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Magical Places to Visit and Live out Your Studio Ghibli Dreams

Lilly is a studio ghibli movie enthusiast, and studies Japan and its culture.

The amazing and nostalgic films from Studio Ghibli hold dear places in all of our hearts. The enthralling storylines, beautiful animation, and the fantastical worlds they take place in make up most of our childhoods and evoke playfulness, nostalgia, and even a tinge of bitterweet sadness. Although these worlds are so far off, and seemingly only able to visit via dreams, there are real life locations that some of these films were inspired by. From the grand bathhouse from Spirited Away, to the quaint and colourful town from Howl's Moving Castle, these places hold a special familiarity to those who have seen the beloved movies. Here is a list of places that can be found in the real world, that seem to be plucked directly from our favourite films.

Sayama Hills- My Neighbour Totoro

The forest in which Mei and Satsuki meet their belove forest friends is actually inspired by a forest in the Sayama hills. This forest is known as Totoro's Forest, and the hills are accessible with an hours trip from Tokyo. You can take a lovely stroll on a forest trail and witness the magical tale of Totoro for yourself. Once you get hungry, you can head down to Sayama Lake, where the breathtaking views and blue water is the perfect place to unwing and have a picnic.

The most magical thing in these hills that really ties the film and the forest together is Kurosuke's house. You can reach the house from a 20 minute walk through the forest. Once you arrive, you will be greeted by a giant totoro at the entrance! Built in 1990, the house was originally built in 1990 to raise awareness of forest conservation efforts, so when you visit, be sure to donate some money to the "Totoro no Furatosato Foundation" or the "Totoro Fund," to continue to conserve the forest.


Jiufen, Taiwan- Spirited Away

Jiufen is a small town in Taiwan that is about an hour drive from Taipei. Although Spirited Away isn't directly influenced or based on this town, fans of the movie can easily spot the similarites of the this town and the spirit world.

The most famous site is Jiufen Old Street. It's a narrow street full of tea houses, food stalls, and many other local stores. The streets are lined with red lanterns that really give you an amazing immersive experience.

You can even rent a qipao, which is a traditional chinese clothing to get even closer to the town and the culture. Be sure to check out all the food stalls for all the delicious and famous Taiwanese street food!


Tomonoura- Ponyo

Tomonoura is a peaceful port town in Fukuyama, Hiroshima prefecture, and dates back to the 13th century. Tomonoura is famous for being the inspiration of the seaside town in the studio ghibli film Ponyo. Tomonoura is also known for having a lot of cats lying here and there, so it's an absolute paradise for cat lovers!

When you visit Tomonoura, you should visit all the local restaurants, sake shops, and stores. Take a nice stroll though the town to admire the scenic views and rich history.


Dogo Onsen- Spirited Away

The Dogo Onsen is one of Japan's oldest and most famous hot springs. It is located in the city Matsuyama, on the island of Shikoku. The Bathhouse is famous for inspiring the Bathhouse from one of Studio Ghibli's most famous films Spirited Away.

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If you visit, you can enjoy the Tama-no-yu, and the Kami-no-yu bathing areas, as well as priviate resting areas and lounges. This onsen was once for the imperial family, meaning that there are rooms specifically reserved for them and not open for the public to touch.


Colmar- Howl's Moving Castle

Colmar is a French town near the France, Switzerland, and Germany border. Market Chipping, or the small town in Howl's Moving Castle draws inspiration from this colouful town. You can live your fairytail dreams in this quaint and beautiful town.

Colmar is a place where you can wander the cobblestone streets and take in the colourful painted homes, streets, and visit the local stores selling antiques, wine, and chocolate. The many cafes and restaurants also provide amazing food and snacks.


Studio Ghibli Museum

How could I make list of Studio Ghibli locations and not include the Studio Ghibli Museum? Located in Mitaka, just outside of Tokyo, the studio ghibli museum showcases the animation and art of studio ghibli. The museum itself is designed to suit the magical theme of the studio ghibli films, filled with many bright colours and life size sculptures of beloved characters from the films.

The museum's first floor shows animation techniques used in the creation of the films, and even has a small theatre that shows short films which are exclusive to the museum. The museum also has a cafe, play area, and a rooftop garden, where you can find the life-sized statue of the robot from Castle in the Sky.

The Museum is a wonderland for studio ghibli lovers, and even the tickets are unique and memorable. The tickets are made of the actual film used in theatres, and if you hold it up to the light, will show a scene from one of the studio ghibli movies. However, these tickets sell fast, and all admision is by advance reservation only.


© 2021 Lilly Liu

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