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Japan is the land of landscape gardening and the tea ceremony, but it's also the unofficial king of pop culture. Godzilla was probably Japan's first ambassador of pop culture to the rest of the world, unleashed in a monster movie more than 50 years ago and copied many times over in subsequent films. In more recent times, Pokemon, created by Nintendo in 1996 for its handheld video game, Game Boy, spread to the rest of the world in the forms of a television series and trading cards, followed by Digimon, Yu-Gi-Oh! And Dragonball. Hello Kitty has captured hearts of girls everywhere with purses, notebooks and other accessories stamped with its trademark cat. And a global interest in anime (Japanimation) has spread ever since Astro Boy, anime's most well-known icon, was adapted for Western television in 1963. It was the beginning of a wave of anime imports, including Spirited Away which took an Oscar in 2003 and Appleseed. An interest in anime has spawned international animation fairs and shows in Japan, not to mention markets for Japanese movies and magazines.
For destinations relating to Japanese pop culture, Pokemon fans will want to visit the Pokemon Center stores in Tokyo, Yokohama, Osaka, Nagoya and Fukuoka for their huge inventories of Pokemon-related gifts and souvenirs. Hello Kitty fans flock to Sanrio Puroland, a theme park 30 minutes by train from Tokyo's Shinjuku Station. In Mitaka (20 minutes by train from Tokyo's Shinjuku Station), there's the Ghibli Museum, with displays relating to the history of animation, mockups of an animator's studio, movies, and sets relating to films released by Studio Ghibli, including Spirited Away (tickets should be purchased in advance before arriving in Japan through a travel agency like JTB). Another must-see for anime fans is Tezuka Osamu Memorial Hall in Takarazuka, dedicated to the master of modern animation and known for his creations like Astro Boy.[More info: www.jnto.go.jp]