Japan's Ghibli Park opens for fans of the animation studio

Three of the five main areas of the 17.5-acre theme park are now accepting visitors

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Japan’s highly anticipated Ghibli Park is now open.

The theme park, dedicated to the Japanese animation company production studio known for its films such as Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro and Howl’s Moving Castle, opened on Tuesday. It is in Aichi Earth Expo Memorial Park, the former grounds of Expo 2005.

The park covers 17.5 acres and has five main themed areas based on different Studio Ghibli films: Ghibli’s Grand Warehouse, The Hill of Youth, Dondoko Forest, Mononoke Village and Valley of Witches, although the last two are not open yet. All five areas of the park are expected to be open by spring 2024.

There is also a free playground based on The Cat Returns next to Mononoke Village.

A huge grinning Totoro welcomes visitors. Studio Ghibli / AFP

“In the past three years, we have been in a very difficult situation due to Covid-19, but there was a great joy even in the midst of it … I feel that the opening of this exhibition at this time, when we are firmly facing and overcoming Covid-19, has a heavy meaning,” Koji Hoshino, chairman and president of Studio Ghibli, said during an event a few days before the park's official opening.

Its website tells visitors that “there are no big attractions or rides in Ghibli Park”. Instead, guests are encouraged to “take a stroll, feel the wind, and discover the wonders”.

Visitors can expect to see recreated sets from the animated films with Instagrammable backdrops such as sitting on the train with No Face from Spirited Away, running across waves with Ponyo or simply enjoying the children’s playroom with Cat Bus, one of the creatures from My Neighbor Totoro. There’s also a 170-person cinema that will show 10 short animations.

Tickets to visit the park can be bought only domestically and must be booked in advance for each area. From February, visitors will be allowed to buy a multi-pass ticket. Tickets for November have already sold out.

Japan reopens to tourists

It was announced last month that Japan would open to international tourism again. This means that travellers need to be vaccinated or have a Covid-19 negative test certificate, but authorities no longer require visitors to be part of an organised tour group and have lifted a cap on passenger numbers.

Updated: November 02, 2022, 12:14 PM