Neon Genesis Evangelion landed amongst the crowded Japanese anime scene in the mid-nineties and immediately became one of the most popular franchises on the planet. It was like no other anime that had come before; what started out as an innocent-enough adventure series about chosen children piloting giant mech suits gradually turned into a full-on psychological horror with lashings of existential dread. Series creator Hideaki Anno suffered a real-life mental breakdown during production and projected his condition into Evangelion. Happily, Anno recovered, and the television series (which ran for 24 episodes and a couple of films) was rebooted into a successful feature film quadrilogy in 2007, the final installment of which is incoming.

Not every Eva fan will know, however, that the series is set in a real-life place; Hakone, a gorgeous mountain resort which lies a few miles south of Tokyo. Doubling as the post-apocalyptic Tokyo-3 in Eva-land, the layout of Hakone will be instantly familiar to fans of the show, and the good news is that the residents embrace their Evangelion heritage with pride. If you’re planning a trip to Japan and fancy yourself as an Eva fanatic, you shouldn’t miss out on a bucket list trip to beautiful Hakone. Log on to BUCKiTDREAM to get a feel for a trip to the Land of the Rising Sun, then keep that BUCKiTDREAM planner handy, as we take you through the ultimate guide to Hakone for Evangelion fans!

Getting Yourself There Hakone makes a perfect day or weekend trip from Tokyo. It takes ninety minutes or so by train and costs approximately $20. The direct line is named the ‘Romance Car’ and departs from Tokyo’s Shinjuku Station. You can also avail of something called the Hakone Free Pass, which entitles you to travel on all of Hakone’s public transport, including buses, boats and the famous cable cars, as well as getting you to and from Tokyo. The Free Pass costs around $50 for a two-day pass, and $56 for a three-day pass.

Battle the Fifth Angel at Lake Ashino One of the most impressive features of Hakone is the expansive Lake Ashino, formed after Mt. Hakone, an active volcano, last blew its top 3,000 years ago. Evangelion fans will immediately recognize the distinctive lake as the backdrop for one of the series’ most exciting fights, the climactic battle against the Fifth Angel, Ramiel. Luckily, in the real world, the lake isn’t nearly as chaotic; in fact, it’s one of the most beautifully serene places in the country. Hakone is the exact opposite of the neon hustle and bustle of Tokyo; most of it remains undeveloped, and if you’re lucky enough to catch it in Spring or Fall, you’re in for a real treat. You can hop on a half-hour boat ride across the lake to catch some stunning views of the shoreline.

Shop ‘Til You Drop at the Eva Store After the success of Tokyo’s Eva Store, which opened in 2011, a new branch was opened in Hakone. This store has a more traditional feel to it, but is still packed to the brim with mountains of Evangelion-related goods. For true fans, there are some items you can only pick up in this particular store, so make sure to have a good peruse before you leave Hakone! Also, don’t forget to snap a selfie with the life-size Res statue in the doorway, who’s decked out in a rather fetching kimono. Make sure to keep your Eva’s eyes peeled whenever you’re out and about in Hakone; vending machines, pachinko slots, and even trains can be found decked out in Eva themes.

Take a Dip in a Hot Spring Despite battling angels every other week, and suffering an untold number of mental disorders, the cast of Evangelion did find time to relax and have some fun now and again. In Hakone, the best way to do that is in an onsen (hot spring). The mountains around the area are famous for their hot spring water, and people travel from all over the country to try them out. As you’re in the hot spring capital of Japan, you shouldn’t miss your chance to have a dip in this most traditional of Japanese pastimes. Just be warned; though all onsen is gender-separated, both men and women must go completely naked into the water, and not get their towels wet! The Japanese aren’t particularly shy about this kind of exposure, and generally won’t bat an eyelid, but it might take newbies a little bit of getting used to!

Japan is an anime fanatic’s paradise, and chances are that if you like Eva, you’ll be a fan of more than a few other series. Well, you can find them all in Japan, and much more as well. A trip to Nihon is often described as life-changing, so be sure to make the most of your BUCKiTDREAM trip to the East by checking out Harajuku Hunting: The Ultimate Guide to Tokyo’s Trendiest Districts and The Best Themed Cafés and Restaurants in Tokyo. And don’t forget to share all your adventures with the BUCKiTDREAM community!