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JAPAN'S FANTASY DESTINATIONS

The popularity of manga and anime in Japan has produced numerous characters that have become global icons and international art and cultural phenomenon. Needless to say, Japan offers destinations associated with manga and anime, and through the imaginable world, visitors find more cultural dimensions on today's Japan and its culture. Visit the birthplace of characters and experience the imagination world in your trip.

Japanese Monster Town

Sakaiminato City seems like an average town in Tottori Prefecture in western Japan, but this is a hometown of Shigeru Mizuki, a creator of a comic book about Japanese mythical monster characters. Japan is almost the birthplace of character culture, and this comic series, Gé-gé-gé no Kitaro, is one of the great examples of colorful Japanese characters. The characters have varieties of personalities, magic powers and weaknesses, and each episode is about the relationship between humans and monsters.
Along the boulevard from the central train station, the characters from Gé-gé-gé no Kitaro are scattered around; one sitting on the guardrail by a shopping mall, a couple around a water fountain, by a park, etc. They are even drawn on buses and trains. Although Japanese mythical character is not familiar in other countries, strolling Sakaiminato's downtown is a great way to experience how humans and characters would cohabit. A new mural commemorating Mizuki's work was installed this summer on the ceiling of the main building of Enryu-in Temple nearby Sakaiminato City. This mural contains 108 characters from Mizuki's comic series and is installed to this temple because of the monster legend that has been inherited at this temple since the 1846.
Gé-gé-gé no Kitaro started as a panel story show in short comic stories but became so popular and produced for TV anime series and movies in Japan. Since then, the charismatic animation character art has spread the world today.

The Wonderful World of Sazae-san

The Wonderful World of Sazae-san best illustrates ordinary family life in Japan in an average suburban town, and this still exists in Sakura-Shinmachi, one of Tokyo's suburban neighborhoods. Sazae-san started as a comic strip in a national newspaper right after the Second World War ended, and describing how Sazae-san, a female character, and her very average Japanese family live their daily life. The author Machiko Hasegawa drew four-frame short stories everyday in the newspaper, describing the current affairs in each era and how ordinary people go through and find heartwarming charms of their daily life. Life doesn't always go straight, diverted by family members and neighbors, but things work out in a different way, and that is how human life is. Her Museum is along a gorgeous cherry tree-lined street in Sakura-Shinmachi. In a sleek brick building, several of Hasegawa's hand-drawn scripts and drafts are exhibited, showcasing heartwarming charms of their daily life. Her simple yet lively hand-drawn lines mirror ordinary life that could be easily seen in any society in the world. Her description on human life makes visitors realize the beauty of life. Her comic strips open your eyes to Japan's heartwarming human life like Sazae-san episodes in this neighborhood. Sakura-Shinmachi still lives with post-war local charms. To experience today's average local life around Tokyo, Sakura-Shinmachi awaits foreign visitors with local charming hospitality. http://hasegawamachiko.jp/ (Japanese only)

The Hello Kitty's World

After the unstoppable fad for Hello Kitty around the world, this 30 plus year old Japanese pop icon has become the universal character for young girls and pop culture fans. Being a competitive idol to Disney characters, Hello Kitty creates its own fantasy theme park Puroland in suburban Tokyo. Puroland displays the background and images in which Hello Kitty and other characters from Sanrio, the producer of all the characters, are created. This theme park has relatively larger focus on shows, which are performed with popular characters and professional dancers at four theaters and the Wisdom Tree Stage, the center of the park. The shows take visitors into the fairy world with Kitty and its friends in different themes such as adventure, fairytales and the trip to the future. Now the second theme park Sanrio Harmonyland is open in Oita Prefecture of Kyushu, the Southwest island. Go to http://www.puroland.co.jp/english/welcome.html for Puroland, and http://www.sanrio.co.jp/english/harmony/harmony.html for Harmonyland.

Gigantor in Kobe

A giant robot from a Japan's classic cartoon will emerge in Kobe later this year: Tetsujin 28-go (the iron man number 28), known as Gigantor in the US, was created in 1956 by Mitsuteru Yokoyama, the pioneer of Japanese robot series, and released to a TV anime series in 1963. The Tetsujin has been the iconic Japanese anime robot, and its popularity has spread beyond generations and nationalities. Its rather primitive and toy-like design, and a mild feature of the face indicate the early concept of a fighting robot for a manga series, but these charms remain attractive and a non-profit organization the KOBE Tetsujin Project builds a 59-foot tall monument of the Testujin, which is scheduled to be completed on October 4, 2009. The robot will be installed in Wakamatsu Park in Kobe City.

Ghibli Museum

Hayao Miyazaki is well known worldwide as a legend of animation, and a park that mocks up his animation world is located in a beautiful suburban town in western Tokyo. This Shangri-la like park takes you into a real world of Miyazaki's films in the full of nature in the park. For quieter and more authentic atmosphere for the Miyazaki's ideal world, the Museum limits the admissions every day, and reservation is required. Reservation from overseas is accepted from three months prior to the actual visit. http://www.ghibli-museum.jp/en/

-------- Nori Akashi : Public Relations Manager at the New York Office of JNTO

Japan National Tourism Organization
New York Office

One Rockefeller Plaza, Suite 1250, New York, NY 10020
TEL: 212-757-5640 www.japantravelinfo.com
Shopping for manga & anime
Pokémon Center
Another world's superstar character from Japan Pokémon is hard to miss if visiting Japan. In six locations in major cities in Japan, the Pokémon Center is one of the most popular places to drop by to find unique Pokémon products such as Pokémon cards, stationeries, figures and games. The stores are in Tokyo, Yokohama, Sapporo, Nagoya, Osaka and Fukuoka. For more information, see http://www.pokemon.co.jp/pokecen/english.html.
Tokyo Anime Center
In Akihabara, well known as the ground zero of Japanese anime and Japan's edgy pop culture, Tokyo Anime Center showcases everything about Japanese anime culture. Not only the manga and anime exhibitions, visitors can experience voice over recording production as a voice actor. Their gift show has a huge collection of Japanese manga and anime related products including collectors' items that are hard to find. To find out the ultimate Japanese anime world, this is the place to go. http://www.animecenter.jp/eng/
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