Studio Ghibli , and especially the works of Hayao Miyazaki, have a growing number of fans around the world. Tickets for the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka sell out within hours of being released. Some people don’t know that the museum is not the only place you can visit if you are in love with Ghibli characters and movies. Locations across Japan have inspired and recreated the art of Hayao Miyazaki .
This article will help you discover 15 Studio Ghibli-Related Places in Japan:
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Ghibli related places in Tokyo
1. The Ghibli Museum in Mitaka
Mitaka Ghibli Museum is a must-see place to visit if you are a Ghibli fan. It opened on October 1, 2001, and celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2020. It has been around for a long time and is open year-round, but it is still just as popular as when it first opened.
Most of the exhibits in the museum are part of the permanent exhibition, apart from small pieces that are added here and there. However, the museum also offers special exhibitions related to Ghibli. These exhibits change approximately once a year. As of April 2023, the current exhibition at the museum is: “Future Boy Conan” Special Exhibition ~ Exploring the charm of manga films exhibition, showcasing Hayao Miyazaki’s origin in manga films. The 26-episode series explores story, machinery, and design materials, emphasizing the show’s energy source. The exhibit aims to provide a fun and entertaining experience, allowing visitors to fully immerse themselves in the world of the protagonist.
Another thing that changes regularly is the short film that is shown in the cinema inside the museum in The Saturn Theater, located in the Museum’s basement. It features a cozy setting with around 80 seats. Visitors can enjoy a short Studio Ghibli film while surrounded by a blue sky and vibrant flowers painted on the walls and ceiling. As the film concludes, the theater’s windows open, allowing sunlight to filter in. Guests have the option of sitting on a small red bench or the back of a seat to ensure an unobstructed view of the big screen.
2. Ghibli clock in Shiodome
The Ghibli Clock located in Shiodome, in front of the Japanese television headquarters, is one of the great free art exhibitions in Tokyo. The clock was created by Hayao Miyazaki himself and built by Kunio Shachimaru, the same artist who created the Robot Soldier atop the Ghibli Museum.
In 2006 Hayao Miyazaki and Nippon TV revealed the huge Cuckoo Clock, 10 meters high and 18 meters wide; Although its connection to “Howl’s Moving Castle” was never confirmed by Miyazaki himself, you can’t deny the similarities between Howl’s Clockwork and Howl’s Castle.
The movie and the watch were created around the same time. The clock comes to life every day at 12 PM, 3 PM, 6 PM, and 8 PM. An extra show is added during the weekends at 10 in the morning. At these times almost everything inside the clock will start moving 2 minutes and 45 seconds before the full hour. The watch displays the same love of detail that makes Miyazaki’s films so enchanting, so it’s worth a visit for Ghibli and art aficionados alike.
3. Edo-Tokyo Open Air Museum of Architecture
There is a rumor that the east side of the Edo-Tokyo Open Air Museum of Architecture has inspired some of the buildings in the world of “Spirited Away”.
The Studio Ghibli headquarters is located very close to the museum and it seems that Hayao Miyazaki was a regular visitor during the creation of “The Journey of the Spirits”. Even the museum’s mascot, a small caterpillar-like fellow, has been created by Miyazaki himself. Going into the east side you can imagine how this could set the tone for a movie like “Spirited Away.” There’s even an old tram on display that leads to the street.
The interior of the tram closely resembles that of the train that takes Chihiro and No-Face to Zeniba . In addition to the tram, the old bar, as well as the bathhouse, also seem to have been shown in the film. You can imagine Chihiro’s parents gorging themselves at the bar, while slowly turning into pigs. In addition to the opportunity to enter the world of “The Journey of the Spirits,” the museum has other interesting buildings on display as well. From traditional Japanese to Western-inspired, the variety is endless, making this museum a great place to travel back in time.
4. Shirohige Cream Factory
At Shirohige’s Cream Puff Factory (“White Beard’s Cream Puff Factory”), you can enjoy the only Totoro cream in Japan. This store is officially Studio Ghibli approved ; and is conveniently located in the Shimokitazawa neighborhood. Everything in this little bakery is Giblian-themed. The poster shows a white beard image, as well as the interior, looks like something out of a Ghibli movie.
All the cakes in this shop are inspired by Totoro and some of his forest friends; you can buy Totoro Cream Puffs as well as cookies and even Totoro Cakes. While custard and chocolate are available year-round, other flavors are limited by season. If you want to get one of these cute and tasty Totoro cakes, please consider making a reservation in advance.
5. The Totoro Forest in Saitama
Sayama Hills, also known as Totoro Forest, in Saitama has been a major source of inspiration for “My Neighbor Totoro” . Since then, it has received the official name of “Totoro no Mori” (Forest of Totoro) . It also shows many drawings and places related to Totoro.
A map with a friendly Totoro on it will show you the way and explain the different Totoro spots around the forest. The most famous place within the Totoro Forest is the Kurosuke House, also known as Totoro’s House. The house is named after the Soot Sprites in Totoro.
In Japanese, his name is Makkuro Kurosuke. (The same characters also appear in “The Journey of the Spirits” under the name “Susuwatari”). The house has a huge Totoro sitting inside and some scenes from the movie on display, in which you are allowed to take photos with Totoro. By the way, it has also been rumored that the little Soot Sprites are living inside the house. But only children can see them.
Totoro Forest is about a 30-minute walk from Seibu Kyujo-mae Station in Tokorozawa, Saitama .
6. Yamate in Yokohama
The Yamate area in Yokohama has been featured in the movie “From Up On Poppy Hill”. There is a flower shop that served as the model for the flower shop in the movie. There is also a butcher shop called “Maruei Shoten”. This place is believed to be the model for the scene where the main characters eat croquettes. Yamate has a very idyllic feeling.
Yamate’s buildings are inspired by European architecture, like those in the film.
7. Yokohama Motomachi Shopping Street
It’s in the same area as the places that inspired “From Up on Poppy Hill” and you can also do some shopping while you visit. Like Yamate, in general, the street has a certain European feel to it. It is about 500 meters long and contains many high-end fashion stores, as well as cafes and restaurants.
8. Shima Onsen in Gunma
Three hot spring hotels in total have been confirmed by Hayao Miyazaki himself to be the inspiration for the bathhouse in Spirits’ Journey . Sekizenkan in Shima Onsen definitely bears the closest resemblance to the night view of Aburaya’s bathhouse in “Spirited Away”.
It even has a red bridge leading to it, just like the one in the movie! The exterior looks almost fragile. Although unspectacular in daylight, it comes alive at night. Just like the Aburaya! It’s creepy once the yellow lights come on and the outer skeleton is basked in the dim light. Apart from being the inspiration for “The Journey of the Spirits”, it is also supposed to be the oldest wooden hot spring center in all of Japan.
Shima Onsen is located in Gunma and can be easily reached by bus or train from Tokyo. Onsen is part of the culture in Japan, so visiting Gunma’s Shima Onsen can be a double experience for you, both for your love of Studio Ghibli and for enjoying an authentic Japanese bath.
9. Shibu Onsen in Nagano
Kanaguya in Shibu Onsen is another of the three hot spring hotels that inspired “Spirited Away.” The exterior bears a strong resemblance to Aburaya’s daytime look. Its slim appearance and peaked roof closely resemble the ones in the bathhouse from the movie. The interior of this hotel has a couple of key places that might remind you of the interior of Aburaya as well.
Nagano is a little further from Tokyo than Gunma, but it’s worth a trip, both for the Shibu Onsen and for recreating some of your favorite scenes from Spirited Away.
10. Kushiro in Hokkaido
Kushiro in Hokkaido is said to have been the inspiration for the setting of “When Marnie Was There”. This is one of the new Ghibli movies that was not directed by Hayao Miyazaki. Most Ghibli fans are interested in Miyazaki’s movies, so this might not be the first place you want to visit for Ghibli sightseeing.
However, Kushiro is a great place to visit if not for the movie. It has one of the three largest markets in Hokkaido and some fantastic views. Also, you can get some of the best seafood in Hokkaido here, so treat your taste buds there!
11. Hirakawa in Aomori
Hirakawa in Aomori is home to Seibien, a Western-style house with a Japanese garden featured in the movie “The Secret World of Arrietty.”
The garden of the house is one of the three great gardens created in the Meiji era (1868 – 1912) . It is even considered a Nationally Designated Place of Scenic Beauty and a popular tourist hotspot. In addition to Seibien, Hirakawa is also home to Hirosaki Castle and Josenji Temple, a temple where a Buddhist priest prepares and serves his coffee. The views from this house are unique and you will fall in love with its garden, so include this site on your list of places to see.
12. Tomonoura in the city of Fukuyama, Hiroshima
The port city of Tomonoura has been confirmed to have been the inspiration for the visuals for “Ponyo”. You will be able to find many places and buildings that will remind you of “Ponyo” everywhere. The city is very proud to have been the inspiration for Miyazaki’s art and you will find little Ponyo everywhere.
Tomonoura has been the setting for many TV shows and movies over the years, not just “Ponyo”. The city is very old and you will find many interesting places to explore. The Ota House in Tomonoura, for example, has originated the technique of making Homeishu, a traditional liquor made with 16 different spices. Don’t leave Fukuyama out of your trip, you won’t regret it!
13. Dogo Onsen in Ehime
Dogo Onsen in Ehime seems to be the best known when it comes to the onsen resorts that served as the inspiration for “Spirited Away”. Some people claim that it is the only onsen that inspired Aburaya, although Miyazaki himself says otherwise.
In addition to the other two hot springs, the entire onsen town of Dogo has reportedly served as inspiration for the film. The main building looks like a possible model, but it is missing the iconic red bridge. Dogo Onsen has a history dating back more than 1,000 years, making it one of the oldest hot springs in Japan. It’s easy to see how an old onsen can serve as the setting for a ghost story, so by visiting Dogo you can live that experience. Dogo onsen is one of the must-see onsen in Japan, and this goes beyond Miyazaki.
14. The Island Yakushima in Kagoshima
Yakushima is one of the Osumi Islands in Kagoshima. Its mystical forest served as the inspiration for Miyazaki’s masterpiece “Princess Mononoke”. If you go far enough into the forest, you really enter the world of Mononoke; paths covered with moss, rivers that make their way through the green, huge trees that tower over you as if they want to protect you from the world. Nothing but peace and nature.
Can you hear the spirits of the forest? Can you see them running past? This is a setting fit for the forest gods that you don’t want to miss.
15. Buy Ghibli Souvenirs: Donguri Republic
The Republic of Donguri (“Republic of Acorns” in English) is the official store for Ghibli merchandise. Here you can find merchandise from all Studio Ghibli movies. You can find almost anything your heart desires in a Ghibli movie design. From key rings and stationery to towels, bathroom covers, rugs, flower pots, and even miniature Ghibli characters; you will surely find an item that you would like to use in your home.
The store captures the magical world of Ghibli and is a great pleasure to browse through. The products sold here are ideal as souvenirs and also make great gifts for your friends and family. Many of the items are limited edition and most of them are only available in Japan. You can find Donguri Republic stores in most big cities in Japan. There are numerous locations in Tokyo, Osaka, Yokohama, and other areas. Studio Ghibli offers a magical world inspired by locations across Japan.
You can find Hayao Miyazaki’s art almost everywhere if you look closely. It doesn’t matter if he is a little Totoro in your neighbor’s pot or the big Ghibli Clock in Shiodome, the world of Ghibli is all around us. How about looking for it yourself?
No trip to Japan would be complete without considering the works of Hayao Miyazaki; Whether you are a fan of Studio Ghibli or not, we assure you that you will be amazed by the art, history, and atmosphere that surrounds each place that we have described here. Plan your visits well, book in advance, and let yourself be enveloped by the Japanese magic that surrounds such famous stories as Totoro, Princess Mononoke, or Arietty’s Secret World. It will be an unforgettable experience!