3. Ghibli Museum

castle sky robot museum
via Linaka Greensword

Hayao Miyazaki is a supremely accomplished producer, writer, director, artist, and to animation fans worldwide, the prophesied second coming. Miyazaki co-founded Studio Ghibli back in 1985, and has since been responsible for many timeless classics and some of the finest animated movies ever, including Princess Mononoke, My Neighbor Totoro and Spirited Away. His RottenTomatoes page alone makes Steve Spielberg cry himself to sleep on his Kingdom of the Crystal Skull bedspread. 

Built in homage to the aforementioned studio and general Ghibli greatness, the Ghibli Museum showcases all the fantastical whimsy dreamt up over the past three decades of magic. The museum is tucked away in Tokyo's Inokashira Park, with a large Totoro posted at the front to greets visitors before they enter under a large fresco brimming with Ghibli characters.

ghibli museum

The wacky external aesthetics were designed by Miyazaki himself, who served as chief architect, because of course he did. The building consists of 10 rooms with varying themes and colorful exhibits, such as an animator's workshop frozen in time. The top floor features a moderately-sized Catbus meant to be climbed by children but theoretically/inevitably accessible to smaller adult nerds as well. 


There's also a bookstore full of stuff recommended by Miyazaki as well as a homey café, in addition to a museum-exclusive Totoro animated short that can't be found anywhere else (besides crappy pirated footage). Maybe the coolest part? The museum has its own beer. It's called Kaze no Tani in honor of the Nausicaä series and features some sweet cover art that is pure Ghibli crack.

Sadly, Miyazaki decided to retire in 2014, but that's not the end of the magic. The master himself is developing a children's nature retreat on a secluded island, away from "the encroachment of consumerism and digital life." Leave it to Miyazaki to make us want to die as soon as possible in order to be reincarnated as a kid who gets to go to that retreat.

4. The Anime Shrine

anime shrine
via Hiroyuki Watanabe on Vice

An otaku's love of the art is both boundless and shameless, as is apparent by the hundreds of thousands of fans -- mostly men in drag -- that descend upon Washinomiya shrine every New Years, much to the chagrin of local priests.

This was once a place of worship and austerity, but an internationally popular anime series changed all that back in 2007. Raki Suta, or Lucky Star, was a show about four high school girls just basically hanging out. The locale was not explicitly stated but referred to as "Takanomiya Shrine," where the main characters, the two Hiiragi sisters, were employed. As soon as it was apparent that this seemingly fictional temple was based on Washinomiya Shrine, in the smallish town of Washimiya, fans flooded into the area and quickly outnumbered the town's 33,000 or so permanent residents.

anime shrine
via Hiroyuki Watanabe on Vice

The town has since been merged with a neighbor and now goes by the moniker Kuki City, but the shrine remains unchanged and hosts massive gatherings every New Years. Shortly after the advent of Raki Suti, a massive influx of 130,000 otaku overwhelmed Washimiya and shocked locals, who feared that the skirted, wig-wearing men were part of a cult. With an appropriate level religious fervor, Lucky Star fans have made the shrine a site of pilgrimage. And in 2009 they broke their previous record by showing up 420,000 strong to cosplay in and around the shrine. 

anime shrine
via Aidan Doyle

Obnoxious at first, the massive army of nerds turned out to be a financial boon for Washimiya, and shops cashed in on the fad by producing all sorts of Lucky Star memorabilia. Local industries such as noodle-making and trinket-hawking also boomed, as roving fans outnumbered the residents by over ten-to-one. It's like having Comic-Con in your backyard -- overwhelming smell included.