The long-awaited opening day for Ghibli Park, the first-ever theme park bringing to life the enchanting animated worlds of Studio Ghibli, officially arrived November 1. Located less than an hour’s train ride from Kyoto, this wonderland built inside the Aichi Earth Expo Memorial Park is more of an expansive walk-thru exhibit than a noisy arcade of rides.
Goro Miyazaki, son of studio co-founder Hayao Miyazaki and director of Tales from Earthsea, Earwig and the Witch and the Japan Academy Prize-winning From Up on Poppy Hill, explained prior to the park’s opening, “People think of it as a theme park, but I’ve always wanted it to be a park. I think that parks are first and foremost for the local people, so I want [Ghibli Park] to be loved by the people of Aichi more than anyone else.”
As revealed when the park’s opening day was announced, Phase 1 of the construction includes the expansive “indoor village” of Ghibli’s Grand Warehouse, which features exhibits, artefacts and life-size characters from beloved films; the breezy Hill of Youth, crested by the World Emporium antique shop from Whisper of the Heart; and Dondoko Forest, inspired by My Neighbor Totoro.
Inside Ghibli’s Grand Warehouse, visitors will find a treasure trove of experiences and encounters with their favorite characters. In addition to roaming the beautifully designed walkways, exploring the central mosaiced stairway’s hidden gems and examining all the pieces of production history, sculptures and reproductions — including the Robot Soldiers from Castle in the Sky quietly standing guard and a chance to peek inside Yubaba’s office from Spirited Away — guests can enjoy many special experiences:
- Cinema Orion — Screening all 10 animated shorts created for the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka, Tokyo. At opening, visitors can enjoy The Whale Hunt, written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki.
- Special Exhibitions — Get to know Studio Ghibli and its films!
- Becoming Characters in Memorable Ghibli Scenes — Become your favorite characters in these interactive exhibits inspired by 13 different films, including a Spirited Away sea-rail train where you can sit next to No Face.
- Delicious! Animating Memorable Meals (Expanded Edition) — An upgraded version of the popular Ghibli Museum exhibit that explores the eternal question: Why does the food in Ghibli movies look so tasty!? Includes production materials from Spirited Away, Earwig and the Witch and a full recreation of the kitchen in From Up on Poppy Hill.
- Ghilbi’s Collections — A collection of posters, film and music packaging, books and more from around the world, showcasing a variety of design styles and unique titles.
- Cat Bus Room — A one-of-a-kind Cat Bus is waiting to engage young visitors in this cuddly and charming play area inspired by My Neighbor Totoro.
- The House Below & The Little People’s Garden — Step into The Secret World of Arrietty to get a full change in perspective.
The Warehouse also features a cartoony, kid-sized recreation of the Tokyo neighborhood near Studio Ghilbli’s headquarters, a nostalgic shopping street (including a penny candy shop), exclusive merch store, café and even a stand serving local milk in glass bottles.
Future additions to Ghibli Park will include the Valley of Witches and Mononoke Village.
Images courtesy ghibli-park.jp.