1. J-World Tokyo – now permanently closed
2. The history of J-World Tokyo
3. Tokyo One Piece Tower – now permanently closed
4. The history of Tokyo One Piece Tower
5. The otaku industry
6. Manga and anime in Akihabara
7. The father of manga and anime
The Yamanote circle line takes us conveniently around to Ikebukuro Station. We are on our way to the massive building complex, Sunshine City, where J-World Tokyo can be found (unfortunately no longer, since it has been permanently closed FEB 2019). We understand that the huge complex, in addition to J-World Tokyo, an abundance of shops and other commercial activities, also has an aquarium, a theatre, an observatory, and a museum.
The indoor theme park is apparently completely unique in themed attractions in the anime category. It is relatively new to Tokyo and seems to have gained immense popularity right from the start.
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After zigzagging through the pedestrian street, we finally stand in front of a building which, to the best of our knowledge, must be one of the points of entry into the huge commercial complex Sunshine City where J-World Tokyo can be found.
We enter the magical world. It is kind of surreal to be here – everything is anime and manga. Attractions, images, decorations, sounds … funny enough we seem to be the only non-Japanese visitors.
There is a lot of passion and enthusiasm among the visitors who cheer when they come across their ‘live’ favourite anime characters walking around – and realise they can have their picture taken with one of them!
Many of the rides are based on games. We have to admit that our poor Japanese skills as well as our western reference points are not at all sufficient to just understand the basic rules. Nevertheless, the rides and activities seem to be fun and challenging for all Japanese visitors!
The indoor theme park is divided into a number of sections, each dedicated to specific anime characters such as Naruto, One Piece and Dragon Ball! Visitors also encounter the Straw Hat Pirates and their vehicle Shark Submerge III in the Soldier Dock Adventure attraction, as well as the Chopper Quest – Luffy Rescue Mission ride to save Luffy!
One of the more interesting sections is undoubtedly the J-World Kitchen! People seem to be pretty ecstatic about the food that relates to the anime universes. We have to try it too – and everyone orders Naruto’s favourite meal, which is a famous ramen! Other popular menus are based on favourite dishes associated with Toriko and Dragon Balls.
J-World Tokyo was a ‘Shonen Jump’ (a manga magazine, published by Shueisha, which also includes the One Piece manga) theme park near Ikebukuro Station in Tokyo. The park opened in 2013, but closed down again on 17th February 2019. Namco Co. operated this indoor theme park which had popular attractions, rides, games, and shows within the universes of the manga series One Piece, Naruto, and Dragon Ball – to name a few of the characters also known outside of Japan. A ‘Heroes Arena’ was dedicated to other manga series.
The theme park contained a section with a food court (J-World Kitchen), the Café Mademoiselle, and the J-Patisserie. Here you could find meals and desserts associated with the famous manga characters. There was also a J-World Store with collection items related to the series.
Tokyo One Piece Tower is another theme park dedicated to the anime characters from One Piece, located at the bottom of Tokyo Tower (unfortunately no longer, since it has been permanently closed JUL 2020). We therefore combine visiting the two attractions. One can even walk all the way up the stairs to the top of Tokyo Tower.
We are lucky to come on a day without too many visitors. This means that the employee takes the time to explain a few rules to us before we venture into the One Piece fantasy world.
One of the weirder things we are exposed to seems to be one of the favourite activities of most Japanese visitors. We are equipped with a sort of talking (in Japanese!) toy creature that will take us through a series of challenges on site. One of us has very basic Japanese skills and, surprisingly, we are actually able to both locate and even solve some of the odd challenges!
The decorations are quite amazing and a self-guided tour introduces us to the One Piece characters in their special setting. Among other things, we physically enter a kitchen with a giant boar lying on the kitchen table! Not for the faint-hearted!
Over the course of the next few hours, we settle into Luffy’s and the other characters’ spheres. It is a fun universe – and it is quite fascinating to see the euphoria and joy – in both children and adults. The anime world is important here – whether you’re a One Piece fan or not. If we might have had doubts before we came, we are definitely left with no doubts when we leave: One Piece is really BIG in Japan!
Tokyo One Piece Tower opened in March 2015 and closed again in July 2020. As a huge indoor theme park inspired by the manga and anime series One Piece, it was a visit to the fictional universe of pirates, soldiers, rebels and others with supernatural or superhuman impressive abilities.
The One Piece theme park was conveniently located at the base of Tokyo Tower. It included themed restaurants and cafés, merchandise shops and live shows in addition to the attractions and games to indulge in.
The otaku industry is prevalent in Japan. Otaku is the Japanese term for people with a special interest in a subject. A fan of something. Today, there is a whole subculture around the otaku concept. Originally, it was related to anime and manga and their characters. Over time, it has been expanded to include all interests in any kind of passion – manga and anime being just one particular one. A typical way to live out the otaku enthusiasm is to buy the little otaku items in the gachapon vending machines or in the otaku stores that can be found on almost any street corner or small shop.
Akihabara, in particular, has become a centre for passionate otakus. We notice the gachapon vending machines everywhere! For many years, Akihabara was the dominant place for unique electronic devices that could not be found anywhere else. Akihabara’s role in presenting a uniqueness of electronics has been gradually reduced over the past years – along with today’s opportunities to buy all kinds of things online. It has become a thriving centre for the otaku industry, as well as anime and manga.
Today, Akihabara is therefore much more than the ‘electric town’ of Tokyo. It is a centre for anime and manga, otaku items, and a whole world of entertainment, games, and spectacular fantasy universes.
Huge neon signs decorate the fronts of the houses and illuminate the dark sky in all the colours of the rainbow in Akihabara. The electric town of Tokyo has all kinds of electronic devices, as well as a variety of items for people with a true anime and manga passion.
Fascinating tall, sparkling advertisements with a vague dominance of shades of pink are attached to the buildings, promoting all kinds of popular products. The main street from Ueno to Akihabara is a hot spot for electronics shopping, trendy gadgets and Japan’s eccentric consumer electronics industry.
The flashing boards undeniably leave us with the impression of a futuristic city. There is a wealth of anime and manga-related merchandise in the shop windows in addition to all the high-tech products!
Tokyo is undermined by an intricate network of underground and train lines owned by a number companies. Strolling down the street towards Akihabara, we follow the parallel Yamanote Line with its numerous passenger trains passing by.
Continuing down the main street, we now approach the immense stores for gadget, cosplay, anime and manga passionate people, namely the stores Mandarake and Animate. It is quite overwhelming – and impossible to try to capture all impressions. A whole new world of manga cartoons, anime characters, and related merchandise appears.
The passion for manga and anime extends beyond the visible street level. All of a sudden we find ourselves deep in a basement. If we didn’t know better, we might mistake it for a public library because of endless rows of bookshelves. It is an amazing manga cartoon store which is like a labyrinth and we almost get lost between the the thousands of books.
Walking through all the floors of these mega stores, one after the other, is quite entertaining. More than once we are completely taken aback by what we see. Suddenly we find ourselves on a floor full of cosplay costumes and top trendy make-up and accessories – we have no idea if it is for men or women, but it is amazing!
Outside again, we almost bump into a girl dressed up as a Bavarian waitress. A few seconds later we see pink Japanese ladies apparently dressed as some well-known anime characters, as well as a few other girls in colourful dresses. They are promoting one of the nearby maid cafés.
In essence, anime is the animated version of the Japanese manga books. The manga passion and anime culture in Japan especially began to accelerate after World War II.
One of the driving forces behind the evolving anime culture was Osamu Tezuka. He is known in Japan as precisely the father of manga and anime. As a young man, he was hugely inspired by Walt Disney. As a promising cartoonist, he created some of the biggest successes in the genre in Japan. It was his Astro Boy (Tetsuwan Atoma) in particular, which was his convincing masterpiece and breakthrough to fame. His unique style and original approach enabled him to achieve international success as well.
Since Tezuka’s boom, manga and anime culture has literally exploded in Japan. Today, it is so integrated – whether you like it or not – into Japanese society that there are references to anime characters in countless public places.
Tokyo One Piece Tower … or J-World Tokyo
One Piece Tokyo Tower … or J-World Tokyo
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Tokyo One Piece Tower … or J World Tokyo:
Travel In Culture
JWorld Tokyo – One Piece World Japan