We have visited Ghibli Park and this is all we saw in the theme park of the legendary animation studio

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Becoming tiny in the world of Borrowers, visiting Mei and Satsuki’s house, posing with the robot Laputa… these are the immersive experiences offered by the new Ghibli Park, which opened on November 1, 2022, near Nagoya, Japan. IGN France recently visited the park, and we’ve put together our impressions of the experience for those considering attending.

Avoiding the media frenzy surrounding the opening of Ghibli Park within the Aichi Expo 2005 Commemorative Park (also known as Moricoro Park), we entered the grounds with personally purchased tickets. Therefore, our introduction to the park was in very normal conditions, including many visitors, queues, screaming children, etc.

From there, Ghibli Park offers three areas: the Department Store, the Hill of Youth and the Dondoko Forest. The staff is numerous and directs the visitors so that each activity flows smoothly; no attractions to speak of, but plenty of photo spots. With few exceptions, the waits are never too long.

Ghibli’s Department Store

The Department Store area, which is completely indoors, is the largest of the three. We walk through a labyrinth of colored buildings, and the stage hides very specific mini-zones.

In the center, there are small rooms reserved for the little ones, with a Cat Bus to get on, mini-shops, and a lot to have fun!

Fans of the movie Arrietty and the world of the tiny ones will be delighted not only with a quite successful giant garden setting and its share of original images, but also with a small and slightly claustrophobic interior that makes you immerse yourself in the bowels of the house .

Not far away, a side road serves as retro shopping street, with a model shop and another that sells sweets from another era. If you want something collector’s item, this is where you can get it.

In a corner of the warehouse there is a robot soldier Laputa (The castle in the sky) inside the false vegetation. A quick queue will take you to your photo session.

An important part of the Warehouse is the orion cinema, designed in art deco style. It’s a big surprise because it’s a room where you can discover Ghibli’s exclusive short films (after the Ghibli museum in Tokyo, finally). The room is also nice, big and comfortable. The 10-minute shorts change cyclically, so it’s hard to know what you’re in for. Note that there are no subtitles, as we found out. Take it as an ode to children’s imagination.

The temporary exhibition is another of the obligatory visits in the Department Store. Or, at least, the one we have seen about food in Ghibli movies. It’s an interesting topic that also makes you hungry, represented in restaurant facades from the movies, frame-by-frame chewing sequences that allow you to appreciate the animation of various scenes, and much more. Indeed, entire kitchens, such as the one on the flying ship of the Laputa pirates, are reproduced with a meticulousness that arouses curiosity. We open cabinets and drawers so as not to miss anything. But we were also disappointed that we were not allowed to take photos in these magnificent settings.

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The exhibition ends with a commemoration of the Studio Ghibli production, with lots of posters and even DVD/Blu-ray boxes from around the world. We took another photo in front of the famous logo and off we went again. This is also where we find the big Cat bus that can “carry” several visitors (it’s a bit chaotic for photos).

Since this exhibition was making us very hungry, let’s talk about the cafeteria. It is the only point of sale of food in the place (apart from the candy store). You can take something else to snack on if you’re between two Ghibli zones if you need it, but don’t forget to bring your container: there are no bins in the park, as is often the case in Japan. For the rest, there is also a Lawson (a small cafeteria) in the surroundings, which does not hesitate to play the Ghibli card.

The Warehouse cafeteria is elegant and simple, perhaps a bit too much for those hoping for a Ghibli theme. Here, apart from the little flags attached to the excellent sandwiches and slices of pizza, there are no frills in sight. The most original dish is the tonkatsu-miso pizza, but that owes more to the proximity of Nagoya than to Ghibli…

Don’t forget to visit the amazing warehouse where Various creations from the Ghibli universe are kept for exhibitions, events, etc.. The atmosphere is almost eerie, but it is very intriguing. Let’s hope it expands over time.

Finally, there are several activities in which it is allowed to go up to a set to recreate a scene from a Ghibli movie instead of one of the characters. But the access to this area is so crowded that we gave up the idea of ​​trying it. A pity. Take more time than we spend at the Warehouse (perhaps four to five hours) because the place deserves a few turns (and breaks) to fully appreciate it.

The last stop to buy is very chaotic. Larger than the Ghibli museum, but too small for the influx of visitors, the store does not share the ergonomics of the rest of the Warehouse. Unless you’re looking for Department Store exclusives, we almost advise you to skip it and find one of Japan’s many Ghibli stores to do your shopping. Ideally, Ghibli would reserve this store for Warehouse-exclusive goods and open a larger store elsewhere. Note that Moricoro Park also has a store, accessible to all and well stocked with Ghibli merchandise.

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Hill of Youth

The Hill of Youth is a very small area near the Department Store and nestled on top of a forest. It is simply a reproduction of the house seen in Whispers of the Heart.a mixture of housing, antique shop and workshop.

The house itself doesn’t look like much from the outside, but the interior immediately transports you to the movie. As with Mei and Satsuki’s house from the other zone, don’t expect to find any fantasy elements or characters in this montage. The place is meant to be realistic, so as well as conjuring up images of several key scenes from Whisper of the Heart, it’s also a careful testimonial to another era, a time machine: the kitchen appliances are insane! Once again, no photos are allowed in this wonderful setting.

However, at the entrance you can find some other sets taken from the filmsuch as an old telephone booth, a bus stop and, above all, the small cat cafe that can be seen from the window.

Youth Hill can be visited quickly and only offers a mini shop with postcards and stamps. We can guess that the interest in this area is not that high for those who are not big fans of this particular Ghibli movie. Nonetheless, it is still an interesting part of the park with a nice atmosphere.

Dondoko Forest

Dondoko Forest is a wooded area where Mei and Satsuki’s house is located, the first and only Ghibli stage in Moricoro Park for years. The author of this article visited it a few years ago and the second time was just as memorable as the first, especially since now you can stay as long as you want and take photos of the interior. It’s not always easy to get a clear shot, but with a little patience, it’s possible.

Although it is a bit small in appearance, the house reproduces as best as possible what is seen in Totoro, again without characters or creatures, just immersion in popular scenes and in another era. Ghibli has loaded the place with accessories and Easter eggs, and we had a lot of fun opening all the cabinets and drawers to discover Mei’s bento box, Satsuki’s hairbrush, etc. The wonder is multiplied by the number of times you’ve seen the movie. It can get very high.

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But then, why Dondoko Forest? Dondoko looks similar to Totoro, except that he has a big hat. He stands on top of a hill behind Satsuki’s house and welcomes the children who can climb inside (if he doesn’t scare them too much). That’s pretty much all Dondoko presents, except he tries to sell us some exclusive Dondoko goodies. There is also a path through the forest to go down the hill behind (unless you take the cute little train), but only nature awaits you there. It is a small part of your trip inside the park.

There are two areas of the park that have not yet opened: Mononoke Village and The Valley of the Witches (focused on Nicky the Witch’s Apprentice and Howl’s Moving Castle). There is no doubt that these will include more immersive constructions.

if you wonder Is it worth going to Ghibli Park?, it is very important that you understand that you will have a lot of immersion, but little interactivity. If you like the studio, you’ll have a great time, although younger kids might be less impressed (which explains some of the activities booked).

Keep in mind, however, that the price is still very fair in relation to the content. At the moment, access to the box office is not open outside of Japan, so you will have to find a contact on site to order the tickets. It’s not that easy to manage, especially since the park is very popular and sells out months in advance. But if you’re planning a trip “for when plane tickets are cheaper,” there’s time to think about it now.

We would not be against a more pronounced invasion of Moricoro Park by Studio Ghibli, with more designs from the films hidden in nature. Who knows what the place has in store for us once the two additional areas are completed? This is just the beginning for Ghibli Park and surely it will not be the last time we visit it. And next time, we won’t miss anything.

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