Turns out Tokyo-3 is a really nice place to visit when it’s not getting attacked by giant space monsters.

Between the giant robots and invading aliens, Evangelion falls clearly in the science fiction genre. So you might think that the city in which most of the anime series is set, Tokyo-3, is a made-up place, seeing as how Japan’s capital is just plain-old unnumbered Tokyo.

Actually, though, Tokyo-3 is a real place. It just has a different name: Hakone. Located in Kanagawa Prefecture, Hakone’s beautiful mountain scenery and abundant hot springs made it popular with travelers long before Eva’s TV premiere in 1995. But the city’s status as the real-world location of Tokyo-3 makes Hakone an even more attractive place for fans of the anime to visit.

It’s about a 90-minute ride from downtown Tokyo to Hakone on the Romance Car limited express train, and fans’ Eva flashbacks are likely to start as soon they arrive at Hakone Yumoto Station (pictured above). Eva protagonist Shinji can be seen at the station when trying to get away from Nerv and get out of the city. Though the building has gone through a remodeling since the anime was on the air, the curve of the tracks and the building’s overall shape are still evocative of the animated scenes.

There’s a more obvious nod to Evangelion with Eva-ya, an official Eva specialty store located on the first floor of the station building. Here you can find all sorts of limited-edition merch, much of it sporting traditional Japanese aesthetics and motifs to match the old-school accommodations of Hakone’s many hot spring inns, such as illustrations of Rei wearing a yukata kimono.

Some of Hakone’s mountainous terrain is too steep for trains to run directly up, making the Hakone Tozan Railway, which zigzags up the incline following switchbacks, a treat for rail fans. It’s also a source of excitement for Eva enthusiasts, as the Tozan line is also the site of Shinji and Eva Unit-01’s battle against the Fourth Angel.

▼ Thankfully the train wasn’t crushed as collateral damage when we visited.

When the mountains get too steep for even the Tozan Railway, there’s a ropeway to take you soaring over them. You’ll want to get off at the Togendai ropeway station, which is the inspiration for the Togendai Central Station seen in Evangelion.

Togendai Central Station is on the Tokyo-3 city monorail network, and is the station where personnel transfer on their way to Nerv headquarters, as well as where Shinji and mysterious intelligence agent Kaji meet for the first time. So part of the interior of Togendai Station…

…has been made to look like Nerv HQ, and also includes an awesome Unit-01 statue.

▼ Nerv本部 = Nerv Headquarters

Togendai Station has an attached gift shop too, which is where we picked up this bottle of mineral water with Rei and Asuka posing in front of a sweeping vista of Lake Ashinoko with Mt. Fuji further back in the distance.

Continuing along the ropeway, you’ll come to Owakudani, another part of Hakone Shinji wanders to when running away from home.

The landscape here was formed by volcanic eruptions, and sulfuric steam seeps from cracks in the ground in several places. At some point between now and Eva’s in-anime future, though, this area gets filled in with urban development.

The ropeway will also give you a great view of Lake Ashinoko, which looks a lot more tranquil when its not the venue for a dramatic heavy artillery firefight with the Sixth Angel, like it was in Evangelion: 1.0 You Are (Not) Alone.

On the north side of the lake is Hakone’s Sengokuhara district. Within the anime, this is where the apartment that Shinji shares with Misato and Asuka, as well as the one Rei lives in, are located. The real-life Sengokuhara Municipal Junior High School, pictured below, was also the model for the Tokyo-3 First Municipal Junior High School the teenage mecha pilots attend.

▼ There have even been special events where the real school’s sign was replaced with the one from the anime.

The junior high has closed, but its classroom and athletic facilities and sports fields are now used for college classes and sports team training retreats.

Sengokuhara’s most famous sightseeing spot is its field of pampas grass, called susuki in Japanese.

Right at this time of year, the feathery tufts at the tips of the stalks shine like gold when the late afternoon sun hits them.

It’s an achingly beautiful place in its own right, and it’s also the part of Tokyo-3 where Shinji’s classmate Kensuke does his solo camping.

Next up is perhaps the most unusual point of interest for Eva fans in Hakone: a public restroom.

Sengokuhara’s Kintoki Park has remodeled and rebranded its restroom as the Nerv Sengokuhara Outpost, complete with AT-field patterns on the exterior. That’s because the park is the start of the pathway that leads up into the hills and takes you to Kintoki Shrine, near where Kensuke and his pal Toji watched Shinji take on an Angel instead of staying put in their evacuation shelter.

▼ Even some of Hakone’s garbage trucks have gotten into the Eva mood.

There’s enough to see and do in Hakone that you could easily spend a weekend sightseeing in the town with no Eva activities at all. But for those with an appreciation for travel and anime, the Evangelion connection is one more reason to check out one of Japan’s best travel destinations.

Source: Hakone Evangelion Collaboration Project official website
Photos ©SoraNews24
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