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With pretty much no marketing at all (no trailer, no TV spots) and little info on its story, legendary Japanese animation director Hayao Miyazaki just dropped his latest (and last) movie in Japan, “How Do You Live.” Finally released last Friday, this movie is a coming-of-age story dealing with themes like war, grief, magic and adventure. Obviously, on-brand for Studio Ghibli, the animation studio he co-founded with the late director Isao Takahata.
A household name around the world, Studio Ghibli’s catalog is impressive and beloved by both kids and grown-ups. “Princess Mononoke” (1997), “Spirited Away” (2001) and “Howl's Moving Castle” (2004) are all in Japan's 10 highest-grossing film lineup. With 12 movies on his roster, Miyazaki’s imaginative worlds, characters and stories are being brought into reality at the Expo 2005 Aichi Commemorative Park (aka Moricoro Park) in Japan with a theme park called Ghibli Park. It ended up opening on November 1, 2022, and foreign tourists and Japanese visitors alike were scrambling for tickets. During its first summer season, what’s Ghibli Park like?
Located in Nagakute city near Nagoya (about a three-hour train ride from Tokyo), Ghibli Park has five different sections – the Hill of Youth, Ghibli’s Grand Warehouse, Mononoke’s Village, Valley of Witches and Dondoko Forest. At the moment, the Hill of Youth, Ghibli’s Grand Warehouse and Dondoko Forest are fully open. Ghibli's Grand Warehouse displays Ghibli film artifacts and exhibits related to the magic of movie-making. The Hill of Youth hosts the World Emporium, which is an antique shop from “Whisper of the Heart.” Next is Dondoko Forest, which is at the top of a forest hill behind Satsuki and Mei's House from “My Neighbor Totoro.”
According to the park’s website, “There are no big attractions or rides in Ghibli Park. Take a stroll, feel the wind, and discover the wonders.”
Goro Miyazaki (the director’s son) plays a major part in designing and running the park. “There was a time when we considered making our own version of Disneyland,” he told the New York Times. “Here is the Totoro area. People can ride the Cat Bus. That’s great. But what about the environment around it?” While the park is supposed to bring Miyazaki’s worlds to life, it’s not supposed to be a plastic, phony utopia. It’s about harmony with the natural landscape.
Co-founded by Miyazaki himself, the park definitely has his whimsical touch. Miyazaki has defined his own artistic mission like this: “I want to send a message of cheer to all those wandering aimlessly through life.”