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For many, the mere mention of Studio Ghibli is enough to conjure a world of whimsy and intrigue.
The animation studio famed for some of the most beautiful works in Japanese anime — My Neighbor Totoro, Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle, just to name a few — has long welcomed visitors to the modest Ghibli Museum nestled in the quiet suburbs of Tokyo. This year however, visitors are invited deeper into the woods, as the studio’s new Ghibli Park officially opens its gates within the sprawling grounds of Aichi Commemorative Park (also dubbed Moricoro Park). The brand new theme park is in Nagoya, a city that can be reached from Tokyo by shinkansen (bullet train) in less than two hours.
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Visitors used to typical large-scale theme parks will find the Ghibli Park a more muted affair. Though the park is by no means small, there aren’t any rides or large attractions. Instead, the lush grounds allow visitors ample room to explore and soak in the surroundings while strolling through the park’s winding, tree-lined paths.
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Three themed areas — the Ghibli Grand Warehouse, Dondoko Forest and Hill of Youth — will open to park-goers come November 1, with more areas set to open in 2023. The largest of the three areas, the Ghibli Grand Warehouse, is where fans can catch short films previously shown only at the Ghibli Museum in Tokyo, as well as exclusive exhibitions. It also wouldn’t be Studio Ghibli if the surroundings didn’t transport you to a different world and the Grand Warehouse is several worlds rolled into one, all ripe for discovery. Then, step into the cozy World Emporium from Whisper of the Heart at the Hill of Youth, followed by a relaxing walk through the park to Dondoko Forest, where the world of Totoro awaits.
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Separate timed-entry tickets are required for admission into each area, with varied pricing. Entry to Ghibli’s Grand Warehouse will set you back ¥2000 ($13.50) on weekdays and ¥2500 ($16.80) on weekends, while tickets to the other two areas each cost ¥1000 ($6.70). Children three and up enter half-price. Tickets for November have already sold out, and the ticket lottery for entry beginning in December is open now, and available for purchase through Lawson convenience stores (website in Japanese only).
Grab a healthy onigiri rice ball with organic vegetables, accompanied by a hearty cup of coffee at Soyogo Coffee, situated right near the park entrance, for a nice kick-start to your journey. For a hearty meal after a day out and about, try the signature lobster broth tsukemen (dipping noodles) or seafood-based soy sauce ramen at Menya Hanzo near Fujigaoka station. Want quiches, cakes and other baked goods worthy of a Ghibli movie? Homely Cafe SAISON is the place to go — don’t forget to check out their adorable seasonal cookies. Osu Mori no Cafe Kodama may be a bit of a trek, though Ghibli fans will find its storybook-like setting and the beloved Studio Ghibli characters dotted around the establishment well worth the trip; reservation is required to dine between 11am to 1pm.
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A trip to Nagoya would not be complete without a hitsumabushi meal (crispy, grilled unagi, or eel, eaten three different ways). Hitsumabushi Bincho is a popular spot, though there are plenty of other options dotted around Nagoya city.
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Cafes and tea houses beyond those located within park grounds are sparse, but the nearby transport hub of Fujigaoka has plenty of options to unwind. No matter the hour, it’s always a cool, sophisticated evening at Jazz Tearoom Aoneko, a dark and cozy underground cafe with record-lined walls and scrumptious pastries. Get a hit of caffeine and even discover your new favorite blend at Freak Coffee Roasters, a modern cafe serving up varieties of specialty coffee. Cafe Tohenboku is in the greater vicinity of Ghibli Park, and doubles as a gorgeous art gallery guests can sip coffee in.
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Nagoya is easily accessible from Tokyo, Gifu, Kyoto and more by bullet train. There is plenty of accommodation around Nagoya Station for any budget: from a glitzy 5-star fare to bunking at a hostel, the heart of Aichi prefecture has options to house any traveler. Access from Nagoya city to Ghibli Park is only 45 minutes on public transport. Studio Ghibli fans or families who may want to spend more than an afternoon at the park can opt for accommodation near the less central Fujigaoka Station, where a 13-minute ride on the Linimo monorail takes guests right to the station closest to the park.