A pop culture experience just north of Tokyo
Today, let’s visit one of the best places in Japan to experience pop culture, Tokorozawa Sakura Town!
Whether it’s animation, manga, or games that interest you there’s sure to be something to intrigue you.
This unique entertainment complex was completed in 2020 and boasts of a culture museum, a variety of restaurants, a karaoke and internet café, shops, two entertainment halls, an anime hotel, and a beautiful modern shrine.
If you’re arriving by train, be sure to have a look for the manhole cover!
It’s about a 10 min walk from JR Higashi Tokorozawa Station and you can also find manhole covers with popular characters along the way from the station to Sakura Town. They even light up at night!
Musashino Reiwa Shrine
This shrine was built on top of the Musashino Plateau overlooking Mt. Fuji and is considered a sacred COOL JAPAN site. In this place of worship you’ll feel at ease surrounded by relaxing scenery filled with water and greenery. It was built to help revitalise the local community and provide a place where locals and visitors alike can come together to create and share new ideas in Tokorozawa.
‘Reiwa’ means ‘beautiful Japan’ which is what COOL JAPAN is trying to promote. This sacred COOL JAPAN shrine was given the name ‘Reiwa’ in the hope that Japanese culture will continue to flourish for all eternity.
Before entering Kadokawa Culture Museum let’s make a brief stop at Musashino Reiwa Shrine.
Please feel free to look around the shrine after you’ve prayed.
Although the shrine was created following traditional styles it uses very modern materials such as metal torii gates and glass with washi paper on the inner shrine making it an incredibly unique shrine.
If you’re a fan of Final Fantasy be sure to look up at the ceiling art which was created by the well-known character designer, Yoshitaka Amano.
Near the offertory box you may notice some white paper dolls. These are called ‘katashiro’ and are used in purification ceremonies.
In general, they are only available a few times a year but here you can use one yourself all year long. Purchase one of the dolls then write your name and your age or date of birth on it. Rub the paper doll across your body to transfer any unwanted or negative energy to the doll.
Take the doll to the water next to the torii gates, drop it in the water and watch it dissolve. It’s best to drop it near the water’s edge as it will flow down the stream and dissolve. Now you’re ready to start your next adventure!
Before leaving the shrine don’t forget to have a look at the protective amulets, especially if you are concerned about deadlines for school or work.
For anyone who’s involved with creative works, such as pop culture, you’ll know just how prominent deadlines are and how difficult it can be to keep them.
You can purchase several different amulets including one called ‘time limit’ which will help you keep the deadlines, an amulet to help you improve in the arts, and so many more.
They also sell special shrine stamps called ‘Goshuin’. Each shrine has a unique stamp and here they also offer limited edition stamps.
Please keep in mind that these stamps are considered religious papers and should be treated with respect. Anyone can purchase one but they are intended for visitors who have come to pray.
Kadokawa Culture Museum
Let’s head over to the extraordinary rock shaped masterpiece, Kadokawa Culture Museum!
This facility is located in Tokorozawa Sakura Town which is operated by KADOKAWA, an integrated entertainment corporation that produces popular works in a variety of genres such as books, movies, anime, games, and more. If you’re a pop culture lover you might already know all that.
Inside you’ll find so many places to explore. On the ground floor is the Grand Gallery exhibiting bold projects that are continually changing and bringing something new for visitors to enjoy.
On the other side of the floor you can find the Manga & Light Novel Library containing approximately 35000 novels, children’s books, and comics.
You can pick out a few books and even take them into the Genyoshi Garden to read while relaxing in nature surrounded by seasonal plants.
If you head up to the third floor you’ll find the EJ (Entertainment Japan) Anime Museum where you can explore many anime titles and the masterminds who created them.
If you’re an anime or manga lover you’ll certainly want to take a peek.
Edit Town on the 4th floor – Book Street is one place you should definitely check out before you go anywhere else.
Everywhere you look you’ll find books in creative displays with antiques scattered about. Pull up a chair and relax with a book or just look around and take in the scenery.
The books are divided into nine categories to help visitors ‘read the world’ and create new ideas. Book Street leads to the Bookshelf Theatre with eight-meter-tall bookshelves stacked about 30,000 books from floor to ceiling. You can also see a project mapping display where the audio-visual world and books interact.
Tucked away around the corner of the Bookshelf Theatre is the Attic Step. Just imagine yourself in a secret library in the attic of a centuries old house. Many of the books found here range over the past two centuries and cannot be found anywhere else in Japan. There are many books written in English as well as other foreign languages. Please feel free to take out any books that interest you and have a read.
You should also take a look at the Aramata Wunderkammer museum of curiosities on the same floor. It’s filled with oddities to peak your imagination and houses many hands-on exhibits to enjoy.
EJ Anime Hotel
The first thing you’ll notice when you arrive at the EJ Anime Hotel is a large projector screen in the lobby. Have a walk over and stand in front to experience a little bit of magic!
There are six different types of rooms available including suite and Japanese style and each room has a large screen projector and sound system.
If you really want a once in a lifetime experience make sure you stay in a collaboration room. You can listen to the recorded voice of your favorite character on your smartphone and challenge the mission in this room. In addition, the guest rooms are full of anime-related goods, and only guests can take home the souvenirs. You won’t want to leave your room!
There’s also a wall that famous illustrators have signed when they stayed here and a guest book you can leave your own designs in or just have a look at the drawings others have done.
When you have some free time take the lifts down to the lower floor.
You may have already noticed a stylised door panel on the opposite side of the entrance.
Press the button at the side of the door panel to reveal different anime characters conversing on their way up to the hotel.
Each time you press the button a different character will appear. If you have a favourite why not try to find them on the display lift.
Before you finish your stay at the EJ Anime Hotel, please visit the roof garden, which is open only for the guests.
As it’s located on the top floor you can look out over the city of Tokorozawa and if it’s a clear day you can even see Mt. Fuji.
If you’re looking for a good place to have a delicious and healthy lunch full of locally grown products then head over the Canteen KADOKAWA.
It is used as KADOKAWA’s staff restaurant but is also open to the public.
They serve popular menus such as set meals using fresh vegetables that change throughout the year, and original curry developed by KADOKAWA’s curry lovers and chefs.
While you’re waiting for your food take a look at the bookshelves or anime figurines and goods for current event collaborations.
Ramen Walker Kitchen
If you’re a ramen noodle lover you must stop by the Ramen Walker Kitchen.
This restaurant is unique in the fact that the chefs change from time to time.
They invite different chefs so you can try out many different types of ramen every time you visit.
DA VINCI STORE
Before you leave Tokorozawa Sakura Town stop by the Da Vinci Store and have a look at all the books, souvenirs, and pop culture goods.
They sell a variety of anime goods including sweets with character designs printed on them sure to be popular with fans back home.
There is also an event space inside the store, where exhibitions and online distribution programs are held.
teamLab – Musashino Woods Park
Just next to Sakura Town lies Musashino Woods Park where teamLab has set up an exhibition called ‘Resonating Life in the Acorn Forest’.
teamLab uses digital technology to completely transform areas of nature into works of art without harming nature.
In this exhibition you’ll see reflective ovoids during the day that resonate when they are pushed.
At night the ovoids emit light that changes in colour to reflect the sounds they release when moved and they can be seen to interact with each other.
If you have time make sure to visit for a spectacular display of technology working in harmony with nature.
If your trip to Japan includes a few days in Tokyo, make sure to leave a day to visit this pop culture paradise in neighbouring Saitama Prefecture.
You can learn more about your favourite illustrators and characters and maybe even pick up some souvenirs for yourself or your friends and family.
＜Tokorozawa Sakura Town＞
Address：3-31-3 Higashi-Tokorozawa Wada, Tokorozawa City, Saitama Prefecture
Access：10 min walk from Higashi-Tokorozawa station on the JR Musashino line.
＜Kadokawa Culture Museum＞