5 Real Life Anime Locations in Shinjuku

Anime locations and their inspiration

Anime was my foot in the door to Japanese culture. From action and mystery to slice-of-life stories, I learned about Japanese homes, trains, food and, of course, people. Tokyo's most popular destinations are inspiration for some of the most widely acclaimed anime. The commercial district of Shinjuku's gardens, nightlife and skyline are depicted in a variety of shows, revealing multiple facets behind the city's lights, busy streets, and tall towers. Below, you'll find photos of spots from Garden of Words, 5 Centimeters per Second, Darker than Black, Terror in Resonance and Tokyo Godfathers.In other words, inspirational places for anime locations.

Garden of Words (Koto no ha no Niwa)

Garden of Words (言の葉の庭 Kotonoha no Niwa) was written, directed and edited by Makoto Shinkai, who created Voices of a Distant Star on his Power Mac G4, and, most recently, Your Name (君の名は Kimi no Na wa). He frequently uses Shinjuku as a backdrop for his stories, which explore everyday life themes.



Garden of Words screencap


Garden of Words screencap


Lumine above JR Shinjuku Station — Photo by Athena Lam


Most of Garden of Words is set south-east of Shinjuku Station in the area between Shinjuku Gyoen, Lumine and Takashimaya Department Store. The best way to recreate the fuinki, or atmosphere, of the movie is to go location scouting on a rainy day! Also, note the two towers that make up the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building in the distance: this iconic Shinjuku building appears frequently as an anime location backdrop.



Garden of Words screencap


Most people go through the Shinjuku Gyoen main entrance — Photo by Athena Lam


Shinjuku Gyoen was originally the residence of the Naito family, feudal lords of Edo Japan. The grounds later came under the ownership of the Imperial Family and were mostly destroyed during the Tokyo Fire Raids during World War II. After the war ended, the gardens were reconstructed and opened to the public in 1949.



The park charges a small admission fee, a token amount when one may spend the whole afternoon exploring the botanical garden, Japanese garden, picnic grass clearing and various other sections. The garden is also a popular hanami or cherry blossom viewing spot as the grounds have various types of cherry trees that bloom in succession.

5 Centimeters per Second

5 Centimeters per Second is an earlier Makoto Shinkai feature film that caught international attention. Shinjuku features prominently in this love story. Two characters grow up and move to different towns; Takaki Tono works in Tokyo.



5 Centimeters per Second screencap


View of the NTT Building from the JR Shinjuku South Building — Photo by Athena Lam


The film is actually three shorts titled "Cherry Blossom" (桜花抄 Ōkashō), "Cosmonaut" (コスモナウト Kosumonauto) and "5 Centimeters per Second" (秒速5センチメートル Byōsoku Go Senchimētoru). The last short is set around 2008, when the film was released.



5 Centimeters per Second screencap


Shinjuku Station West Exit taxi stand near the Keio Line — Photo by Athena Lam


5 Centimeters per Second screencap


Shinjuku Station, close to the West Exit taxi stand — Photo by Athena Lam


Shinjuku Station is Tokyo's busiest station and has an average of 3.6 million people transiting every day. The station has over 200 exits and 51 platforms. Explore the Lumine department store above the JR Shinjuku Station. Browse the shops and restaurants in the underground shopping mall surrounding the Keio Line. Feel the hustle and bustle of office workers heading home, see shoppers balancing bags, watch students passing through and observe dates engrossed in conversation.



5 Centimeters per Second screencap


The Shinjuku Sumitomo Building is part of a cluster of skyscrapers used as anime locations — Photo by Athena Lam


Shinkai's team uses Mac OS X, Adobe Photoshop and After Effects to turn the anime's concept art into scenes made up of distinctly detailed, photo-realistic images. The color palettes are assembled for consistency to convey the season, weather, time and temperature.

Tokyo Godfathers

Tokyo Godfathers is the brainchild of two anime legends: Satoshi Kon (director and writer of Perfect Blue, Millenium Actress, Paranoia Agent) and Keiko Nobumoto (creator of the Wolf's Rain series and head scriptwriter for Cowboy Bebop). The feature film follows three homeless people as they try to take care of and return an abandoned baby during the Christmas holidays. Gin, Hana and Miyuki make Shinjuku Chuo Park their squatter home and roam the chilly, neon-lit streets of Shinjuku and other districts, giving a glimpse into other communities that make Tokyo their home. Below is a view of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, an essential part of Shinjuku's distinct skyline cluster.



Tokyo Godfathers screencap


Shinjuku Chuo Park — Photo by Athena Lam

Darker than Black

Darker than Black is a two-volume manga and two-season anime series awarded Best Original Anime of The Year by GoGoplex. The series is an alternate reality where the stars have disappeared from modern-day Tokyo due to a mysterious "Hell's Gate" event that also gave rise to "Contractors" with special powers. While various locations in Tokyo are used throughout the series, Shinjuku and Nakano are the focus of many face-offs. Hei, the protagonist and masked "Contractor" with powers, also lives in a residential area between the two wards.



Darker than Black screencap


Sompo Japan Nipponkoa Headquarters Building — Photo by Athena Lam


The white building on the right called the Sompo Japan Nipponkoa Headquarters Building is one of the many iconic buildings one notices when going out the Shinjuku Station West Exit.



Darker than Black screencap


Shinjuku JR Station north train overpass leading to Omoideyokocho — Photo by Athena Lam


Trains are integral to the Japanese experience. Trains passing every few minutes is part of the Tokyo urban landscape. Standing at an intersection on the northwest end of Shinjuku Station, one can look out for the JR Yamanote Line train that races by in a silver blur accented with green bands. Evening and nighttime visitors shouldn't miss the skewers and drinks in Omoide Yokocho, otherwise known as Yakitori Alley or Piss Alley. Look for a neon sign with "思いで横丁".

Terror in Resonance

Right across the north-end Shinjuku Station train tracks, viewers will find the Yunika Vision LED screen that popped up in Terror in Resonance (残響のテロル Zankyō no Terror), an anime mini-series about two young terrorists out to expose a state cover-up of an experimental project.



Terror in Resonance Episode 1 screencap


The Yunika LED screen is just one of the many flashing lights that give Shinjuku a futuristic ambiance — Photo by Athena Lam


In addition to being known for its department stores and clothes shopping, Shinjuku also has large electronics department stores such as BIC Camera and LAOX.



Terror in Resonance Episode 1 screencap


The Tokyo Metropolitan Building lobby is open to the public — Photo by Athena Lam


The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building is the site of the first terrorist attack in Terror in Resonance and the episode's coverage of the operation shows a thorough understanding of the building's interior. Visitors can go to both the North and South towers, which have gift shops and a cafe on the top floor (access is free). The top floor observation deck offers a great view of the cityscape below, sunsets and maybe even Mount Fuji on a clear day.



Terror in Resonance Episode 1 screencap


The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building top floor observation lobby boasts a 360-degree glass view of its surrounds — Photo by Athena Lam


For otaku on an anime pilgrimage, I recommend giving yourself a full day to fully enjoy all the different parts of Shinjuku. If pressed for time, you can try to absorb the throbbing, frantic, nostalgic and even romantic moments captured at these anime locations within an afternoon.

Want to explore more of Shinjuku? Check out our neighborhood page!