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Japan Attracts Manga and Anime Fans from Around the World (July 8, 2005)

The cat bus from My Neighbor Totoro in the Ghibli Museum (Jiji)
Nowadays just about everyone knows that manga is Japanese for comics, and "Japanimation" (Japanese anime) is taking the world by storm. Manga and anime are leading a global boom in popular Japanese culture, and fans from all over the world look to Japan as the birthplace of their favorite comics, graphic novels, and animated films and TV series. Now some enterprising travel agents are cashing in on this trend by organizing trips to Japan specifically for manga and anime fans.

Manga and Anime as Cultural Assets
Japan began exporting manga and animated films and TV series to the United States and Southeast Asia in the 1970s. Since that time, Japanese cartoons like Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh! have been broadcast in numerous countries to an ever-widening fan base. The cartoons have spawned a huge proliferation of video games, card games, toys, and other merchandise, which are every bit as popular as the shows themselves.

In 2002 a Japanese animated film won the Golden Bear Award, the top prize at the Berlin Film Festival. The film, Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi (Spirited Away), directed by Miyazaki Hayao, won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature Film the following year. This international recognition confirmed that manga and anime have grown into bona fide cultural assets that Japan can take pride in.

A Package Tour for US Fans
Recently people from around the world have begun flocking to Japan to visit the "land of manga and anime." And now, a US affiliate of a Japanese tour operator is offering special package tours to manga and anime fans from the United States.

Stops on the tour include animation studios, anime merchandise stores, and the Ghibli Museum dedicated to the work of Miyazaki's Ghibli studio. This museum, located in the city of Mitaka in the greater Tokyo area, not only shows the films of Miyazaki and other animators but also has replicas of objects and characters from the films on display. The design of the facility itself incorporates motifs from popular animated films. Participants in the anime tour also get to attend comic-book fairs, animation fairs, and other special events. The response to this tour of the "homeland of manga and anime culture" has been very enthusiastic.

The anime merchandise stores are located in Tokyo's Akihabara district. Akihabara is also widely known for offering Japan's largest concentration of electronic-goods shops and is a popular tourist destination in its own right, attracting audio and video buffs, computer enthusiasts, and game fanatics from around the world. According to a Japan National Tourist Organization survey, 6.6% of foreign tourists coming to Japan in 2003 visited Akihabara.

Efforts to Attract Anime Tourists
The idea of using anime to attract tourists from abroad has been around for a while. Tokyo's Suginami Ward, which has a high concentration of animation studios (including Sunrise, the creators of the wildly popular Gundam series), began some years ago to devise policies aimed at promoting the animation industry. In 2002 the ward opened the Animation Museum. This facility has since been renovated, and it reopened in March 2005 as the Suginami Animation Museum.

Not to be outdone, the city of Mitaka has initiated a city plan centered on the museum. And Nerima Ward, where many major animation studios are based and many manga artists live, has launched a revitalization program called Anime no Furusato Nerima (Animation Village Nerima). The Tokyo Metropolitan Government is in on the action as well. The city plans to develop the areas around the JR Chuo Line as an animation sightseeing route.

Many potential destinations for manga and anime tourism exist outside the Tokyo area, as well. Sites associated with well-known comic artists and animators and their work are scattered throughout Japan. Within the Bandai Museum in Matsudo, Chiba Prefecture, is the Gundam Museum, dedicated to the Gundam series. The Tezuka Osamu Manga Museum in the city of Takarazuka, Hyogo Prefecture, showcases the work of Tezuka, the creator of Tetsuwan Atomu (Astro Boy). Mizuki Shigeru Road in Sakaiminato City, Tottori Prefecture, features a lineup of bronze statues of characters from Mizuki's Ge Ge Ge no Kitaro series.

Japan's manga and anime tourism infrastructure is sure to develop further in the years ahead. Fans should stay tuned.

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Copyright (c) 2005 Web Japan. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.

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