A Tour of Studio Ghibli’s Brand New Theme Park in Japan, Which Re-Creates the Worlds of Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro, and Other Classics

Two and a half years ago, we fea­tured the con­cept art for Stu­dio Ghi­b­li’s theme park here on Open Cul­ture, and just two weeks ago it opened its doors. Locat­ed on the grounds of Expo 2005 in Japan’s Aichi Pre­fec­ture (a three- to four-hour train trip west from Tokyo, or a two-hour train trip east of Osa­ka), Ghi­b­li Park com­pris­es sev­er­al themed areas like the Grand Ware­house, the Hill of Youth, and Don­doko For­est. Just hear­ing those names sure­ly fires up the imag­i­na­tions of many a Ghi­b­li fan, even before they hear about the park’s vis­i­tor-ready recon­struc­tions of every­thing from Cas­tle in the Sky’s ruined gar­dens to Whis­per of the Heart’s antique shop to My Neigh­bor Totoro’s Cat­bus.

“Unlike Dis­ney­land, Ghi­b­li Park does not fea­ture roller coast­ers or rides,” writes My Mod­ern Met’s Margheri­ta Cole. “Instead, it wel­comes vis­i­tors to immerse them­selves in life-size sets that are har­mo­nious­ly inte­grat­ed with nature.” You can get a sense of how this con­cept has been exe­cut­ed in the fif­teen-minute video at the top of the post from Japan-based trav­el vlog­gers Didi and Bryan.

In it, they pass through the afore­men­tioned spaces as well as oth­ers includ­ing Cin­e­ma Ori­on, which screens ten short films once only view­able at the Ghi­b­li Muse­um, and the Siberia milk stand, which offers the epony­mous sponge cake from The Wind Ris­es, Ghi­b­li mas­ter­mind Hayao Miyaza­k­i’s final ani­mat­ed fea­ture — or rather, his penul­ti­mate ani­mat­ed fea­ture.

The repeat­ed­ly un-retired Miyaza­ki returned to the stu­dio in 2016 to begin a film called How Do You Live?. Though the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic slowed down its pro­duc­tion by forc­ing him and his col­lab­o­ra­tors to work from home, it seems not to have thrown the new theme park’s con­struc­tion far off track. In three years’ time, Cole writes, “Ghi­b­li Park will open its last two sec­tions — Mononoke no sato (‘Mononoke Vil­lage’) and Majo no tani (‘Val­ley of the Witch’) — which are ded­i­cat­ed to the films Princess Mononoke and Kik­i’s Deliv­ery Ser­vice, respec­tive­ly. There may even be a future ride in store, as some of the con­cept art appears to depict spin­ning teacups inspired by Kik­i’s cat Jiji.” That will require care­ful design­ing: a cer­tain oth­er ani­ma­tion stu­dio with long-stand­ing theme parks has a teacup ride of its own — and lit­tle patience for appar­ent imi­ta­tors, no mat­ter the artis­tic heights to which they soar.

Relat­ed con­tent:

Stu­dio Ghi­b­li Releas­es Tan­ta­liz­ing Con­cept Art for Its New Theme Park, Open­ing in Japan in 2022

A Vir­tu­al Tour Inside the Hayao Miyazaki’s Stu­dio Ghi­b­li Muse­um

Stu­dio Ghi­b­li Makes 1,178 Images Free to Down­load from My Neigh­bor Totoro, Spir­it­ed Away & Oth­er Beloved Ani­mat­ed Films

Hayao Miyaza­ki, The Mind of a Mas­ter: A Thought­ful Video Essay Reveals the Dri­ving Forces Behind the Animator’s Incred­i­ble Body of Work

Watch Hayao Miyazaki’s Beloved Char­ac­ters Enter the Real World

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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