The first Ghibli Park in Japan – and the world for that matter – will open on November 1 2022 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, photos and videos 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. Here's what we know so far.
This new trailer, released by the Aichi Tourism Bureau, introduces the best sightseeing spots in Aichi prefecture, including a short sequence of Satsuki and Mei’s house from ‘My Neighbor Totoro’.
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 has been transformed into an observation tower that will double as the main gate. The elevator tower features 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 Ghibli’s Large Warehouse, which will be three times bigger than the Ghibli Museum in Tokyo’s Mitaka neighbourhood. 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.
Here’s a behind-the-scenes shot showing the area under construction.
That red-and-yellow building above features an interesting centrepiece in the shape of an eye.
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, which will be hanging from the ceiling.
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. In a recent Twitter Q&A session between Studio Ghibli and its fans, Goro Miyazaki – son of Ghibli founder Hayao Miyazaki and a director of the Ghibli Park – has revealed that the iconic tunnel Chihiro travels through at the start of ‘Spirited Away’ will also be built inside the park.
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 also be a re-creation of the bakery where Kiki lives and works. You’ll be able to buy bread resembling the loaves in the movie.
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.
The area will also be home to a wooden Totoro-shaped statue, called ‘Dondoko-do’. Located behind Satsuki and Mei’s house, the structure will be 5.2m tall and have space for up to five children at a time.
Looking at these preliminary visuals, we can't wait to venture into the fantasy world of Studio Ghibli. But this is no ordinary theme park. You won’t find any Ghibli-themed roller coasters and rides here, or character greeting events and Ghibli movie music playing over speakers. Rather than treat you like a visitor, the park is designed to make you feel like you’re part of your favourite Ghibli movies.
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 on November 1 this year, while Mononoke’s Village and the Valley of Witches won't be ready until a year later in autumn 2023. Entry to the public Expo Park itself will remain free, but there will be admission fees for entering the Ghibli-themed areas.
We’ll keep you posted as we get more updates on Ghibli Park, but until then, you want to check out Ghibli Park's brand new official website.
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 April 1 2022.
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