Studio Ghibli, the animation house responsible for anime classics My Neighbor Totoro and Princess Mononoke, announced plans for Ghibli Park in 2017.
The theme park will feature attractions based on Kiki’s Delivery Service and Spirited Away, amongst other favourites. It is – remarkably – on track to open in fall 2022, despite the disruption caused by Covid-19.
Here, we look at everything from attractions and theming to location and cost. Read on for everything you need to know about the Studio Ghibli theme park.
When will the anime theme park open?
Studio Ghibli’s theme park is officially opening to visitors on November 1, 2022. Guests will see three of the five themed lands – Ghibli’s Grand Warehouse, Dondoko Forest and Hill of Youth. Mononoke Village and Valley of Witches are due to launch in fall 2023 and March 2024, respectively. However, Ghibli Park’s website says the opening dates for the remaining two areas are to be announced.
Ghibli Park was initially set to open in 2020. It was revealed in July 2020 that the Studio Ghibli theme park had resumed construction following a temporary suspension. Aichi Prefecture governor Hideaki Omura confirmed: “We are still on track and are planning to open the park in fall 2022.”
Construction on Ghibli Park started in early 2020. Then, it was on pause temporarily in response to the coronavirus crisis. Work soon resumed and started on Hill of Youth, Ghibli’s Grand Warehouse and Dondoko Forest.
Studio Ghibli held a ground breaking ceremony in summer 2020, with its chairman Kiyofumi Nakajima in attendance. At the groundbreaking, Omura said:
“The 2005 Expo’s theme of ‘love’ has also been portrayed in Studio Ghibli’s films consistently, so we can inherit that philosophy. We aim to make the facility a world-class park and hope many people will visit here.”
Where will the Studio Ghibli theme park be?
The Studio Ghibli theme park will be on 7.1 hectares of land. The location is within the former site of the 2005 World Expo, Aichi Earth Expo Memorial Park. It is a collaboration between the Aichi Prefectural Government and Studio Ghibli.
The site is located close to Nagoya, the capital of Japan’s Aichi Prefecture. As the land previously hosted the 2005 World Expo, it already boasts a fully-built replica of Satsuki and Mei’s house from Studio Ghibli film My Neighbor Totoro, made for the expo. Developers will maintain this house for the new Ghibli Park, as well as the footpaths in the forest behind it.
Ghibli Park’s construction will cost ¥34 billion ($323 million). The theme park is likely to attract around 1.8 million visitors each year. Annual economic benefits are estimated to be ¥48 billion ($455 million).
What anime attractions will feature at Ghibli Park?
Ahead of the launch, Studio Ghibli launched the park’s official website. “Ghibli Park is a park that represents the world of Studio Ghibli,” the website says. “There are no big attractions or rides in Ghibli Park. Take a stroll, feel the wind, and discover the wonders.”
The Studio Ghibli theme park will be divided into five themed lands, such as Ghibli’s Grand Warehouse, My Neighbor Totoro-themed Dondoko Forest, and Mononoke Village.
The lands also include Hill of Youth, which has attractions from Howl’s Moving Castle and Castle in the Sky. Then, there is Valley of Witches, based on Kiki’s Delivery Service.
Additionally, there will be a dining area modelled on Spirited Away, which was unveiled February 2020 in concept art.
The map below shows the theme park’s areas. Ghibli’s Grand Warehouse is in purple, Dondoko Forest in green and Valley of Witches in red. Mononoke Village is in green, and Hill of Youth in orange.
Hill of Youth will be themed to the film Howl’s Moving Castle, complete with a giant elevator offering views from above. It will be located at the park’s entrance. Here, visitors will find the gift shop from Whisper of the Heart, as well as elements from The Cat Returns.
Ghibli’s Grand Warehouse will feature Japanese and Western fusion-style buildings. This indoor attraction will have an exhibition room, a video exhibition room, playing areas, shops and cafes. The Air Destroyer Goliath from Castle in the Sky will appear at Ghibli’s Grand Warehouse.
Dondoko Forest will be the location of Satsuki and Mei’s house. This will have lush nature and a rural landscape echoing the Showa period (1926 – 1989). The surrounding area will become the rural landscape from the film, with walking tours and paths planned.
Mononoke Village will showcase Princess Mononoke. It is based on the film’s setting of Irontown (Tatara), which is protected by a lake and high walls. It will also house a sculpture of a Tatarigami spirit monster, the boar god Lord Okkoto and more mystical creatures. Mononoke Village will transport visitors back to the Muromachi period (1336 – 1573) when the film is set.
Valley of Witches takes inspiration from the wastelands in the films Kiki’s Delivery Service and Howl’s Moving Castle. The land will include restaurants and amusement facilities. There will also be a replica of Karikiya, the home of Kiki and her parents.
Life-size Howl’s Moving Castle
The park’s Valley of Witches area will include a life-size Howl’s Moving Castle, which you can see in the concept art above. The castle will have four to five storeys. However, it won’t actually move and it will be marginally smaller than the building in the film, reports Tokyo Shimbun (via Kotaku).
My Neighbor Totoro-themed playground
Concept art and information about the My Neighbor Totoro-themed playground at Ghibli’s Grand Warehouse was released in summer 2021, with construction underway on the space at Studio Ghibli’s theme park. The playground will include the replica of Satsuki and Mei’s house, as well as a giant camphor tree and life-size Catbus (via SoraNews24).
Castle in the Sky-style entrance
Ghibli Park also features a Castle in the Sky-style elevator tower entrance, which is already open to the public. Studio Ghibli said it is “based on the fantasy science world at the end of the 19th century, which became the model of the world of Castle in the Sky“.
Museum exhibit displaying items from Ghibli Park
The Aichi Prefectural Museum of Art will display items from Studio Ghibli’s theme park in an upcoming exhibit. This was originally set to run between June and September 2020, however, the exhibition was postponed in response to the pandemic.
The museum will showcase the Ghibli Park items one last time before the attraction’s opening in 2022. This will be a final preview of the theme park’s contents before they make their way to Ghibli’s Grand Warehouse. The exhibit will explore Studio Ghibli’s 35-year history, in addition to displaying previously unreleased material.
The exhibit at the Aichi Prefectural Museum of Art will bring back materials shown in earlier Studio Ghibli exhibits. The first of these ran in 2015 at Moricoro Park before touring Japan and Seoul. Earlier exhibits showcased memorabilia such as artwork, memos, and film posters.
Immersing visitors in nature, inspired by Ghibli movies
Ghibli Park will be an environmentally-friendly theme park. This means that the operator will not cut down any trees to make room for future attractions. Construction will enhance and preserve any natural areas.
Studio Ghibli’s theme park will celebrate the natural beauty that inspired Studio Ghibli’s lush animation, with nature trails lined with statues of spiders, boars and other Ghibli characters.
There will be plenty of natural, untouched space, like the settings of many Ghibli films. There will also be rides. However, the huge roller coasters often found at theme parks will not feature in favour of nature trails inspired by the movies. The focus is on immersing visitors in the worlds of Studio Ghibli.
How much are tickets to the Studio Ghibli theme park?
Ghibli Park has announced the ticket prices for three of its five themed lands – Ghibli’s Grand Warehouse, Dondoko Forest and Hill of Youth.
Entry to Ghibli’s Grand Warehouse on weekdays will cost 2,000 yen ($16) for adults and 1,000 yen ($8) for children aged between four and 12 years old. On weekends and holidays, entry to Ghibli’s Grand Warehouse will be 2,500 yen ($19) for adults and 1,250 yen ($10) for children.
Tickets to Dondoko Forest and Hill of Youth will cost 1,000 yen ($8) for adults and 500 yen ($4) for children on weekdays, weekends and holidays. Children under three years old receive free admission.
In comparison, tickets to Tokyo Disneyland and Universal Studios Japan are priced at up to $80 per person. However, Ghibli Park is a smaller offering with “no big attractions or rides”, according to the website.