Call out to my fellow Studio Ghibli fans!! Dust off your passports (or renew them–it has been a while). It’s time to grab that travel planner and book your holiday time. We’re heading to Japan! Ghibli Park is officially opening on November 1, 2022. Japan is taking its time to re-open to international travellers but there is nothing wrong with a little preparation and a whole lot of daydreaming.
Ghibli Park is everything you love about Studio Ghibli and brought into the real world. Studio Ghibli is already a beloved home for storytelling in both movies and gorgeously illustrated books. Spirited Away and My Neighbour Totoro are just a small sample of the absolute classics in a long catalogue of brilliant movies. Many a debate has been started with the words, “What is the best Studio Ghibli movie of all time?”
In 2015, fellow GeekDad Tom wrote about his visit to the Ghibli Museum in Japan (you can read about it here). It is a soulful homage to the atmosphere of the movies. Thankfully, Tom has included some tips to help you plan your visit, including the necessary pre-booked tickets. The entire experience can be encapsulated with this quote from the brochure: “Those who can lose their way and fully enjoy this space are welcomed at the Museum.”
Ghibli Park is said to continue the spirit of the Museum but in a much larger and more immersive way. Check out the promotional video released as a joint project between Studio Ghibli and Aichi Tourism Board:
This is not your typical ‘amusement park’. There are no rides or huge attractions. It is more akin to a cultural village, inviting you into the home of Studio Ghibli and allowing you to live a short moment in this world. Built on and within the grounds of Aichi Earth Expo Memorial Park (Moricoro Park), Ghibli Park will open with three (3) major areas: “Ghibli’s Grand Warehouse”, “Hill of Youth”, and “Dondoko Forest”. The Grand Warehouse will display all of the studio’s secrets and exhibits from previous movies, including set designs and treasured artifacts. Fans of Whisper of the Heart can find the World Emporium on the Hill of Youth. And don’t forget to dust your soot sprites before visiting Satsuki and Mei’s House on the edge of Dondoko Forest.
More development is planned in the coming months with the future opening of “Valley of Witches” and “Mononoke Village” (dates to be advised).
While we wait for Japan to re-open for international travellers, here are some more suggestions of geeky destinations to add to your wishlist. Ghibli Park is located in Aichi Prefecture, in the heart of Japan’s main island, Honshū. Thanks to Japan’s Shinkansen (the famous bullet train), the Aichi Prefecture is easily accessible from all of Japan’s major international airports with plenty of reasons to stay and explore the area.
- LEGOLAND Japan Resort: Let’s go play in LEGOLAND! A dream destination for any geek family, filled with fun rids, play areas, and a LEGO-themed hotel to stay overnight.
- Korankei Maple Festival (Korankei Momiji Matsuri): If you make it to Ghibli Park for the grand opening, you will probably make it in time for the annual Autumn Leaf Viewing. Aichi Prefecture is the only place you can see both the glorious autumn leaves AND soft pink cherry blossoms at the same time. It’s the only place in Japan to have the biannual cherry blossoms and it is magnificent.
- Explore Tokaido Road: Fans of the tabletop game will recognise the reference to the ancient highway along the Pacific coast of Japan. Today, you can explore some of the towns in the Aichi Prefecture where they have retained their old glory.
- SCMAGLEV Museum: Aichi Prefecture is under two hours on the bullet train from Tokyo. If that seems fast, wait until you visit the Museum and Railway Park, home to the Super Conducting Magnetic Levitation (SCMagLev), a train that levitates above the tracks as it runs.
For more information about Ghibli Park, visit the official website here. Please check visa requirements and immigration news as it tends to change regularly and with little notice. And of course, stay tuned for more updates and travel tips closer to Opening Day!