This article, brought to you by National Geographic Traveller (UK), unveils some of the most exciting attractions and developments in Japan, a country that continues to captivate travelers with its unique blend of tradition and innovation.
Ghibli Park: Where Dreams Come to Life
In the land where Ghibli film settings come alive, the opening of Ghibli Park in November 2022 was met with unparalleled excitement. This park is a tribute to the iconic anime studio that has enchanted audiences worldwide since its inception in 1985. The enduring popularity of Studio Ghibli’s films, known for their offbeat and imaginative storytelling, is evident in the fact that tickets for the park remain as elusive as gold dust, even almost a year after its grand opening.
Ghibli Park, located in Nagakute city, just a three-hour train ride from Tokyo, offers a unique experience. Instead of traditional rides, it beckons visitors to “take a stroll, feel the wind, and discover the wonders.” The central Grand Warehouse houses exhibitions and a film room, allowing fans to immerse themselves in the magic of Studio Ghibli. The park’s first phase introduces zones where visitors can encounter beloved characters like the soot spirits from “My Neighbor Totoro” and sit beside the enigmatic no‑face entity from the Academy Award-winning “Spirited Away.”
The excitement doesn’t end there. The second phase, set to launch alongside Ghibli’s new film “The Boy and the Heron,” promises to transport visitors to the ironworkers’ village from the dystopian fantasy “Princess Mononoke” and the enchanting Valley of the Witches, complete with a two-storey replica of the flying structure from “Howl’s Moving Castle.” This phase is scheduled to open in the spring of 2024.
Anime Wonderland and More
For those who can’t get enough of anime and manga, Tokyo has something special in store. The Animate Ikebukuro flagship store, one of the world’s largest anime shops, celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2023 with a fantastic makeover. With ten freshly renovated floors dedicated to manga and character merchandise, this store is a paradise for fans. It even includes a theatre for comic-related performances and a cafe specializing in latte art.
Tour de Kyushu: A Cycling Spectacle
If you’re a sports enthusiast, Japan has a new annual event on its calendar. The Tour de Kyushu cycling race is set to debut in October, showcasing the beauty of Japan’s southernmost main island. Spectators can stand in dedicated viewing areas to witness participants zoom past iconic landmarks, including Kokura Castle and Oita hot springs.
High-Speed Hokuriku Shinkansen Expansion
For those seeking a blend of tradition and modernity, the extension of the high-speed Hokuriku Shinkansen railway in spring 2024 is a game-changer. This expansion connects Tokyo, Nagano, Kanazawa, Fukui, and Tsuruga. The region is home to Zen temples like Daihonzan Eiheiji and the striking Takayama Inari Shrine, with its 201 red torii gates standing tall over a winding path.
Tokyo’s Onsen Oasis
If relaxation is your goal, Tokyo’s Toyosu neighborhood offers a treat. Edo-era-inspired Senkyaku Banrai, opening in February 2024, features an onsen (hot spring) with water sourced from the famous Hakone hot springs. Alongside the soothing baths, you’ll find a shopping area and restaurants serving fresh fish from nearby Toyosu Market.
Art Enthusiasts Rejoice
Art lovers, Japan has you covered too. The Kyoto City Kyocera Museum of Art, the oldest public art museum in Japan, originally opened its doors in 1933. Recently, it underwent a minimalist makeover, reopening as the Kyoto City Kyocera Museum of Art. It’s a treasure trove of intricate 18th- and 19th-century pieces, including paintings, ceramics, and sculptures, waiting to be explored by visitors from around the world.
Japan continues to surprise and delight with its diverse range of attractions, from the enchanting world of Studio Ghibli to the bustling anime shops and serene art museums. It’s a country where tradition and innovation coexist harmoniously, making it a must-visit destination for travelers of all interests. So, whether you’re a fan of anime, cycling, or art, Japan has something new and exciting for you to discover.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Japan Attractions
Q: How can I get tickets to Ghibli Park in Japan?
A: Tickets for Ghibli Park are highly sought after due to its popularity. They are typically released three months in advance, but due to high domestic demand, they can be quite challenging to obtain. It’s advisable to plan well in advance and consider booking through official channels or tour packages for the best chance of securing tickets.
Q: What can I expect to find at the Animate Ikebukuro flagship store in Tokyo?
A: The Animate Ikebukuro flagship store in Tokyo is a haven for anime and manga enthusiasts. With ten freshly renovated floors, it offers an extensive collection of manga and character merchandise. Additionally, there’s a theater for comic-related performances and a cafe specializing in latte art, making it a must-visit destination for anime fans.
Q: When does the Tour de Kyushu cycling race take place, and what can I expect from it?
A: The Tour de Kyushu cycling race is set to take place for the first time in October. Spectators can enjoy the race from dedicated viewing areas, where they can watch participants pedal past some of Japan’s southernmost main island’s highlights, including Kokura Castle and Oita hot springs.
Q: What is the significance of the Hokuriku Shinkansen railway extension?
A: The extension of the Hokuriku Shinkansen railway in spring 2024 connects Tokyo, Nagano, Kanazawa, Fukui, and Tsuruga. This expansion offers travelers access to a region known for its Zen temples and cultural landmarks, including Daihonzan Eiheiji and Takayama Inari Shrine with its iconic red torii gates.
Q: Tell me more about Senkyaku Banrai in Tokyo’s Toyosu neighborhood.
A: Senkyaku Banrai, opening in February 2024, is an Edo-era-inspired complex in Tokyo’s Toyosu neighborhood. It features an onsen (hot spring) with water sourced from the Hakone hot springs, providing a relaxing experience. Additionally, visitors can explore a shopping area and dine in restaurants offering fresh fish from the nearby Toyosu Market.
Q: What can I expect to see at the Kyoto City Kyocera Museum of Art?
A: The Kyoto City Kyocera Museum of Art, Japan’s oldest public art museum, houses intricate 18th- and 19th-century pieces, including paintings, ceramics, and sculptures. Visitors can explore these exquisite artworks and immerse themselves in the rich cultural heritage of Kyoto.