Japan’s new Ghibli theme park opens to the public


A huge grinning Totoro and other whimsical exhibits welcomed visitors to Japan’s new Ghibli theme park as three of its five sections opened to the public this week.

The attraction in Nagakute, central Japan – 250 kilometres (150 miles) west of Tokyo – has been long awaited by fans of Studio Ghibli’s beloved animations, from Howl’s Moving Castle to the Oscar-winning Spirited Away.

Now a fluffy Cat Bus, a life-sized No-Face and recreations of buildings from the films are ready for visitors less than a month after the country fully reopened its borders to foreign tourists.

Japan’s new Ghibli theme park has opened to the public. Pictured is an elevator tower at the gateway to the land

Ghibli Park has been long awaited by fans of Studio Ghibli's beloved animations, from Howl's Moving Castle to the Oscar-winning Spirited Away

Ghibli Park has been long awaited by fans of Studio Ghibli’s beloved animations, from Howl’s Moving Castle to the Oscar-winning Spirited Away

Tickets for Ghibli Park are reservation only, and are already sold out until the end of the year.

One middle-aged visitor, who described himself as ‘a huge fan’, told broadcaster TV Asahi he had been queuing to enter the park since the previous day.

‘Congratulations!’ said a hand-drawn note posted on Twitter by Studio Ghibli, illustrated with a row of figures resembling the spirit creature Totoro and signed by the company’s co-founder Hayao Miyazaki, who is frequently compared to Walt Disney.

Ghibli producer Toshio Suzuki also spoke of his excitement at a ceremony on Monday ahead of the opening on Tuesday.

‘I didn’t sleep very well last night. It’s a bit different from a film release,’ he said.

Tickets for Ghibli Park are reservation only, and are already sold out until the end of the year

Tickets for Ghibli Park are reservation only, and are already sold out until the end of the year

Studio Ghibli, founded in 1985 by Miyazaki and fellow animator Isao Takahata, has captivated fans around the world with works blending nostalgia, courage, greed and interaction with the natural world

Studio Ghibli, founded in 1985 by Miyazaki and fellow animator Isao Takahata, has captivated fans around the world with works blending nostalgia, courage, greed and interaction with the natural world

Visitors can perch on the red velvet-covered train seat (above) in a carriage next to Spirited Away's instantly recognisable 'No-Face' character

Visitors can perch on the red velvet-covered train seat (above) in a carriage next to Spirited Away’s instantly recognisable ‘No-Face’ character

Spread over 7.1 hectares (17.5 acres) of a 194-hectare (480-acre) park in the Aichi region, where the 2005 International Expo was held, the site features large open-air areas in keeping with the importance of nature in Ghibli films.

Among the three sections now open is the ‘Hill of Youth’, the gateway to the park that features an elevator tower inspired by Ghibli films including Castle in the Sky.

Elsewhere, ‘Dondoko Forest’ evokes the retro peace of 1988 classic My Neighbour Totoro, with bucolic walking paths and an enormous Totoro figure.

A major draw will be Ghibli’s Grand Warehouse, a hangar-like indoor portion of the park with various attractions, including 14 sets from 13 of the studio’s film classics.

Visitors can stroll along an alley designed to look like the opening scene of Spirited Away, or perch on the red velvet-covered train seat in a carriage next to the movie’s instantly recognisable ‘No-Face’ character.

Visitors look around the central staircase of 'Ghibli's Great Warehouse' on Tuesday, the opening day of Ghibli Park

Visitors look around the central staircase of ‘Ghibli’s Great Warehouse’ on Tuesday, the opening day of Ghibli Park

Guests explore the Dondoko Forest area, which evokes the retro peace of 1988 classic My Neighbour Totoro

Guests explore the Dondoko Forest area, which evokes the retro peace of 1988 classic My Neighbour Totoro

Studio Ghibli, founded in 1985 by Hayao Miyazaki and fellow animator Isao Takahata, has captivated fans around the world

Studio Ghibli, founded in 1985 by Hayao Miyazaki and fellow animator Isao Takahata, has captivated fans around the world

Visitors explore the house of Satsuki and Mei, characters in My Neighbor Totoro

Visitors explore the house of Satsuki and Mei, characters in My Neighbor Totoro

Aichi region is predicting an influx of 1.8million visitors a year once all five areas of the 34billion-yen (£218million) park are open from next year, with an estimated annual economic impact of 48billion yen ($324million/£282million).

Studio Ghibli, founded in 1985 by Miyazaki and fellow animator Isao Takahata, has captivated fans around the world with works blending nostalgia, courage, greed and interaction with the natural world.

The studio already operates the hugely popular Ghibli Museum on the outskirts of Tokyo, which offers tickets only at the beginning of each month and regularly sells out within hours.

A visitor in a shop at Ghibli's Grand Warehouse, a hangar-like indoor portion of the park with various attractions, including 14 sets from 13 of Studio Ghibli's films

A visitor in a shop at Ghibli’s Grand Warehouse, a hangar-like indoor portion of the park with various attractions, including 14 sets from 13 of Studio Ghibli’s films

Ghibli Park is in Nagakute, central Japan - 250 kilometres (150 miles) west of Tokyo. It's spread over 7.1 hectares (17.5 acres) of a 194-hectare (480-acre) park

Ghibli Park is in Nagakute, central Japan – 250 kilometres (150 miles) west of Tokyo. It’s spread over 7.1 hectares (17.5 acres) of a 194-hectare (480-acre) park

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