Written by Chiara Mischke
15 Studio Ghibli Related Places to Visit While in Japan
If you're a fan of Studio Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki animation films, you might want to visit some of the places that have inspired the settings for these works. This article introduces 15 places around Japan that are related to Studio Ghibli’s movies.
Studio Ghibli, and especially the works of Hayao Miyazaki, have an ever-growing fan base all over the world. A proof of this is that the tickets to the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka still sell out within hours of their release.
Some people are not aware that the museum is not the only place you can visit if you are in love with Ghibli’s characters and movies. Places all over Japan have inspired and recreated Hayao Miyazaki's art.
This article will introduce you to 15 places all over Japan related to Studio Ghibli’s art.
Ghibli Related Places in Tokyo
1. The Ghibli Museum in Mitaka
Picture from The Ghibli Museum In Mitaka - Welcome To The World Of Ghibli!
The Ghibli Museum in Mitaka has to be one of the most first places to visit if you are a Ghibli Fan. It opened on October 1, 2001, and celebrated its 15th anniversary in 2016. It has been around for a long time and it’s open year-round, but it’s still as popular as when it first opened.
Most of the items on display at the museum are part of the permanent exhibition aside from small pieces being added here and there. However, the museum also offers special exhibitions related to Ghibli. These exhibitions change about once a year. As of October 2017, the current exhibition at the museum is about food and how it is used in Studio Ghibli’s movies.
Another thing that changes on a regular basis is the short movie shown at the cinema inside the museum. These short movies are shown only at the museum and can’t be seen anywhere else.
Tickets for the museum are only available on pre-sale, they cannot be purchased at the museum. You have to select the day and time you want to visit the museum when purchasing your ticket. Your choice is final and can’t be changed after purchase.
Depending on the vendor and the time you book your tickets, your desired visit date may be sold out. The tickets for the museum sell out very quickly, so we recommend to secure tickets as soon as they go on sale.
For more information please check The Ghibli Museum, Mitaka - Information on Booking Tickets and Access
2. The Ghibli Clock in Shiodome
The Ghibli Clock located in Shiodome in front of the Nippon TV's headquarters is one of Tokyo’s great free art displays. The clock was created by Hayao Miyazaki himself and built by Kunio Shachimaru, the same artist who created the Robot Soldier on top of the Ghibli Museum.
In 2006 Hayao Miyazaki and Nippon TV revealed the enormous 10 meters high and 18 meters wide Cuckoo Clock.
Even though its connection to "Howl’s Moving Castle" was never confirmed by Miyazaki himself, you can’t deny the similarities of the Clock and Howl’s Castle. The movie and the clock 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 AM.
At these times nearly everything inside the clock will start moving 2 minutes and 45 seconds before the full hour. The clock showcases the same love for details that makes Miyazaki movies so charming. Definitely worth a visit for Ghibli and art fans alike.
3. Edo-Tokyo Open-Air Architectural Museum
Picture from Edo-Tokyo Open-Air Architectural Museum: From History To Ghibli
Rumour has it that the east zone at the Edo-Tokyo Open-Air Architectural Museum has inspired some of the buildings in the world of "Spirited Away".
The headquarters of Studio Ghibli is located very close to the museum and it seems that Hayao Miyazaki has been a regular visitor during the creation of "Spirited Away".
Even the mascot of the museum, a tiny caterpillar looking guy, has been created by Miyazaki himself.
Stepping into the east zone you can clearly imagine how this could set the tone for a movie like "Spirited Away". There is even an old tram on display leading up to the street. The inside of the tram looks a lot like that of the train that brings Chihiro and No-Face to Zeniba.
Other than the tram, the old bar, as well as the bathhouse, also seem to have been showcased in the movie. You can certainly imagine Chihiro’s parents stuffing themselves at the bar, while slowly turning into pigs.
Aside from the chance to step into the world of "Spirited Away", the museum has other interesting buildings on display as well. From traditional Japanese to western-inspired ones, the variety is endless, making this museum a great place for time travel.
4. Shirohige's Cream Puff Factory
At Shirohige Cream Puff Factory ("White Beard's Cream Puff Factory"), you can enjoy the only Totoro cream puff in Japan. This shop is officially approved by Studio Ghibli.
It is conveniently located in the neighborhood of Shimokitazawa. Everything in this little bakery is Ghibli themed. The sign that shows a picture of white beard, as well as the interior, looks like something out of a Ghibli movie.
All the pastries 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 the custard and chocolate-flavored ones are available year-round, other flavors are season limited.
If you would like to get one of these cute and tasty Totoro cakes, please consider making a reservation beforehand.
5. The Totoro Forest in Saitama
Picture from A Walk Through Totoro's Forest In Saitama
Sayama Hills, also known as the Totoro Forest, in Saitama has been a significant inspiration source for "My Neighbor Totoro". Since then, it received the official name "Totoro no Mori" (Totoro's Forest). It also showcases 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 inside the Totoro Forest is the Kurosuke house, also known as Totoro House. The house is named after the Soot Sprites in Totoro. In Japanese, their name is Makkuro kurosuke. (The same characters also appear in "Spirited Away" under the name "Susuwatari"). The house has a huge Totoro sitting inside and some scenes from the movie on display. You are allowed to take pictures with the Totoro as well.
By the way, it has also been rumoured that little Soot Sprites are actually living inside the house. But only children can see them.
The Totoro Forest is about a 30-minute walk from Seibu Kyujo-mae Station in Tokorozawa, Saitama.
6. Yamate in Yokohama
Picture fom Visit The Area That Inspired Studio Ghibli's "From Up On Poppy Hill"
The area of Yamate in Yokohama has been featured in the movie "From Up On Poppy Hill". There is actually a flower shop that served as the model for the flower shop in the movie. There is also a butcher's shop named
"Maruei Shoten". This location is believed to be the model for the scene where the main characters eat croquettes.
Yamate has a very idyllic feel to it. The buildings in Yamate are inspired by European architecture, just like the ones in the movie.
7. Yokohama Motomachi Shopping Street
If you are already in Yokohama, maybe you should make a visit to the Motomachi shopping street as well. This street is supposed to be the street where Haru met Muta in the movie "The Cat Returns".
It is in the same area as the places that inspired "From Up on Poppy Hill" and you can also do some shopping while you visit.
Just like Yamate, in general, the street has a certain European feel. It's about 500 meters long and contains many high-end fashion shops, 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 Spirited Away. Sekizenkan in Shima Onsen definitely has the most resemblance to the nighttime view of the Aburaya bathhouse in "Spirited Away".
It even has a red bridge leading up to it just like the one in the movie! The exterior looks almost fragile. While a bit unspectacular to look at in daylight, it really comes to life at night time. Just like the Aburaya! It's really eerie looking once the yellow lights are turned on and the skeletal exterior is dipped into the dim light.
Aside from being the inspiration for "Spirited Away", it is also supposed to be the oldest wood hot spring resort in Japan. Shima Onsen is located in Gunma and can be reached very conveniently by bus or train from Tokyo.
9. Shibu Onsen in Nagano
Picture from Meet The Snow Monkeys At Shibu Onsen, Nagano! Access, Inns And More
Kanaguya in Shibu Onsen is another one of the three hot spring hotels inspiring "Spirited Away". The exterior definitely has a strong resemblance with the daytime appearance of Aburaya. Its slim appearance and pointy roof look very similar to the ones of the bathhouse in the movie.
The inside of this hotel has a couple of key places that might remind you of the inside of Aburaya as well. Nagano is a little further away from Tokyo than Gunma but it is definitely worth a trip.
10. Kushiro in Hokkaido
Kushiro in Hokkaido has been said to be the inspiration for the setting of "When Marnie Was There". This is one of Ghibli's newer movies which wasn't directed by Hayao Miyazaki. Most Ghibli fans are mainly interested in Miyazaki's movies, so this might not be the first place they would want to visit for a Ghibli sightseeing.
However, Kushiro is a great place to visit even if it's not for the movie. It has one of the three biggest marketplaces in Hokkaido and some great views! Aside from this, you can get some of the best seafood in Hokkaido here.
11. Hirakawa in Aomori
Picture from Feel the Warmth of Aomori - People, Food, Beautiful Nature and Onsen
Hirakawa in Aomori is home to Seibien, a western style house with a Japanese garden that is featured in the movie "The Secret World of Arrietty".
The garden belonging to the house is one of the three greatest gardens created in the Meiji era (1868 - 1912). It is even deemed a nationally designated place of scenic beauty and a popular sightseeing spot.
Aside from Seibien, Hirakawa is also home Hirosaki Castle and the Josenji Temple, a temple where a Buddhist priest brews and serves your coffee.
12. Tomonoura in Fukuyama City, Hiroshima
The harbor town of Tomonoura has been confirmed to have been the inspiration for the imagery of "Ponyo". You will be able to find many places and buildings that will remind you of "Ponyo" everywhere. The town is very proud to have been the inspiration for Miyazaki's art and you will find little Ponyo's all around.
Tomonoura has been the setting for many TV shows and movies over the years, not only "Ponyo". The town is very old and you will find many interesting places to explore. The Ota House in Tomonoura, for example, has originated the brewing technique for Homeishu, a traditional liquor made with 16 different spices.
13. Dogo Onsen in Ehime
Dogo Onsen in Ehime seems to be the best known when it comes to onsen resorts that served as inspiration for "Spirited Away". Some people claim that it is the only onsen that inspired Aburaya even though Miyazaki himself says otherwise.
Other than the two other hot spring resorts, the whole onsen town of Dogo has supposedly served as inspiration for the movie. The main building certainly looks like a possible model but it is missing the iconic red bridge.
Dogo Onsen has a history stretching back over 1000 years, making it one of the oldest hot spring resorts in Japan. It is easy to see how such an old onsen can serve as setting for a ghost story.
14. Yakushima Island in Kagoshima
Yakushima is one of the Osumi islands in Kagoshima. It's mystic forest served as main inspiration for Miyazaki's masterpiece "Princess Mononoke".
If you get deep enough into the forest you truly step into Mononoke's World. Walkways covered in moss, rivers carving their way through the greenery, huge trees towering over you as if they want to protect you from the world... Nothing but peace and nature.
Can you hear the forest spirits? Can you see them running past you? This is truly a scenery worthy of forest gods.
15. For Ghibli Souvenirs: Donguri Republic
Donguri Republic ("Acorn Republic" in English) is the official Ghibli goods shop. Here you can find merchandise from all of Studio Ghibli's movies.
You can find almost everything your heart desires in a Ghibli movie design. From keychains and stationery to towels, toilet covers, rugs, flower pots, and even miniature Ghibli characters, you will most surely find an item that you'd like to use in your home. The shop really captures the magical world of Ghibli and it's a great pleasure to just browse around.
The goods 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 shops in most major cities in Japan. There are numerous locations in Tokyo, Osaka, Yokohama, and other areas.
Step Into Ghibli's World Wherever You Are!
Studio Ghibli offers a magical world inspired by places all over Japan. You can find Hayao Miyazaki's art nearly everywhere if you just look closely. No matter if it's a small Totoro in your neighbor's flower pot or the big Ghibli Clock in Shiodome, Ghibli's world is all around us. How about searching for it yourself?