Children around the world have grown up with beloved animated films from Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli. Since 1984, Studio Ghibli films have often served as an introduction to the wider world of anime and have obtained a cult following all their own.
Many Ghibli fans have already made a pilgrimage to the popular Studio Ghibli museum in Tokyo. Others eagerly anticipate the 2020 release of the first Ghibli film since the studio went on hiatus in 2014, following Miyazaki’s retirement. Fans will be thrilled to learn that the construction of a Ghibli theme park is underway that will bring the films to life.
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The Ghibli theme park was originally slated to debut in 2020. Due to delays, however, it is now expected to open in fall 2022.
Three of the five park areas – Youth Hill, Dondoko Forest, and the Great Ghibli Warehouse – will be completed for the park’s debut. The Valley of the Witch and Mononoke Village will open one year later.
The proposed location for the park is the site of EXPO Park, former site of the 2005 World EXPO, in Nagakute City, Aichi prefecture, Japan. Nestled in the countryside east of Nagoya, the park will be about a three-hour journey from Tokyo, one made easy by the use of the Japan Rail Pass. The location covers over 200 hectares or 494 acres.
EXPO Park has long been an attraction for Ghibli fans, as it features a full-scale replica of the home of Mei and Satsuki Kusakabe’s home from the film My Neighbor Totoro.
Park features and attractions
The existing Totoro elements are to be expanded in a way that “integrate[s] peacefully with nature.” There will be rides, but the massive rollercoasters that dominate many theme parks will be avoided in favor of nature trails that will feel as if they were taken right from the movies.
Interestingly, Miyazaki insisted that no trees be cut down in the formation of the park. Instead, the park will celebrate the natural beauty that inspired their lush animation.
Concept art has been released for certain parts of the park. Themed play areas, galleries, and cinemas will be inhabited by statues of Ghibli creatures. Each area is described below.
Also known as Hill of Youth, this section is based partially on Howl’s Moving Castle. Located at the park’s north entrance, you’ll find a yellow gate and an observation tower, complete with nineteenth-century objects from Howl’s Moving Castle.
This section also features European-style brick buildings and buildings reminiscent of the Seiseki-Sakuragoaka Tokyo neighborhood antique shop from Whisper of the Heart.
Great Ghibli Warehouse
Also called Ghibli’s Large Warehouse or Big Ghibli Warehouse, the Warehouse will be situated on the former site of a large swimming pool. It is an indoor attraction that can be enjoyed at any time of the year, regardless of the weather.
The Warehouse will feature a children’s playground, an exhibition room, a cinema, shops, restaurants, and a literal warehouse in which revolving exhibits will be stored. Concept art of the Warehouse has been described as “eclectic,” incorporating Japanese and Western architectural design elements.
Mononoke Village, based on the film Princess Mononoke, will transport visitors back to the Muromachi period (1336 to 1573) in which the film is set. It recreates Tatara-ba, or Irontown, named for a traditional Japanese metal smelting furnace.
The area will be inhabited by figures of the spider-like tatari gami, the god of destruction; the boar god, Lord Okkoto; and other mystical creatures.
Also called the Valley of Witches, this colorful area will feature attractions themed after Kiki’s Delivery Service and Howl’s Moving Castle, including the castle itself and Kiki’s home.
Based on My Neighbor Totoro, this area resembles the Show period (1926 to 1989). The area will expand on the existing structures, blending into the surrounding countryside.
Planning Your Trip
Some devotees are already booking flights for late 2022, but tickets are not yet available.
In the meantime, you can feast your senses on Studio Ghibli’s extensive film roster:
- Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (1984)
- Castle in the Sky (1986)
- Grave of the Fireflies (1988)
- My Neighbor Totoro (1988)
- Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989)
- Only Yesterday (1991)
- Porco Rosso (1992)
- Pom Poko (1994)
- Whisper of the Heart (1995)
- Princess Mononoke (1997)
- My Neighbors the Yamadas (1999)
- Spirited Away (2001)
- The Cat Returns (2002)
- Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)
- Tales from Earthsea (2006)
- Ponyo (2008)
- Arrietty (2010)
- From Up on Poppy Hill (2011)
- The Wind Rises (2013)
- The Tale of the Prencess Kaguya (2013)
- When Marnie Was There (2014)
- How Do You Live? (Forthcoming in 2020)
The forthcoming film, for which Miyazaki came out of retirement to complete, has been likened to his final gift to his grandson.