The first Ghibli Park in Japan – and the world for that matter – won’t open until 2022. However, lots of info has been revealed about the attractions that will populate the site, which is set within the Expo 2005 Aichi Commemorative Park in Nagakute city near Nagoya (about three hours by train from Tokyo).
While it’s still a little while before we’ll get to visit, we can't help but pore over all the artist's impressions and photos of the theme park that have been made public so far. So, if you're a big fan like us, here's what you can expect from the world-famous creators of the hit anime ‘My Neighbor Totoro’ (1988), ‘Princess Mononoke’ (1997) and the Oscar-winning ‘Spirited Away’ (2001).
Studio Ghibli has announced that its first theme park will be divided into five areas: Hill of Youth, Ghibli’s Large Warehouse, Mononoke’s Village, Valley of Witches and Dondoko Forest. All these attractions are based on the studio’s most famous flicks and will blend in perfectly with the existing nature in the park.
Hill of Youth
Located close to the north entrance of the park, the Hill of Youth is the gateway to this Ghibli wonderland. An old pedestrian overpass building will be transformed into a yellow observation tower that will double as the main gate. It will feature fictitious 19th-century objects you may recognise from Ghibli works such as ‘Laputa: Castle in the Sky’ (1986) and ‘Howl’s Moving Castle’ (2004).
Fans of ‘Whisper of the Heart’ (1995), which was set in the neighbourhood of Seiseki-Sakuragaoka in Western Tokyo, will recognise this red building. With the surrounding greenery, it looks exactly like the antique shop from the movie. You’ll also find a miniature version of the Cat Bureau from the movie ‘The Cat Returns’ (2002).
Ghibli’s Large Warehouse
A former public swimming pool which closed down in September 2018 will be transformed into the Ghibli’s Large Warehouse. This part of the theme park will be shielded from the elements, so you can still enjoy the attractions inside regardless of the weather.
The indoor area will house an exhibition room, a children’s playground, shops and restaurants, plus a warehouse to store all the exhibits. The exhibition room will house a small cinema with about 170 seats. The vibrant and eclectic setting will incorporate Japanese and Western architectural designs.
You’ll also find a re-creation of the iconic sky garden from the movie ‘Laputa: Castle in the Sky’, as well as a 6.3-metre reproduction of the movie's airship.
There’s a playroom based on ‘My Neighbor Totoro’, complete with a giant Catbus, just like the one in the Ghibli Museum. A space resembling the mysterious cityscape from the instant classic ‘Spirited Away’ is also planned.
The above artist’s impression reveals that Ghibli’s Large Warehouse will also boast an area resembling the setting of ‘Arrietty’ (2010). The wall on the right side depicts the Borrowers’ family home, while the garden will let visitors experience the world from the perspective of the movie’s tiny main protagonist, Arrietty.
Mononoke’s Village will include a real-life recreation of Tatara-ba, the Irontown depicted in the movie ‘Princess Mononoke’. Tatara refers to the traditional Japanese furnace that’s used for smelting iron and steel, while Mononoke means spirit or supernatural monster.
So you’ll find figures of the powerful god of destruction (otherwise also known as ‘tatari gami’ in the movie), the boar god Lord Okkoto and other mystical creatures within the premises. The scenery takes you back to a rural landscape from the Muromachi period (1336-1573), in which the movie is set.
Valley of Witches
The design of the Valley of Witches draws inspiration from ‘Howl’s Moving Castle’ and ‘Kiki's Delivery Service’ (1989) – both films feature protagonists with magic powers.
This aerial-view illustration of a European townscape features restaurants, parks and rest areas, along with Kiki’s family home.
There will be a real-life, 16-metre tall version of Howl’s Moving Castle, complete with moving cannons resembling eyeballs. Unlike in the film, visitors inside the castle are welcome to take a peek into the magician's quirky bedroom.
Surrounded by lush nature, the Dondoko Forest resembles a rural landscape from the Showa period (1926-1989) and will feature Satsuki and Mei’s house from ‘My Neighbor Totoro’. The area’s name is derived from the dondoko dance, which the two sisters perform together with the spirit Totoro in hopes that the seeds they sowed will sprout.
Looking at these preliminary visuals, we can't wait to venture into the fantasy world of Studio Ghibli. Unfortunately, not everything in the park will open at the same time. The Hill of Youth, Ghibli’s Large Warehouse and the Dondoko Forest are scheduled to open in autumn 2022 while Mononoke’s Village and the Valley of Witches will not be ready until a year later in autumn 2023. We’ll keep you posted as we get more updates on Ghibli Park.
In the meantime, visit the official Ghibli Museum in Mitaka to brush up on your Studio Ghibli knowledge.
This article was originally published on December 16 2019, and updated on September 1 2021.
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