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Tokyo, Anime, and My Son

Disclosure: The following is a sponsored post; I received payment for writing it and including a link. All opinions, however, are my own!

My 17-year-old son, Robert, is not a traveler. That’s not to say that he hasn’t traveled, however; we’ve dragged him along with us on vacations all his life. Rather, he just isn’t particularly interested in travel.

Anime in Tokyo

When I ask Robert where he would like to travel, the first place on his list is Tokyo. Why? Because of his interest in Japanese animation and games — or, as he says it, anime and gaming.

The busy Akihabara area of Tokyo on a rainy day.
The busy Akihabara area of Tokyo on a rainy day.

I’d like to be the one to take Robert there. When I spent a week in Tokyo by myself last year, I missed Robert’s version of the city completely. His impression of the city comes mainly from the anime he watches and games he’s played, neither of which I understand. Spending another week or so in Tokyo learning about anime, games, and the subcultures built around them would be an eye-opener for me.

Cosplay (a portmanteau of “costume play,” or costume-based performance art), for example, often takes anime and video games as its inspiration. While in Tokyo, I saw young people dressed in bizarre outfits, but Robert is much more likely to recognize the references than I ever will be. I didn’t dare approach cosplayers to ask to take their pictures, but he could do it.

Tokyo, Robert says, is the center of anime and gaming, and it’s also “an extreme place” in that it’s technologically modern — even futuristic.

I got a glimpse of that technology when I walked through the Akihabara area: all flashing lights, wildly dressed young people, and animated advertisements. But I didn’t go into any of the shops, since I felt very much an outsider — and an old one at that. When traveling with Robert, I could follow his lead, exploring and learning about anime and gaming from the source.

another street view in Akihabara, Tokyo
another street view in Akihabara, Tokyo

There’s even an anime center in Akihabara, which I would never have dared to enter by my middle-aged self. With a teenager leading the way — and explaining it as we go — it would be fascinating!

Our Tokyo

I asked another young man I know, an ex-student of mine who is in his mid-20s, what he thought of Tokyo after his recent visit, and his answer eloquently expressed my view:

Tokyo is a place where the archaic struggles to compete with the new, and the crazy complements the traditional. (Daniel Craanen)

My instinct when I travel is to explore the archaic and traditional. That’s what I did in Tokyo. I visited the Yanaka neighborhood, which is filled to the gills with small temples. I strolled through several gardens, which are steeped in Japanese traditions. I even stayed in a ryokan, a traditional Japanese inn that originated hundreds of years ago, where guests go barefoot and sleep on the floor on futons.

While all of this tradition was fascinating, when I return with my son, modernity — or perhaps I should say futurism — will be the theme. I will certainly sleep better in a bed than I did on a futon, so a Western-style hotel in Tokyo would suit me. Akihabara, the anime center, perhaps a maid café or cat café, photographing cosplay enthusiasts — these would form the structure of our trip to Tokyo.

And eating. If there’s one thing Robert and I can agree on, it’s food, even when it’s not modern or futuristic. I loved the street food in Tokyo; the most delicious and varied ramen noodle soups are available in simple street cafés. They’re filling, they’re fast, and they’re cheap — and both he and I would enjoy them.


If this neighborhood interests you and you don’t have a Robert for your personal guide, you could take a tour, complete with a guide dressed as a maid.

Here’s another, without a maid guide but with sushi.


Hole-in-the-wall restaurants in Tokyo, like this one, open to the street, serve delicious, filling food.
Hole-in-the-wall restaurants like this one, open to the street, serve delicious, filling food.

Would you like to travel (or travel back) to Tokyo? What draws you there?

This image is perfect for Pinterest!
This image is perfect for Pinterest!

22 Comments

  • Rebecca Hall (Bex)

    June 20, 2016 at 3:23 pm

    That’s an interesting view on Tokyo – through the eyes of an anime. To be honest, Tokyo’s never appealed to me; too many people and very claustrophobic. Although I love cat cafes, so that’d be a draw!

    Reply
    • Rachel

      June 20, 2016 at 10:05 pm

      It would be a whole new world to me, I suspect. Yes, it’s a crowded city, but I enjoyed the week I spent there. It was fascinating in pretty much every way!

      Reply
  • Betsy Wuebker

    June 21, 2016 at 7:53 pm

    I think your description is illuminating. I, too, don’t understand the anime thing, but after several months in SEAsia, my eye adjusted to its influence on fashion and accessories. Another facet of Tokyo!

    Reply
  • Victoria@ The British Berliner

    June 21, 2016 at 11:02 pm

    I totally understand the feelings and thoughts of your son – Robert!
    My boy is 14 years old and luckily for me, travel is in his blood. Phew! That’s one of the reasons that we’re doing a European Challenge throughout the Summer Holidays!

    Anyway, my son looooves Anime, Manga, and Japanese culture. In fact, one of our cats is called Yukiko – a Manga / Anime Character!

    He desperately wants to go to Japan, so I have promised him a family trip with Hubby in tow, sometime in the future. Based on grades lol!

    I’d like to go there myself based on the magnifcent technology, the maid cafes, the culture, 24 hr sushi, and the food!

    Reply
  • Morgan

    July 1, 2016 at 7:43 pm

    I can’t blame him for wanting to visit. Tokyo is absolutely amazing, and so is the artwork! It sounds like it would be a worthwhile experience for him. Nice post! Thanks for sharing your adventure with us!

    Reply
  • Shobha

    August 5, 2016 at 5:33 pm

    I loved Tokyo! I did wander through a few of the stores but I guess I don’t see myself as middle-aged even if everyone else does. I can’t get into cosplay though – what’s the point? like Halloween but not limited to just one day.

    Reply
  • KaNishiki

    October 13, 2016 at 10:01 am

    I love anime as well and it’s one of the many reasons I want to visit Japan at least once in my life. The pictures make me want to buy plane tickets now! I’ve always wanted to taste the street food!

    Reply
  • Ashlay Jones

    May 22, 2019 at 12:51 pm

    I spent my youth growing up in Japan, and enjoyed several anime shows on Japanese TV in the 80’s. Doraemon, Lupin III, Ashita no Jo, Blue Noah, and (of course) Uchu Senkam Yamato (“”Space Battleship Yamato/ Star Blazers””). These shows are probably before most Western anime fans’ time, but I’m sure some “”otaku”” die-hards will recognise these shows.

    But I am mystified by the fascination the West has with anime/manga, especially the super-cutesy stuff that seems to be available on Hulu! Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the fact that some facet(s) of Japanese culture is appealing to Westerners, but “”kawaii”” anime seems to go totally against the grain of Western “”gritty”” tastes.

    I don’t get it. What’s the appeal to you modern “”otaku?”” Now fighting robots, monsters, blood, and space battles I understand, but…. most of the shows seem to feature innocent high-school girls now. OK, I’m just an old guy, I

    Reply

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