ⓒ 2022 Studio Ghibli

Japan’s New Ghibli Park Brings Magical Anime Worlds To Life



Japan’s New Ghibli Park Brings Magical Anime Worlds To Life

If you’re a fan of Studio Ghibli anime films like Princess Mononoke and My Neighbor Totoro, you probably already know that the Ghibli Museum in Tokyo’s Mitaka is one of the most popular attractions among visitors to the Japanese capital. Available only in advance, tickets are often sold out; overseas sales have been suspended during the coronavirus pandemic. It’s no wonder that fans rejoiced when Ghibli announced plans to build a new theme park in Aichi Prefecture called Ghibli Park. With the opening date now less than six months away, here’s what you need to know to get ready for this fascinating new destination.

  • 01

    Expo roots

    The first phase of Ghibli Park will officially open November 1, 2022 in the Expo 2005 Aichi Commemorative Park in Nagakute City, located west of Nagoya. It’s the former site of the massively successful world’s fair that ran from March 25 to September 25, 2005, attracting 22 million visitors, 7 million more than planners expected. The expo featured humanoid robots, maglev trains and displays on sustainability and green energy, and the usual national pavilions where guests can learn about other countries.

    Tucked away in one corner of the site, however, was a real-life version of Satsuki and Mei’s house in the 1988 classic My Neighbor Totoro. Set amid a forest and pond, the structure evokes the decade known as the Showa 30s (1955-1965) with its old-fashioned Japanese and Western hybrid architecture. No doubt it’s inhabited by makkuro kurosuke soot sprites like in the film. After the expo closed and the site became a commemorative park, the house opened to the public in 2006 and has since been a tourist attraction. It’s now the nucleus of the new Ghibli Park.

    Ghibli has taken a distinctly Ghibli-like approach to the park’s overall concept, emphasizing the value of the site’s natural surroundings. “There are no big attractions or rides in Ghibli Park,” it notes on its website. “Take a stroll, feel the wind, and discover the wonders.” That being said, there are plenty of things to see here.

    ⓒ 2022 Studio Ghibli

  • 02

    Exploring the zones

    The first phase will consist of three zones: Ghibli's Grand Warehouse, Hill of Youth and Dondoko Forest. Formerly a public swimming pool, the Grand Warehouse is an eclectic, colorful indoor experience where fans can view artifacts from past Ghibli films and exhibitions including “Robot Soldier, Cat Bus, and kid-sized film studio exhibitions,” as well as “materials and resources that reveal the secrets of Studio Ghibli films.” That may sound reminiscent of the Ghibli Museum in Tokyo, which has displays related to filmmaking as well as the 5-meter tall Robot Soldier from Castle in the Sky standing watch on its roof. The warehouse will also include a sky garden inspired by the same film, a children’s playground inspired by My Neighbor Totoro, a movie theater, shops and restaurants.

    The Hill of Youth zone serves as a gateway to the park and contains another repurposed piece of architecture from the Expo 2005 Aichi Commemorative Park. It’s an eye-popping “elevator tower” inspired by the 19th-century science fiction world of Castle in the Sky. Topped by fanciful finials and a large clock, the elevator tower is 28 meters tall and made of metal. It gives visitors a view of the Hill of Youth area, which will be home to World Emporium, the antique shop in Whisper of the Heart. Even though the park isn’t officially open until November, the tower has been open to visitors, and free of charge, since March.

    To the southeast of the tower, Dondoko Forest is the area surrounding Satsuki and Mei’s house. It’s named after the seed-planting dance performed by Totoro and the girls. Atop a hill behind the house stands Dondoko-do, a 5.2-meter-tall, wooden play structure that looks like a giant Totoro—this is sure to become another hit with younger fans, just like the plush Cat Bus in the Ghibli Museum.

    ⓒ 2022 Studio Ghibli

  • 03

    Mononokes and witches

    Two more zones planned for the park that won’t be open until some point in 2023 are the Mononoke Village and the Valley of Witches. The Village will be a recreation of the Muromachi period (1336–1573) community of Tataraba from Princess Mononoke, complete with the boar god and other deities and creatures from the mystical forest. The Valley will be themed on magic and based on Howl’s Moving Castle and Kiki's Delivery Service. Visitors will be able to take in recreations of both Howl’s Castle and Kiki’s home and bakery, set in a European-style village with shops and restaurants.

    Nearly 22,000 lucky fans who applied online will get a free preview of Ghibli Park in October. For the rest of us, we’ll have to wait until this magical fantasyland opens in November.

    ⓒ 2022 Studio Ghibli

    Official website:

    Expo 2005 Aichi Commemorative Park
    Aichi Pref. Nagakuteshi Ibaragabasama Otsu 1533-1
    [Park] [Apr.- Oct.] 8:00-19:…
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