Visiting Ghibli Park in Japan

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While the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka has been open for over 20 years now, the new Ghibli Park in Aichi has been opening in stages to give visitors an immersive experience inside the world of Studio Ghibli’s films.

Housed in the Expo 2005 Aichi Commemorative Park (a beautiful park near Nagoya), Ghibli Park is home to various areas housing recreations of beloved Ghibli locations, areas that are inspired by the movies, or an exploration of the films themselves. I was super lucky to get my hands on one of their O-Sanpo Day Pass Premium passes which allow you access to every area possible. And now that all of the announced areas are open, it’s the perfect time to visit.

The Ghibli Park section of the Expo Park is big enough that you’ll need to allow to time to travel between sections, especially from the central area up to Dondoko Forest (home to the Totoro play park and Satsuki and Mei’s house), but there are little buses and even a Cat Bus (right??!!!) that allow this to be more accessible. I found it easy to walk between everywhere, but I really recommend you to plan your day well if you hope to see everything, as there is A LOT to do and see. I arrived before park opening and left after all the areas had closed and I only JUST saw everything I wanted to, but I had to rush through a few things to get it all done.

But let’s check out each area…

Ghibli’s Grand Warehouse

This is the only area in the pass that you need a timed entry for and the slots first thing in the morning disappear quickly. The building is absolutely stunning inside, especially the main staircase covered in mosaic (make sure to keep an eye out for the hidden soot sprites) with a flying machine hanging above it.

Almost everything in here is easy to experience without a lot of queueing and there is a lot to see and do. However, if you want to have a photo with No Face from Spirited Away sat on the train, then you will have to queue for a VERY long time, so be prepared to allot over an hour of your time for that. You can skip this and head directly inside the same fun area for the other photo ops with other characters, and take a look at the No Face scene (without having a photo) to save time. Also, top tip, if you happen to be in Osaka, you can visit the Ghibli store inside their Parco department store, where they have the same No Face scene photo op with little to no-one waiting (especially on a weekday).

There are also other themed areas and photo spots scattered around the warehouse, including a whole Arrietty section where you can visit inside her family’s house and an area of the garden, complete with huge flowers and the gap in the wall where Shō leaves the sugar cube in the film. The robot from Castle in the Sky is here, as well as Yubaba’s office from Spirited Away. There are so many references to the films dotted all over the place, including the heron from The Boy and the Heron (you can also currently see the film’s Oscar on display) and the shikigami paper birds from Spirited Away.

Make sure to take into account the times for the cinema showing a choice of Ghibli short film (they change it every few months). Definitely don’t miss this, as you can’t see them anywhere else, but time it so that you don’t have to sit and wait for 20 minutes when you could have been doing something else (time is precious here!). There’s also an exhibition section full of replicas and drawing of food from the films, artwork from the film storyboards, posters and memorabilia, plus a big cat bus to take photos in.

Finally, there’s the big gift shop at the end, full of Ghibli merchandise. I had to rush through it, as I was running out of time, but it’s the perfect place to pick something up related to your favourite film or just something to remember the day by. The shops throughout the park all sell different things, so it’s worth looking in all of them just in case. Some of the merchandise is available in the Ghibli stores too, but I would say that the majority is unique to the park.

The Valley of Witches

This is a bigger area to explore than the others, so make sure to allow time here. This area is themed around Kiki’s Delivery Service, Earwig and the Witch, and my all time favourite Howl’s Moving Castle. There’s a big merch shop, a recreation of Sophie’s hat shop (which sells sweet tins as well as hats), Kiki’s bakery (selling bread and other baked goods) and her room above it, Kiki’s family home, a carousel (where you can ride wolves, Kiki’s broom and flying machines among others), a food cart (selling cat themed hot dogs), the House of Witches from Earwig, and most prominently of all… Howl’s castle. You’ll have to queue for a while if you want to enter Kiki’s bakery, which I would recommend if you have time because the melon pan is incredible, and also for a photo in front of the castle with Turnip Head. Everything else was fairly easy to access.

The interior of Howl’s castle is one of the most incredible recreations of anything I have ever stepped foot in. You cannot take a single photo in here (nor in any of the other recreated houses) but trust me when I say the detail is unmatched. Howl’s bedroom and the living area are just so well done – you can explore inside drawers and cupboards to see more and touch almost all of the items on display. I was honestly blown away and I could’ve spent a good hour in here just exploring everything, but there was so much else to see.

Dondoko Forest

This is the area themed to My Neighbour Totoro where you can visit a real life representation of Satsuki and Mei’s house (it’s perfect and, again, you can open all the cupboards and drawers to see more) and while no photos are allowed inside, you can take photos from the outside which means you can see their dad’s office in all it’s detailed glory. Then you can climb up the stairs to visit the Totoro play area with a giant Totoro for the little ones to play in. It’s all surrounded by a lot of gardens and forest and the walking trail from the main site to Dondoko Forest is a boardwalk that runs through a wooded area. It’s very much in keeping with the vibe of the movie.

The Hill of Youth

Right by the entrance, this is the area based on Whisper of the Heart and The Cat Returns. However, before we even get there we see a very ornate elevator that you can use to take you down the hill and into Ghibli Park. The architecture is very much taken from film’s like Castle in the Sky. To the left of this entrance, you’ll find The Hill of Youth. Stepping inside the recreation of The World Emporium antique shop weirdly made me very emotional, as it was just like stepping into the screen. The grandfather clock even works and does its ‘show’ every so often, exactly like it does in the film, which I just found so magical. There’s also a few other spaces outside for photos including a big doll’s house-like Cat Bureau.

Mononoke Village

This is probably the area with the least to see, but it fits well with the theming from Princess Mononoke. There’s a small park area with huge mosaic covered statues of Lord Okkoto (with a slide) and the Demon Spirit (you can’t climb on this), a faithfully recreated building where you can grill your own gohei-mochi, and a shop and rest stop area. Sadly I didn’t really enjoy this area as much as the others and I wish there had been something a little more immersive from the film.

Food & Drink

You can bring your own food and drink into the park with you and there are plenty of places to have a picnic. However, there are a couple of food spots within the Ghibli park area too, plus a convenience store between the station and the park entrance. As I said before, the melon pan from Kiki’s bakery was delicious, but the cat paw shaped hot dog bun from the food stand wasn’t that amazing, so you can probably save your money on that particular food item.

Buying Tickets

Getting tickets for for Ghibli Park is not as difficult as the museum in Mitaka, but you still need to book quite far in advance, especially if you want a premium pass or a specific time/day. Tickets go on sale two months in advance on the 10th (e.g. tickets for August go on sale on June 10th) and there are two kinds for international visitors. You can choose the O-Sanpo Day Pass (¥3,500 weekdays, ¥4,000 weekends – approx £17.50-£20/$22-$25) which gets you into the Warehouse and all the themed areas, however you can’t access the five main building recreations – Howl’s castle, Satsuki and Mei’s house, The World Emporium, The House of Witches, and Kiki’s family home. For this you need the O-Sanpo Day Pass Premium (¥7,300 weekdays, ¥7,800 weekends – approx £36.50-£39/$46.50-$50), which is around double the cost, but so worth it.

Personally I don’t think one day is enough to see everything and be able to have a leisurely experience. Even though I saw all the areas, I missed a couple of photo spots, the carousel, the House of the Witches, and a ride on the mini funicular up to the outlook to see over the Valley of the Witches, plus I felt like I had to rush through a lot of things. I also never sat down, so I barely had time to eat. If you want slower paced days, I’d actually recommend spending 1& 1/2 – 2 days; one with the premium pass and one without. That way you can see absolutely everything without worrying about missing out on any experiences (especially if the weather isn’t great). You’ll also have more time to eat and enjoy Aichi park.

Getting to Ghibli Park

It’s really easy to travel to the park from central Nagoya – you just take both the subway and Linimo train and it’ll take you less than an hour, or there’s a shuttle bus too. You can even do it as a day trip from elsewhere if you need to. I took the shinkansen from Osaka at around 7am and made it to the park before opening and then headed back in the evening. There’s more travel information on the Ghibli Park website.

I can’t recommend Ghibli Park enough to any fans out there. Being able to step into the world you’ve only seen in films, and animated at that, was an incredible experience, and I would go again in a heartbeat.

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One response

  1. Suzanne avatar

    As someone who rarely gets to travel, thank you for this look into the Ghibli park! The detail packed in there seems nuts! I imagine no pictures to preserve the magic and surprises for people who haven’t visited yet, and to avoid clogging up foot traffic

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