Totoro time: Japan's Ghibli theme park opens to visitors | Lifestyle.INQ
Whimsical exhibits welcomed visitors to Japan's new Ghibli theme park as three of its five sections opened
This file photo taken on October 12, 2022 shows a member of staff (L) cleaning a window of an exhibit at Ghibli's Grand Warehouse during a media tour of the new Ghibli Park in Nagakute, Aichi prefecture. - 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 on November 1, 2022. (Photo by Yuichi YAMAZAKI / AFP)

Totoro time: Japan’s Ghibli theme park opens to visitors

Whimsical exhibits welcomed visitors to Japan's new Ghibli theme park as three of its five sections opened
A sign for the new Ghibli Park is pictured at the gate of park in Nagakute, Aichi prefecture on October 12, 2022. – On Tuesday, November 1, 2022, whimsical exhibits welcome visitors to the new Ghibli theme park as three of its five sections opened to the public. The media on October 12 got a sneak peek at the highly anticipated new theme park from Studio Ghibli, creator of beloved titles like “My Neighbor Totoro” and Oscar-winning “Spirited Away.”  (Photo by Yuichi YAMAZAKI / AFP)

Tokyo, Japan — 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 on Tuesday.

The attraction in central Japan 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.

Tickets 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.

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

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

This file photo taken on October 12, 2022 shows a member of staff (L) cleaning a window of an exhibit at Ghibli’s Grand Warehouse during a media tour of the new Ghibli Park in Nagakute, Aichi prefecture. – 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 on November 1, 2022. (Photo by Yuichi YAMAZAKI / AFP)

Spread over 7.1 hectares (17.5 acres) of a 194-hectare (480-acre) park in 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 the 1988 classic “My Neighbor 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 recognizable “No-Face” character.

Whimsical exhibits welcomed visitors to Japan's new Ghibli theme park as three of its five sections opened
A member of staff works in a shop at Ghibli’s Grand Warehouse during a media tour of the new Ghibli Park in Nagakute, Aichi prefecture on October 12, 2022. – On Tuesday, November 1, 2022, whimsical exhibits welcome visitors to the new Ghibli theme park as three of its five sections opened to the public. The media on October 12 got a sneak peek at the highly anticipated new theme park from Studio Ghibli, creator of beloved titles like “My Neighbor Totoro” and Oscar-winning “Spirited Away”. (Photo by Yuichi YAMAZAKI / AFP)

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

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.

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