Anime fans know firsthand just how great the medium can be in helping us metaphorically escape to other worlds (considering the entire subgenre known as isekai). And with many of us spending the winter glued to our couches, we need that more than ever.
Lately, I find that the more time I spend within the four walls of my apartment, the more I find one singular thought running through my head:
“I want to go to Japan…”
Travel to Japan is obviously limited right now, but as usual, many problems can be alleviated through anime! And what better anime to show you Tokyo than HYPNOSISMIC -Division Rap Battle- Rhyme Anima, a series about four teams of young men vying for supremacy in territory rap battles?
Each division—Ikebukuro, Yokohama, Shibuya and Shinjuku—is a real place in the Tokyo area, and they’ve all been featured in other famous anime.
The flavor of each team carries the feel of their location of origin, so let’s take a mini-tour of some specific spots throughout Tokyo that HYPNOSISMIC and other anime fans won’t want to miss!
Buster Bros!!! in HYPNOSISMIC is a trio of teen brothers who love pop and nerd culture—Ichiro and Jiro are obsessed with anime and light novels, while little brother Saburo loves analog games.
They’re a great fit for their division, Ikebukuro, a lively spot for young people with hangout spots like cinemas, arcades, cool cafes and restaurants, and more.
Otaku around the world all know Akihabara, the electronics district with a huge volume of anime shops, but Ikebukuro is also a major otaku haven with nerd culture stores, dedicated anime cafes, a stretch of female otaku-oriented shops called Otome Road and more.
Ikebukuro also hosts many anime-adjacent events, like an annual Halloween cosplay parade, a regular cosplay meetup event called acosta!, and the Animate Girls’ Festival event for popular joseimuke franchises. The feel is quite different from Akihabara, so we definitely suggest that anime fans not overlook Ikebukuro!
Formerly, Ikebukuro’s Nishiguchi Park (or West Gate Park) was known as a hangout for delinquents, and Buster Bros!!! leader Ichiro himself is a reformed delinquent, but the area’s image has become more of a general spot for locals and visitors.
One of Busters Bros!!! songs, “IKEBUKURO WEST GAME PARK,” is meant to evoke an image of the three brothers convening in a rap cypher in the park, and you can often see other various street performers showing their craft in the neighborhood.
When (eventually) visiting, you may notice that the area (and Buster Bros!!!’s iconography) features a lot of owl motifs; this is because the “bukuro” in Ikebukuro sounds like “fukuro,” the Japanese word for owl. There are owl statues around the neighborhood, like outside the station and near the Animate anime shop!
Ikebukuro is also featured in other anime, including:
- Durarara!!: The collision of students and diverse “outsiders” at the fringes of society (including some otaku characters just living their best nerd lives) in this show evokes the diverse and youthful energy of the neighborhood, and the turf wars harken back to the area’s former reputation as a delinquent hangout.
- Ikebukuro West Gate Park: In this anime, based on a novel/manga/drama series from the late ’90s/early 2000s, gangs of young punks hang out unsupervised and get into occasional fights in the eponymous park near the station, matching the area’s former reputation. Since this anime is an updated version, it features a modern versions of these locations.
Places to check out:
- Ikebukuro Nishiguchi Park. It recently went through a major renovation and looks quite different, with an outdoor event space.
- Sunshine City, a complex near the station with a shopping mall, restaurants and an aquarium. It also includes a Pokémon Center and NAMJATOWN, an indoor theme park with frequent anime collaborations.
- Animate Ikebukuro, a large branch of a popular anime chain store. There is also a second location that includes an Animate Cafe and cosplay shops.
- Otome Road, a stretch of anime/manga/game/doujinshi shops and secondhand stores catering to female otaku. Some of these shops will give you a free map of Otome Road locations to hit up. There’s also the famous Swallowtail Nutlers Cafe.
Technically, Yokohama is not part of Tokyo proper but sits on the edge of Tokyo Bay in the greater Tokyo area, and HYPNOSISMIC’s representative team MAD TRIGGER CREW evokes the feel of this harbor town (a motif that appears occasionally in their rap lyrics).
Yokohama is right near where Commodore Perry landed his black ships to (forcefully) open Japan up to international trade. This eventually established it as a port town, hence the location’s international melting pot feel; MAD TRIGGER CREW’s Rio Mason Busujima is fittingly a half-American former navy man.
Yokohama thus features a bustling business district with some traditional Western-influenced architecture, as well as a famous Chinatown. The ferris wheel at the Minato Mirai business and entertainment area is one of the most iconic landmarks in the Yokohama skyline, which makes it very recognizable when featured in anime.
We don’t want to overstate or misrepresent this by any means, but there ARE yakuza syndicates based in Yokohama (although several outside ‘Hama as well). MAD TRIGGER CREW leader Samatoki Aohitsugi is a yakuza member and wakagashira, meaning he reports directly to the head of the clan.
Yokohama is also featured in other anime, like the late-’90s classic Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou (Yokohama Shopping Log), but one of the most prominent depictions is in Bungo Stray Dogs.
All of the major action in the series takes place in Yokohama, and you can spot famous locations like the traditional Red Brick Warehouse and ferris wheel at Minato Mirai, in addition to Tokyo Bay.
Major characters from the Armed Detective Agency and aptly named Port Mafia are based on real Japanese authors from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, many of whom hung out and exchanged ideas in Yokohama.
Places to check out:
- The Minato Mirai business district with its famous amusement park and ferris wheel. It’s a really nice place to take a walk for a view when you’ve got those bayside smoking blues.
- Yokohama Port Opening Memorial Hall and the Yokohama Red Brick Warehouse, two older buildings that still feature the traditional Western-style red brick architecture.
- Yokohama Chinatown.
Fling Posse, the Shibuya division in HYPNOSISMIC, is a group of eclectic individuals—a designer, a novelist, and an unemployed compulsive gambler—with no prior connection and an easygoing energy (hence the “fling”).
They feature a social media motif, with hashtags in some of their music videos, and the voice actors are known to take selfies on stage during concerts. Because of this, they have kind of a riajuu (“real lifer”) feel that matches the area’s reputation as a hot spot for fashionable young people.
Shibuya hosts a huge variety of fashion shops, from big chains to one-of-a-kind boutiques, hence Fling Posse leader Ramuda Amemura’s job as a fashion designer. It also technically includes another famous fashion district, Harajuku, which is somewhat more “alternative” in comparison to Shibuya proper.
Shibuya also has many Insta-worthy cafes and big music shops (yes, people still buy music in physical media in Japan!).
Shibuya’s Scramble Crossing right outside the station is the busiest intersection in the world, and over 2.5 million pedestrians cross it every day. Also close to the crossing and station sits the Hachiko dog statue, a landmark based on a famous story about a loyal dog that continued to wait for its master even after said master’s death; the statue is a famous meeting spot (if you can spot your friends among the throng of tourists taking photos).
You might see street musicians performing and selling CDs in this area as well, or even fashionably dressed young people hoping to be scouted by modeling agents.
Shibuya is also featured in other anime, like:
- PERSONA5 the Animation: The anime is set here, and the game has you explore a recognizable replica of Shibuya with many of these landmarks, and that’s pretty fun. Of course, the series follows a set of attractive teens fighting the power of corrupt adults, which also has that kind of “youth” feel.
- The World Ends with You The Animation: This game is getting an upcoming anime in 2021. In the game, the characters visit fictional Shibuya fashion shops to equip brand accessories to power up, a pretty Shibuya-feeling mechanic. The famous 109 Building in Shibuya is reimagined here as 104 (appropriate in the context of the game, since four is the Japanese number of death).
- The Boy and the Beast: At the beginning of the movie, recently orphaned Kyuta (then known as Ren) runs away to Shibuya, and you can see locations like the famous Starbucks across from Shibuya Crossing. In one scene, he stands in the packed and bustling crossing, which serves to show how he feels isolated despite being surrounded by other people.
Places to check out:
- Hachiko Statue Landmark.
- Shibuya Scramble Crossing.
- Shibuya 109, a famous fashion store complex. This location is so famous that the building’s decision in 2018 to change the font of the “109” sign was met with outspoken controversy.
- Tower Records Shibuya, a chain that has shuttered in the United States but is still quite busy here. It also has a cafe that sometimes hosts musician or anime collaborations.
Some HYPNOSISMIC fans think of Matenro in Shinjuku as “the division of adults all with actual jobs,” which fits, since Shinjuku is Tokyo’s main business district.
Tokyo is the capital of Japan, and Shinjuku is the capital (and political center) of Tokyo prefecture. Shinjuku Station is also the busiest in the world (Japan sure has a lot of “busiest” records), serving multiple subway and rail lines. Its density and complex layout can be rather intimidating to foreigners and tourists, especially during rush hour.
Matenro leader Jakurai Jinguji is a famous doctor (as “real job” as you can get, I suppose), and the capital also has major hospitals or medical universities; meanwhile, fellow member Doppo Kannonzaka is an overworked, overstressed salaryman constantly mistreated by his balding boss, which also evokes the feel of Shinjuku’s corporate center.
On the other side of “respectable and corporate,” Shinjuku is also home to Kabukicho, the red-light district with many host and hostess clubs, cabarets, love hotels, etc. Matenro member Hifumi Izanami is known as Shinjuku’s number 1 host (and makes 12,345,600 yen monthly, as he gleefully points out).
The Shinjuku/Kabukicho nightlife means you can find some pretty remarkable bars and izakaya as well, and Shinjuku’s Ni-chome (Area 2) is a vibrant LGBTQ+ community with one of the highest concentration of gay bars in the world!
Shinjuku is also featured in other anime, like:
- Your Name. and other films from Makoto Shinkai. Shinjuku is something of a symbol to Mitsuha of the bustling city life that she craves when she sees it for the first time. The famous steps at the end of the film lead to Suga Shrine, which is also in Shinjuku.
- Case File nº 221: Kabukicho: In this anime, the stark contrast between Shinjuku and Kabukicho is actually key to the plot, and this (fictional) Kabukicho is known for outcasts and misfits including yakuza, foreigners, hostesses, etc. Much of the action takes place at a drag bar, also emblematic of the area’s nightlife.
Places to check out:
- Shinjuku Station.
- Kabukicho. Despite being a red-light district, it’s mostly pretty safe, but just stay alert and careful (and sober, if you’re by yourself). At the edge of Kabukicho is a famous TOHO Cinemas theater with a looming Godzilla head statue.
- Suga Shrine, if you’re looking to do your Your Name. pilgrimage.
- Studio Alta. A shopping complex near Shinjuku Station. The huge screen on the outside of this building is featured in anime and movies all the time, especially when there’s some kind of huge news story or footage of a famous celebrity performance, in order to show how “big” this in-story news is.
Of course, that’s not all that’s worth visiting in Japan. HYPNOSISMIC fans will know some of the other locations in the franchise (of course there’s Chu-Oh-Ku, home to the series’ antagonistic all-female government, but also Nagoya, Osaka, Akabane, and Asakusa), so we definitely recommend checking out these and more places when travel becomes possible!
In the meantime, what Tokyo locations have you visited, and which spots do you recommend? What are some of your favorite anime that feature Ikebukuro, Yokohama, Shibuya or Shinjuku that we haven’t mentioned? Share this post and let us know!