Travel in the footsteps of My Neighbor Totoro
Discover Japan with Totoro
Many places in Japan have been an inspiration to Hayao Miyazaki's movie "My Neighbor Totoro". From Mei and Satsuki's house, the two heroes of the film, to the forest of Sayama Hills. Follow in the footsteps of one of the most famous fictional characters in Japan.
Totoro, an atypical neighbor who has become a symbol of Japan
It was in 1988 that Totoro, the Studio Ghibli mascot, was born. Self-titled hero of the film My Neighbor Totoro, Totoro, is a forest spirit that strangely resembles a cat.
This imaginary animal meets Mei and Satsuki, two curious and lively little girls, when they move into an old house close to the forest clearing. Endearing and full of fun, Totoro leads them on a rural and charming adventure. During which the two girls will grow up and face everyday life under the benevolent eye of the youkai (Japanese spirits) who populate the surroundings.
A big hit at the box office, My Neighbor Totoro remains one of the most iconic movies of Hayao Miyazaki. Totoro is still very popular in Japan, and products featuring him can be found everywhere, just like the places dedicated to him.
Where is Mei and Satsuki's house?
It is possible to visit Mei and Satsuki's house in the small town of Nagakute in Aichi prefecture. Located in Ai Chikyuhaku Kinen Koen Park, it was built for the 2005 Aichi World Expo, whose theme was "Nature's Wisdom".
With the movie My Neighbor Totoro being an ode to the environment, the house of the characters had its place in the park!
However, it is not only a recreation of the film set, but the house also allows visitors a glimpse into the rural lifestyle of the 1950s. Visitors can freely visit the house, which is furnished faithfully to match the film set despite its educational element.
Where does Totoro live? Sayama Hills, the youkai forest
The forest where Totoro lives is about forty kilometers from Tokyo in Sayama Hills. A forest located in the prefecture of Saitama and very popular with hikers, which would have inspired the animators at Studio Ghibli.
With its tree-lined paths, farmlands, and hidden temples, the "Totoro forest," as we call it today, will delight fans.
Fans will undoubtedly recognize some familiar elements while visiting, such as the cornfield or the residential area. Located in the forecourt of a small wooden building is a giant statue of Totoro who lives in this forest.
Located near the center of Tokyo, the Totoro forest is also popular with conservationists.
And for a good reason, Lake Sayama is home to several species of birds and plants protected by the Totoro no Furusato (Totoro Foundation), an organization whose mission is to protect the natural environment of Sayama Hills.
Sayama Hills, Totoro Forest
Totoro in Sayama Hills
Lake in Sayama
Places Inspired by Totoro
If the house of Nagakute and Sayama Hills inspired the sets of the film, many places in Japan were, in turn, inspired by My Neighbor Totoro, starting with the home of Studion Ghibli, the Ghibli Museum.
Located in Mitaka, the Ghibli Museum is probably the most popular tourist spot in western Tokyo. Home to many production secrets, its interior has always been hidden from prying eyes, photos are prohibited inside the museum.
That said, some photographable places have revealed their share of mystery, including a giant Totoro at the museum reception and a cat-bus (another symbolic characters of the film), which is often reproduced in other museums during exhibitions of Miyazaki's work.
The bus stop
In the town of Takaharu in Miyazaki prefecture, a couple in their seventies had the brilliant idea of reproducing the bus stop where Mei and Satuski wait for the cat-bus. Composed of a stop sign and a statue of Totoro, the bus stop a popular photo spot for Ghibli fans around the world.
Shirohige Cream Puff Factory
Ever thought Totoro was edible? The Shirohige Cream Puff Factory may be of interest to those with a sweet tooth. Located in Setagaya, this small cafe offers delicious cream puffs in the shape of Totoro. These pastries are available with different fillings, including cream, chocolate or matcha.
- See also: Top 5 trendy Tokyo cafes on Instagram