Most of the time, the places we see in anime are breathtakingly beautiful and memorable. Sometimes, you would find yourself dreaming that you could visit them. While a lot of these locations are non-existent, some do take inspiration from real ones. Below are some real-life anime locations you can visit on your next holiday! (And while traveling for pleasure may not be possible in the near future, it’s never too early to plan ahead!)

Dogo Onsen, Matsuyama

Image Credit: Dogo Onsen

When we talk about real-life anime locations, the places depicted in Studio Ghibli films are always the first things to come to mind. Dogo Onsen in Matsuyama is what inspired the iconic bathhouse seen in the film, Spirited Away. The bathhouse itself dates back to 1894 – making it the country’s oldest onsen – and has the Japanese Imperial Family as its frequent visitors. Not only is the onsen popular for being an inspiration for Spirited Away, but it’s also popular as an onsen deeply rooted in Japanese culture.

Mei & Satsuki’s House

Rather than being inspired by a real place, Mei and Satsuki’s house in My Neighbor Totoro has a life-size replica located in Aichi Commemorative Park near Nagoya. The house is built down to the last detail, just like the one in the movie. Furthermore, the world’s first Studio Ghibli park is about to open on the same site in 2022!

Karatsu City

Another real-life anime destination is the city of Karatsu in Saga Prefecture. It was featured in the sports anime, Yuri!!! On Ice, where majority of the episodes in the anime take place in the main character’s hometown, Hasetsu City. This city was based on Karatsu, which is why a lot of the places shown in the anime can be seen in the city. One example is the Karatsu Castle which was featured several times in the anime – including the time when Victor reveals his location by taking a picture in front of the castle.

Town of Karumai

Another city used as a model for an anime location is Karumai in Iwate Prefecture. The popular sports anime Haikyu!! is set in the town of Karasuno. The author chose the town of Karumai to base Karasuno off for the simple reason that it’s his hometown. Some places featured in Haikyu!! is very similar to some of the places in Karumai – such as the high school, Sakanoshita Store, and even some of the roads. The only difference between Karasuno and Karumai is that Karasuno is in Miyagi Prefecture.

Another school in Haikyu!! based on a real school is Shiratorizawa Academy. Shiratorizawa, a powerhouse school in the show, is based on Tohoku High School – a real powerhouse school in Japan with top of the line sporting facilities.

Old Toyosato Elementary School

While the Old Toyosato Elementary School looks normal from the outside, it is actually a popular real-life anime location. Fans of the anime K-On! will instantly recognize the hallways, stairs, and rooms of the school – as they were shown in the anime. Even the iconic tortoise and hare sculptures seen on the stairwells in the anime also exist in this school. The school embraces the fact that it is an anime location; leaving props and even drawings of the characters all over the area.

The school is located in Toyosato in Shiga Prefecture.


Image Credit: The Tokyo Tourist

Of course, Tokyo is a real-life anime location. While a lot of anime shows feature Tokyo, especially famous spots like the Tokyo Skytree and Shibuya. However, one anime that used Tokyo as its main setting as Tokyo Ghoul. The wards featured on the show were based on real places such as the 3rd Ward being Minato, 4th Ward is Shinjuku, 13th Ward is Shibuya, and the 1st Ward is Chiyoda – where Tokyo Station is located. Kamaii University, the school that the protagonist of Tokyo Ghoul attends is based on Rikkyo University – one of Japan’s more European-looking universities.

Even Anteiku, a neighborhood café that functioned as a cover for the ghoul organization, was based off a real coffee shop called Museum Cafe & Diner. However, the café has already closed down now.

Colmar, France

Image Credit: Pixabay

It’s not surprising that a lot of the real-life anime locations are found in Japan. However, some anime shows take inspiration from other parts of the world – Studio Ghibli’s Howl’s Moving Castle is one such example. The town where the movie starts off is based on the city of Colmar in France. Colmar itself is a picturesque town with cobblestone streets, cute little shops, and very “European-esque” houses. Seeing the place depicted in Howl’s Moving Castle made the city even more magical than ever.

Gotland, Sweden

Image Credit: Pixabay

Another real-life anime destination outside Japan is Gotland, Sweden which was featured in Kiki’s Delivery Service. Unlike most of Hayao Miyazaki‘s films, Kiki’s Delivery Service is set in a western seaside town, Koriko. The town is said to be based on the town of Visby on Gotland Island – which Miyazaki visited on one of his research trips during pre-production. Visby plus some of the buildings and shops of Stockholm completed the look for the town of Koriko.

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