a whole week to see the real life inspirations of many of the areas in the hit anime Your Name. She’s ready to share the experience with all of you in her road diary of events. We’ll keep updating this as she sends us more information and photos from her big trip.

At the beginning of the year Lab Kadokawa announced that they were offering a trip to Japan to tour to the locations featured in Your Name — the highest grossing anime in the world that just came out in the US. (Check out Fandom’s Your Name review.) The movie is firmly set in specific parts of Japan, in particular, the bustling metropolis of Tokyo and the quiet town of Ito.

Out of the tens of thousands of people who applied for this opportunity, only 30 people from around the world were the chosen, including me. As I travel around Japan on my first ever trip to the country, I’ll be keeping this diary where I take you through all the famous, real-life locations of Your Name, as well as some other fun spots all around the country. Keep checking back for more updates!

Day 1: Osaka

The day or better yet the morning started as a typical cross-continental trip would. From delayed trains to switching flights the trip from my home in Amsterdam, Netherlands all the way to Osaka, Japan wasn’t the easiest, but now that I’m writing about it, I can say it was worth it.

Landing at Kansai Osaka airport one of the tour guides was waiting for me. I thought, “Hey, it’s going to be a quick ride to the hotel.” Not so — I would actually be taking a metro from Osaka to Namba where the rest of the Lab Kadokawa would meet me. And for this being my first time in Japan, I was very nervous.

What if I get lost? Or I accidentally wind up in far off Okinawa? But, thankfully almost every major transit sign had English below the Japanese, including my train stops. The ride from the airport to Namba was approximately 45 minutes and the scenery was exactly as I imagined it would be based on all the anime I’ve seen and written about for Fandom. Different houses, small cars, everyone riding on the left side of the road, and polite folks ready to give up their seats for the elderly.

Namba Station

When I arrived at Namba Station, I was greeted by the rest of the travel staff. At first glance, the station looked small and I would soon be arriving at the hotel. But, it was a mini marathon. Walking from point A to point B was almost 1km – my Fitbit loved it – so, that we could catch the next metro to go the hotel. Luckily for me, one of the staff accompanied me to the hotel, so no danger in getting lost in my new setting.

Midosuji

Now, at the hotel one of the staff was explaining to me how to get to the Your Name cafe, a special restaurant themed after the very popular film. He explained the best as he could, but I’m such a worrywart I Googled which line – Midosuji – to take to go to the next stop which was almost 10 minutes away. I can’t stress enough how thankful I was that the station signs had English on them. From the hotel to Umeda station was a piece of cake. Even if I mixed up directions like North from South, I thankfully had WiFi and could use Google map.

At the Your Name Cafe, I met a few more of Lab Kadokawa staff and the other winners of this special anime trip. From places like Hong Kong to the United States, we were a diverse group with one common interest, Your Name or Kimi no Na Wa as it’s known in Japan. We learned a bit about each other and how lucky we were to be here from the many people who applied. We took pictures of the cafe, bought some awesome souvenirs and of course, eat some amazing Your Name inspired dishes.

Willer Cafe

Next, it was another long walk to go to the next location -Willer Cafe – for a welcome meeting. We introduced ourselves and had the rest of the trip was explained along with the schedule for the next few days. Incidentally, we’re in Japan during spring and that means sakura – cherry blossoms. Behind the cafe there is a gorgeous tree in bloom.

Did I mention that my Fitbit loved me on the first day? Well, walking back from the Willer cafe to the hotel, as you’d guess, our little group got lost. Google Map couldn’t help because we were underground in the metro station to escape from some poorly timed rain. Luckily, after 30 minutes, we finally saw the hotel. And taking advantage that this was going to be our first and only night at Osaka, us lucky winners formed a group and went to explore the city. Our first stop an osake and tapas bar near Osaka station. A well lit underground bar that might seem dubious at first, but once you get inside it was so big

The second stop on our night out was a ramen shop Tenka Ippin, where I ate my first ever bowl of ramen. And it was delicious. Unfortunately, I couldn’t eat all of it because I was stuffed. And besides, it was getting late. So, it was back to the hotel for a 6.30 am call for the next stop on our tour, Takayama.

Day 2: Hida

With a 6.30 am morning call, the second day of the Your Name anime monitor trip continues. Our next destination was Hida City in Gifu Prefecture. About 350km from Tokyo, the area served as the model for Mitsuha’s home town of Itomori. To make the long trip from Osaka to Hida, we traveled in the official Your Name bus, which caught the attention of the local people. Our group of tourists of course were thrilled to get the attention.

The official Your Name Bus #anime #kiminonawa #Travel #japan #Instagood

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Kumihimo

Just as in the film, Hida is a small town that has kept many traditions alive, such as kumihimo a.k.a. The braid-making as depicted in Your Name. While the design is seemingly simple, the technique in accomplishing it was very intricate at first. However, after a few tries and misses it became much more easier to figure out.

Hida-Furukawa Station

In the movie, Taki and his friends arrived in Hida via Itomori station. Looking at the real-life location, you can see that the movie perfectly replicates the train station and the railroad tracks. To illustrate, a few volunteers of the monitor trip posed the same as depicted in the film.

Eating Korokke

Between visiting these two locations you need to refuel, so what other way to reenergize than to eat some of the local cuisine? One of my favourite meals of the trip happened to be Korokke, which is a a deep-fried dish created by mixing cooked, chopped meat and mashed potato.

Hmmm korokke #japan #cuisine #yourname #KimiNoNawa #Instagood #food #lunch

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Hida-City Library

One of the most melancholic scenes in Your Name (spoilers if you haven’t seen it yet) is when Taki and his friends visit the town’s library to find out what had happened to Mitsuha’s home town. As I’d been learning all day, this next stop also was surprisingly accurate to how it looked in the film.

Keta Wakamiya Shrine

After stopping by the library, we continued on the tour to visit the stairway to Keta Wakamiya Shrine. The Furukawa festival takes place annually on the 19th and 20th of April. The festivities known as the Three Great “naked festivals.” Unfortunately, we were one week too early for the nudity. In fact, there was no one at the shrine, which made it easier to take in the beautiful view of Hida as the day wound to a close.

Day 3: Gero

After a great time in Hida-Furukawa, we finally had time to rest and explore the city of Takayama. With the town of Takayama being high in the mountains there was an unexpected weather change. It began to snow! With no winter clothing on me, I had to venture out into the city and buy some gloves because my fingers were freezing.

With my map in hand and a new pair of gloves, I venture through Takayama and found some lovely sights. I loved the Nakabashi Bridge and a traditional shopping street between the small buildings.

Historic Villages of Shirakawa-gō

After my little adventure through the city, it was time to head up to our next location, the Historic Villages of Shirakawa-gō. The small village is located in a mountainous region. The Unesco heritage site is a tourist hotspot that’s untouched from modern conveniences. The Gassho-style houses with steeply pitched, thatched roofs are the only examples of their kind in Japan. On top of featuring these historic buildings, there’s a beautiful river that many anime shows lovingly recreated.

Gero Onsen

The next leg of our tour was Gero, located between Nagoya and Takayama. The Onsen or hot springs are what make Gero a famous spot to relax and unwind. Not only that, Gero also has some beautiful sakura blossoms along the river, which are illuminated at night. There are several public locations where you can have a taste of the naturally hot water, though you can only wash your feet.

What made my stay an authentic one was the hotel I stayed at. My Japanese-style room – Washitsu – brought me back to my favorite anime series set in old Japan, such as Rurouni Kenshin. The room was equipped with fusuma (sliding doors) and tatami (flooring material).

My throwback Japanese experience didn’t end there. On top of getting to sleep in an authentic room, we also got the opportunity to wear kimonos and geta. While the Kimono was a unique and beautiful experience, I have to admit that walking in geta is a challenging art. I don’t know how people back then could walk or even run in these shoes. Makes me wonder how Mugen in Samurai Champloo moved so eloquently during his battles.

After donning our Japanese attire, it was time to hit the streets of Gero. But, unfortunately almost all the shops were closed. Except for the Sentō (bathhouse) of a nearby hotel. While in anime, it’s relatively normal to see a group of friends taking a shower together and then jumping in the onsen, for me it was a complete culture shock. However, after a few minutes, I got used to it and forgot all of my worries and had a relaxing bath to end the day.

Day 4: Tokyo (Specifically Akihabara)

Waking up in beautiful Gero was a treat. I could now see the Sakura more clearly and enjoy the calming sounds of the river. After spending of few yen on some snacks, it was time to head to Tokyo!

On My Way to Tokyo

My experience with the Dutch public transport didn’t prepare me for the hectic Japanese train system. From Gero, we boarded a train to Nagoya, which initially was a very relaxing ride. However, when the conductor announced that we were arriving a bit late for our next stop, it was time to sprint to our connecting train. Thankfully, I only had a small piece of carry-on luggage which meant easy moving through the thick masses of people going up and down the station.

After a quick dash and walking through several railroad cars, I finally got in my seat to see and experience the famous bullet train of Japan, also known as the Shinkansen. One of the most amazing sights between Nagoya and Tokyo was the majestic Mount Fuji. As you can see in my above tweet, it was stunning.

After a two-hour high-speed train ride, we made it to the truly gigantic Tokyo Station. One of the things that stood out (aside the massive hoards of people) were the funny animated adverts warning passengers about the dangers of using their mobile phone.

Akihabara

After, searching around Tokyo Station and nearby stores for an international ATM, our tour group made it to the hotel. Now, it was time to visit one of the top destination on my list, Akihabara!
Known internationally as Tokyo’s electric town, the place is heaven for otaku from all over. Also famous for its electronic shops, Akiba has many shops devoted to anime, manga, games, and special merchandise related to all of those things. When walking around, the most amazing thing to me were all the maid cafe waitresses handing out flyers. Just like I’d seen in countless anime series. Now brought to life. Not just the waitresses on the street handing out flyers, but also tourists going up and down taking pictures – including myself!

Not Your Typical Animes Available

While Akiba was initially famous for its electronic shops, they seemed to lose some of their status in recent years. There was something that did catch my eye and it wasn’t the latest Tamagotchi – in fact, I didn’t see any of those in Akiba. It was the buildings themselves. While Tokyo is infamous for its tight architecture due to the lack of space, it doesn’t mean that you can’t build skyscrapers higher and higher. Even with limited floor space, almost every store had several floors, with each dedicated to a certain theme or type.

But, hey I didn’t come to Akiba for the electronics, but for the anime. No room in the budget for manga since it doesn’t make any sense if I can’t read Japanese. When shopping around, the lack of popular anime I knew was a bit odd. In the west, anime fans have a plethora of choices and genres, such as Attack on Titan, Samurai Champloo, Steins; Gate or my personal favourite Mouryou no Hako. Turns out that these series aren’t all that popular currently in Japan. Even when they aired, most of those series weren’t even on during prime time.

Conversely, series such as Cardcaptor Sakura dominated almost every store. So, if you’re going to Akihabara expecting anime and manga stores featuring a lot of hardcore action adventure titles, then you’ll need to adjust your expectation, or at least be ready to dig for some of the more obscure stuff. Although, a newer title did capture my eye, the macabre Dead Tube.

Souvenirs

My choices for buying anime and manga were limited, so what else can an otaku to buy in Akihabara? Souvenirs, of course! One of the things that I like to spend my hard earned money on during holidays is on local knickknack. And that was the case in Akiba, where I found some really cute keychains from My Hero Academia and Attack on Titan.

The next stop on my Akiba list was, of course, a game center. These massives arcades are all over the electric town. With seven or more floors of arcade games and barely enough change, I had a very short gaming adventure. Most of the games were way too hard for a jetlagged otaku. I’ll just stick with my Xbox.

After spending the whole day in Akihabara, it was time to head back to my hotel and recharge for the final day in Tokyo.

Day 5: Final Day in Japan

Suga Shrine

It’s a bittersweet morning because it’s our final day with the Your Name Anime Monitor Trip. We’ve all gathered at the hotel lobby to prepare for our final walkthrough of the Your Name location. The last destination was the famous steps of the movie, where Taki and Mitsuha meet eye-to-eye. We’ve gathered and a bunch of us recreated the scene way too many times. I guess that as the movie gets even more popular abroad more fans will make the pilgrimage to all of Your Name locations.

Next to the famous steps is the Suga Shrine and similar to the one in Noragami there were several objects to make an offering. Good thing that there was someone in the group that could read Japanese and translate our fortune, so thanks Ben.

Farewell

After taking a whole bunch of pictures and few prayers it was time to head up to the Kadokawa main office. This was on a Saturday, so the office was empty. Here all 16 of us presented our top 10 pictures of the week. With the majority of us choosing pictures of Sakura. Our final task for Kadokawa was to fill in a questionnaire, to get our thoughts on the trip.

After a few bites to eat and a lot of group pictures, we said our goodbyes to each other and of course thanked the awesome staff of Kadokawa who guided us all over Japan.

Real-Life Locations Tokyo

Now, it was time to experience one last taste of Tokyo. Our first destination was the beautiful Shinjuku Garden. But, before we headed there a group member who already visited Tokyo many times acted as a tour guided, with his handy red notebook he guided us through the busy streets of Shinjuku.

The first stop was the building that served as the model for the high school of Your Name male lead, Taki. A few more blocks ahead was the restaurant where Taki worked. Unfortunately, the restaurant was full and time was running out, so we took a slight left and headed over to Shinjuku Garden.

Shinjuku Garden

In the garden, there’s a famous real-life spot of another Makoto Shinkai movie, The Garden of Words. The day was perfect for spending it in the park. However, since I spent the whole day in Akiba the previous day, I decided to split from the group and visit the real-life Tokyo locations of Your Name that were still on my list.

Yotsuya Station

The Yotsuya Station is the closest train location to Taki’s house and appears several times in the movie. The Yotsuya platform is where Mitsuha and Taki first met and where she gives him her hair braid. After, taking a few pics and people giving me a few weird glances it was to go to the second station, Shinanomachi.

Shinanomachi Station

It was a few minutes by train until I arrived at Shinanomachi Station. However, it was the station’s pedestrian overpass that was the go-to place. The overpass was the route that Taki took from home to his part-time job and where Mitsuha took a break while searching for Taki. It was sunset, and I was unable to make it to the Imperial Palace. As a result, I have to leave the palace and other Tokyo locations for my next trip.

Roppongi Hills Mori Tower

Luckily, there was a bus stop near the overpass heading to Roppongi. One thing I do have to say, that everyone is willing to help you even if they don’t understand English. After having a short Google Translate conversation with the bus driver, it was time to go to Roppongi Hills, famous first its nightlife and buildings.

Not only does the Mori Tower looks fascinating from the outside, but on the inside as well. However, I wasn’t interested in the stores or fabulous restaurant. My stop was the beautiful observation deck, where Taki had his first date with Onodera. The deck is 250 meters above the city and it offered a breathtaking view of Tokyo Tower and other buildings. On top of this spectacular view, there was also a Marvel exhibition. Unfortunately, visitors weren’t allowed to take pictures.

Shibuya Crossing Crossing

So, what is there more to see in my last few hours in Tokyo, of course, the famous Shibuya Crossing. After another bus ride, I made it to the crossing. However, when stepping out of the bus station, there were several crossings and for a minute there I was a bit disappointed that it wasn’t as hectic as many anime series depicted. Nevertheless, when I kept walking I finally encountered the famous intersection. How would you ask did I manage to see – or miss – the crossing? The tons of tourist walking around with their camera in the air and not to mention there were bleachers for people to take amazing pictures.

Thank You

After a few minutes in Shibuya, it was time to head back to the hotel and say goodbye to the rest of the group. This was an amazing experience that I will never forget. Not only did I visit the real-life locations of the highest grossing anime in the world, but I also met some interesting and diverse group of people. Thanks to the staff of Lab Kadokawa and Fandom I now have friends from every corner in the world. On top of that, I got to experience the Japanese culture, which I greatly admired because of anime.

Zuleika Boekhoudt
Zuleika is a fan contributor at Fandom and focuses on Anime. Her anime specialties are horror, gore, and mystery anime. Loves series, movies, and games that have to do with bloodthirsty but equally intelligent psychos.
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