With just a month and half away for the opening of the under construction theme park in the city of Nagakute in Japan, there is much for visitors to be excited about. Built within the grounds of the expo 2005 Aichi Commemorative Park, the first Ghibli Park in Japan will be dedicated to all things Studio Ghibli has kept tightly under wraps. The park will feature attractions themed upon several movies produced by Studio Ghibli such as Castle in the Sky, My Neighbor Totoro and Howl’s Moving Castle.
According to Studio Ghibli, the existing nature of the Ghibli Park will be blended seamlessly across five different areas: Hill of Youth, Ghibli’s Large Warehouse, Mononoke’s Village, Valley of Witches and Dondoko Forest – all based on its most famous films. The long-awaited grand opening of this one-of-a-kind theme park that was firstly announced in 2017 is scheduled for November 1, 2022. As the opening is approaching, the studio has released a few photos of the exhibits to give us a sneak peak of the park.
How to get there?
The Ghibli Park, which covers 494 acres (200 ha,) doesn’t have any private parking lot, so the primary way to reach here will be by the Aichikyūhaku-kinen-kōen railway station located at the park entrance.
Completion in Two Phases
The opening of the Ghibli Park will be carried out in two phases, so that some parts of the park will undergo construction even after its opening in November 2022. There are still plenty of things to explore such as the Hill of Youth, the Dondoko Forest and Ghibli’s Grand Warehouse, that are included in the initial soft launch. The opening dates for the Valley of Witches and the Mononoke Village will be announced later.
The five areas
Like we mentioned before, the park will feature five different areas. These are:
Hill of Youth
The Hill of Youth, which is the gateway to the Ghibli wonderland, is located close to the north entrance of the Expo 2005 Aichi Commemorative Park. This area houses an old pedestrian overpass transformed into an observatory tower that will double as the main gate. You can recognise fictitious 19th-century objects from Ghibli films such as ‘Laputa: Castle in the Sky’ (1986) and ‘Howl’s Moving Castle’ (2004) featured on the elevator tower. An orange building with the surrounding greenery can be recognised by fans of ‘Whisper of the Heart’ (1995), set in the Seiseki-Sakuragaoka neighborhood in Western Tokyo.
The Grand Warehouse
The Ghibli Park houses an indoor township, the Grand Warehouse, consisting of a small cinema, shops, a café, and a children’s play area featuring the giant Cat bus from the world-famous creators of the hit anime ‘My Neighbor Totoro’ (1988). This indoor facility also houses immersive exhibits pulled straight out of the animation studio’s most beloved films. The cinema, which is similar to the one in Ghibli Museum in Tokyo, screens the studio’s lesser known short films like ‘Mei and the Baby Cat Bus’, and ‘The Day I Bought a Star’ which is a mini prequel to the 2004 fantasy film ‘Howl’s Moving Castle.’ You can also watch a special programme compiling all the memorable food scenes in Studio Ghibli films starting from the opening date until November 2023.
Tatara-ba, the Irontown depicted in the movie ‘Princess Mononoke’ will have a real-life recreation in the Mononoke’s Village. This area also features figures of tatari gami, the powerful god of destruction, the boar god Lord Okkoto and other mythical creatures within the premises. The scenery of the Mononoke’s Village reminds you of the rural landscape from the Muromachi period (1336-1573) in which the movie is set.
Valley of Witches
Drawing inspiration from two films from 1989 featuring protagonists with magical powers ‘Howl’s Moving Castle’ and ‘Kiki’s Delivery Service’, the Valley of Witches will consist of a European townscape featuring restaurants, parks and rest areas. You can explore the interiors of Kiki’s family home surrounded by trees and a lavender garden, and spend time in Kiki’s room. The bakery where Kiki lives and works is also recreated in this area where you will be able to buy bread resembling the loaves in the movie.
This area surrounded by lush nature got its name from the dondoko dance, which the two sisters perform together with the spirit Toronto in hopes that the seeds they sow will sprout. The area will also be home to a 5.2m tall wooden Totoro-shaped statue, called ‘Dondoko-do’, which can accommodate up to five children at a time. Dondoko Forest reminds of a rural landscape from the Showa period (1926-1989) and features Satsuki and Mei’s house from ‘My Neighbor Totoro’.
The park offers several photo options including a train model from the Oscar-winning ‘Spirited Away’ (2001), where you can recreate that iconic scene from the film by taking Chihiro’s seat next to No Face. There will be separate admission tickets required for each area of the park. The tickets are available through a lottery system as well as on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Needless to say, the Ghibli Park will be a truly immersive experience for all fans of the wholesome movies the studio is known to
produce. As more details and pictures come out, we are left mesmerized by what we can only call a childhood dream come true.
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