The only guide you need when visiting the adventurous Ghibli Park in Japan
When Ghibli Park was inaugurated as a theme park scene in 2022, it not just gave Studio Ghibli fans but also globetrotters the perfect opportunity to experience the world created by the Japanese animation studio.
Known for titles like Spirited Away (2001) — which won the 2003 Academy Award for Best Animated Feature — and The Wind Rises (2013), Studio Ghibli got its real-world counterpart in the form of Ghibli Park in Japan’s Nagakute, Aichi Prefecture. It is a beautiful extension of the iconic architectures of the Japanese animation films made since 1985 and comprises separate areas inside the pre-existing Expo 2005 Aichi Commemorative Park (Moricoro Park).
Although the park isn’t the first place where Studio Ghibli fans can witness various attractions around its productions — Tokyo‘s Ghibli Museum being another such iconic site — the theme park offers visitors a chance to see a site that best represents the movies and preserves its natural essence.
The theme of Ghibli Park and its layout
Ghibli Park aligns with the theme of ‘Nature’s Wisdom’ and retains Expo 2005 Aichi Commemorative Park’s existing idea of ‘Love for people, living things, and the planet.’
The park is divided into five areas. Three areas — Ghibli’s Grand Warehouse, Hill of Youth and Dondoko Forest — opened before fall 2022 and two others — Valley of Witches and Mononoke Village — are yet to feature on the park premises.
Being the first theme park dedicated to the ecological awareness of Aichi in Japan, no cutting down of trees took place during the construction of Ghibli Park. Instead, the park is built around them.
Best time to visit and how to get to Ghibli Park
Spring (between March and May) and Autumn (from September to November) are considered to be the best seasons in Japan. With the pleasant weather and blooming cherry blossoms, this is undoubtedly a great time for travellers to plan a trip to the country to explore the park.
How to reach Ghibli Park
Taking the Meitetsu shuttle bus service from Nagoya Station to Expo 2005 Aichi Commemorative Park, which has been operating since 1 November 2022, is the best way to get to the park by road.
Weekdays: five shuttles per day (including three non-stop)
Weekends and holidays: six non-stop shuttles
Weekdays: four shuttles per day (including two non-stop)
Weekend and holidays: all non-stop
Visitors are advised not to take their personal vehicles as there is no designated parking lot for Ghibli Park as of now.
Visitors can get on board the Linimo (Aichi Rapid Transit Co., Ltd Tobu Kyuryo Line) to the Ai-Chikyuhaku Kinen Koen station. The park’s entrance is visible from just outside the station.
For visitors who are flying in, the Chubu Centrair International Airport in the Tokoname city of the Aichi Prefecture is 35 km south of Nagoya in central Japan. After landing, tourists can easily board the readily available Meitetsu shuttles from the airport to Expo 2005 Aichi Commemorative Park.
For more information, visit the official website of Meitetsu Bus services here.
Best places to visit and things to do in Ghibli Park
The fantastical Ghibli’s Grand Warehouse
One of the most popular tourist attractions inside Ghibli Park, this town consists of Children’s Town, a playing room for kids which replicates a scaled-down version of the Higashi-Koganei Station area in Tokyo; Philosophy Club Room, which will transport visitors to the corner of the Latin Quarter in From Up on Poppy Hill (2011); The House Below and The Little People’s Garden replicate the world of the little people from Arrietty (2010); and The Cat Bus Room where a cat bus awaits to remind visitors of My Neighbor Totoro (1988).
Additionally, the Director’s Room resembles Yubaba’s office from Spirited Away; the Robot Soldiers from Castle in the Sky (1986) await visitors at the Garden in the Sky; the Transcontinental Flight Café has sumptuous dishes; and the Milk Stand Siberian offers cake with sweet beans like the “Siberia” from The Wind Rises are also part of the warehouse.
Visitors can also indulge in the following when in the warehouse:
Three Special Exhibitions: This makes for another highlight of Ghibli Park’s Grand Warehouse. One can transform into characters of their most beloved animated films in these interactive exhibitions that offer 14 famous scenes from 13 Ghibli films.
Cinema Orion: Another interesting facility in Ghibli’s Grand Warehouse, the theatre has about 170 seats to show 10 original short films (previously only screened exclusively at Ghibli Museum, Mitaka). Viewers will be able to enjoy a film per screening. The current film being shown is The Whale Hunt (2001), while the 2002 hit, Koro’s Big Day Out, awaits its April 2023 screening.
Adventurous Flying Squadron: For anyone wanting to bring home souvenirs from Tokyo, this shop at the warehouse is the best place to visit. A Ghibli fan can find various Studio Ghibli production items and other products.
Enjoy the view from the Hill of Youth
Anyone willing to visit the real-life repair and resale shop called World Emporium from Whisper of the Heart (1995) that Shizuku Tsukishima comes across must head to the Hill of Youth.
One can have a sweeping view of the entire park from the first and second-floor terraces of the World Emporium. Additionally, visitors can also buy postcards and stamps here. They can later mail them from the post box at the Rotary — a roundabout with a beautiful 13-metre-tall Himalayan cedar tree adorning its centre.
Not to forget the Elevator Tower in Hill of Youth, which is inspired by late 19th-century sci-fi architecture. This observation tower features in hits such as Castle in the Sky and Howl’s Moving Castle (2004).
Additionally, the Cat Bureau from the 2002 film The Cat Returns is a must-visit place here, as the miniature building and foundation use the same construction methods as that of a real house.
Explore My Neighbor Totoro-inspired Dondoko Forest
Dondoko Forest is an area based on one of Hayao Miyazaki’s masterpieces My Neighbor Totoro (1988) and features Satsuki and Mei’s house. Well known as the recreation of the Japanese-Western-style house from the movie, it consists of a kitchen, bathroom, drawing room, bedroom and study. Additionally, a five-metre-tall wooden structure called Dondoko-do makes for a makeshift playground for 12-year-olds or younger.
Mononoke Village from Princess Mononoke
Not much is known about Mononoke Village, as it is yet to be made accessible to the public. However, the village is expected to become one of the major attractions that give great pleasure to every Princess Mononoke fan.
As per a March 2023 report by The Mainichi Japan, 3.4-metre-high playground equipment inspired by the Okkoto-nushi boar god from the movie will be installed in Mononoke Village. The back of the installation will act as a slide for children to play. Next to it will be a 2.8-metre-tall statue of the Tatari-gami curse god from the film as well.
The spooky Valley of Witches
Valley of Witches is the fifth area in Ghibli Park and is yet to be completed. As its name suggests, the area is themed on Howl’s Moving Castle.
According to The Mainichi Japan, the two-storey wooden hat store run by the movie’s protagonist Sophie will be constructed here. A workshop is also to be recreated inside the hat store.
According to the official website of the park, tourists can only get entry to Ghibli Park through reservations made in advance. And reservations for June 2023 have been open since 10 March 2023.
It is important to note that international ticket sales are a gradual rollout and the reservation process might take some time. However, as per the official website, visitors to the park will have the best experience.
For international tickets, click here.
For domestic tickets, click here.
The prices listed below are as per the park’s official website.
For Hill of Youth and Ghibli’s Grand Warehouse Packages:
Adults: JPY 3,000
Children (age 4 – 12): JPY 1,500
Weekends and holidays
Adults: JPY 3,500
Children (age 4 – 12): JPY 1,750
Ghibli’s Grand Warehouse:
Adults: JPY 2,000
Children (age 4 – 12): JPY 1,000
Weekends and holidays
Adults: JPY 2,500
Children (age 4 – 12): JPY 1,250
Adults: JPY 1,000
Children (age 4 – 12): JPY 500
What are the opening and closing hours?
10 am to 5 pm
During public school breaks: 9 am to 5 pm
Weekends and Holidays
9 am to 5 pm
The park may be closed over the new year and for any other scheduled maintenance. If Tuesday is a national holiday, the park remains open. However, it will be closed the following weekday. Another exception for the park being open on a Tuesday is during public school breaks.
For more information, check the park’s calendar here.
Book Your Stay Near Ghibli Park Here
Hero and featured image: Courtesy Ghibli Park
(All JPY conversions done at the time of writing)
This story first appeared on Travel+Leisure Asia.
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