Even if you haven’t actually watched the films, most of us are probably familiar with some of Studio Ghibli’s most iconic characters like Totoro (from My Neighbour Totoro, 1988) and No Face (from Spirited Away, 2001).
And for those who aren’t familiar, these films are all directed by Hayao Miyazaki — one of Japan’s most well-loved animators. Most of his work revolves heavily around the simple beauty of nature and child-like fantasy — which will all be brought to life with the opening of Ghibli Park in Japan. (Yes, even the iconic tunnel that Chihiro travels through at the start of Spirited Away!)
Originally due to be opened in 2020, the completion of the much-anticipated theme park was pushed thanks to the pandemic, and it’s finally opening this year on 1 November 2022, located in the Aichi Expo Memorial Park in Nagakute City, Aichi Prefecture!
This Studio Ghibli-themed park is a dream come true whether you’re a Studio Ghibli fan or not. Imagine a whimsical wonderland intricately designed to transport you right into Hayao Miyazaki’s imaginary world of Ghibli filled with quirky lovable characters and fantastical scenes straight out of the films…
Just take a look at the site map and you’ll see that the 200-hectare grounds of Ghibli Park hold a number of attractions, with five main areas fully inspired by different Ghibli films.
1. Hill of Youth
The entrance area of the park is where you’ll find an elevator observation tower with steampunk features reminiscent of the vibes from Howl’s Moving Castle (2004) and Laputa: Castle in the Sky (1986). This is where you’ll be able to take in views of the park and explore a model of Chikyuu-ya, the iconic antique shop from Whisper of the Heart (1995), as well as check out a miniature version of the Cat Bureau from The Cat Returns (2002).
2. Ghibli’s Grand Warehouse
If you absolutely adored Spirited Away (2001) and wondered how it’d feel to be Chihiro wandering around the spirit world in the abandoned amusement park… Here’s where you’ll be able to wander around a recreation of the eerie town area in the much-loved film, along with more Ghibli exhibits, shops, restaurants, a children’s playground and a 170-seat theatre. You’ll also be able to find an area completely modelled after scenes from Arrietty (2010)!
3. Dondoko Forest
Next, this one’s for the Totoro fans — head to Dondoko Forest and enter the world of My Neighbour Totoro (1988) with a replica of Satsuki and Mei’s house set in an enchanting countryside surrounded by lush greenery — and don’t forget to take photos with the 5.2-metre tall Totoro here!
4. Valley of Witches (opening in 2023)
Inspired by Howl’s Moving Castle (2004) and Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989), this is where you can actually enter and explore a real-life 16-metre replica of Howl’s Moving Castle with moving cannons and Howl’s fascinating bedroom! You’ll feel like you’ve teleported straight into the settings of Kiki’s Delivery Service with its European townscape and a replica of the bakery, complete with bread you can purchase that looks exactly like the ones in the film.
5. Mononoke’s Village (opening in 2023)
An actual recreation of Tatara-ba, the Irontown featured in Princess Mononoke (1997), meet giant statues of the Tatarigami parasitic demons and more fantastical creatures like Lord Okkoto, the boar god!
And unlike the usual theme parks with roller coasters (could you just imagine a Haku dragon rollercoaster?) or character meet and greets, Ghibli Park does not offer the usual rides but is instead designed to immerse you fully in the world of Ghibli — so you feel like you’re actually in the film, instead of merely visiting any ordinary theme park with the usual slew of rides and attractions.
Looking forward to visiting Ghibli Park once it opens? Tickets go up for sale from 10 August 2022, but here’s the catch. Ticket sales for the park’s opening in November will be done through a lottery system, so if you want to be one of the lucky few people to visit when it opens, you’ll have to enter the ticket lottery through the official Ghibli Park (JP) website! (At the time of writing, tickets aren’t available for sale through the official Ghibli Park (EN) website just yet.)
Otherwise, regular first-come-first-served tickets for November will be available for purchase come 10 September 2022 through Boo-Woo Ticket and Loppi machines at Lawson and Mini Stop convenience stores in Japan. And following that, tickets for the following month will be available on the 10th of the month before.
Looking at how Japan isn’t quite fully open for travel just yet, here’s to hoping with all fingers crossed that Japan opens up in time for us to travel down to visit this incredible Ghibli attraction! (But of course, seeing as how Valley of Witches and Mononoke’s Village will only open in 2023, it might be better for us to plan a trip down when these park areas finally open too.)
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