Surge of Overseas Tourists Visiting Anime 'Holy Lands'
posted on by Carlos Cadorniga
It's no surprise that much of the scenery and landmarks seen in anime set in Japan come from actual locations in the country. Being well aware of that fact, many foreign fans have decided to visit the country to try and find these locations for themselves.
Tourists are currently participating in what has been dubbed the "Holy Land Pilgrimage" in search of these settings. By using Google Map Street View, fans have been tracking down these locations and posting about them on various blogs and websites. Pictured above, for example, is a bridge from Chichibu located in Saitama Prefecture; this is also the main setting for anohana.
Such locations have been seeing a boost in their local economy thanks to this increasing tourism. For example, Saitama Prefecture—the setting for 2007 anime Lucky Star—saw a 2.2 million yen boost in the three years since the show's broadcast. Other popular destinations include Hakone, Kanagawa (Neon Genesis Evangelion), Ōarai, Ibaraki Prefecture (Girls und Panzer), and Yuwaku Hot Spring in Kanazawa, Ishikawa (Hana-Saku Iroha).
The Japanese government has even capitalized on this pilgrimage. Promotional agencies like Visit Japan and Cool Japan were created to appeal to anime and manga fans. These are supported by Tokyo Otaku Mode in cooperation with travel site Expedia, who also advertise various otaku events to attract tourists.
When the Tourism Authority of Japan asked what tourists look forward to when visiting, as many as 6.1 percent said that would like to visit the land where their beloved anime takes place. The agencies calculated 13.4 million foreign tourists visited Japan in 2014, so approximately 818,000 were interested in seeing a "Holy Land."
The Holy Land trend of anime fans visiting the sites and settings of anime in Japan began as early as the 1990s, but became popularized in the 2000s. These holy lands have previously been ranked by the Anime! Anime! website using entries from DIP's pilgrimage map app. Tokyo was the top choice with 1,035 locations.