|Centrip Editorial Board
Aichi Expo Memorial Park: Welcome to a Studio Ghibli fairytale!
The Aichi Expo Memorial Park is an urban park that can be found in Nagakute, Aichi. The park was built on the site of the 2005 Ai-chikyuhaku (愛・地球博 - love earth fair) Expo.
Aichi Expo Memorial Park covers an area of 1.85 square kilometers (460 acres) and is Aichi's largest park. Inside the park there is a free bus that ferries you around the park. The Park has many cultural, sport, and leisure facilities that the whole family can enjoy.
Aichi Expo Memorial Park's most popular feature, especially among children, is the Satsuki and Mei House from the Studio Ghibli animation My Neighbor Totoro. In addition to attracting Ghibli lovers from all over the country, in 2022, it will be redeveloped into Ghibli Park.
Studio Ghibli Park is set to be finished in 2022!
From the fall of 2022, the Aichi Expo Memorial Park will transition into a Studio Ghibli Park and will be divided into five areas. Three areas will open prior to fall 2022, Youth Hill (青春の丘/Seishun no Oka), Ghibli Large Warehouse Area (ジブリの大倉庫/Jiburi no Daisoko) and Dondoko Forest (どんどこ森/Dondoko Mori), and two other areas that will appear in 2023 are Witch Valley (魔女の谷/Majou no Tani) and Mononoke's Village (もののけの里/Mononoke no Sato).
Keeping in line with the ecological theme of Aichi Expo Memorial Park Studio Ghibli Park will not be cutting down any of the existing trees, and will instead build the park around them. They hope to set an example as an environmentally responsible theme park in harmony with nature. The design proposals for the park are highly anticipated.
1. Youth Hill
The Elevator Building will act as a symbol of the main gate and incorporates the late 19-century Steampunk elements found in Ghibli films such as Howl's Moving Castle (ハウルの動く城).
The height differences of the slopes in the Elevator Building area will be used to produce the Chikyu-ya (地球屋 - Earth House) from the film Whisper of the Heart (耳をすませば/Mimi wo Sumaseba).
2. Ghibli Large Warehouse Area
The facility will be renovated so visitors can enjoy it all year without having to worry about the weather by using the heated pool that is closed in 2018.
The Ghibli Large Warehouse Area has an exhibition room, a video exhibition room, a children's playground, and a warehouse, and houses many Ghibli exhibits.
3. Dondoko Forest
To reproduce the scenes in My Neighbor Totoro (となりのトトロ/Tonari no Totoro), the area around the Satsuki and Mei's House will be developed further, including the forest on the hill behind it.
4. Mononoke's Village
Aichi Satolab's fields are being redeveloped into Mononoke's Village using the scenery from the movie Princess Mononoke (もののけ姫/Mononoke Hime) as inspiration. In the area, an object inspired by the Demons (タタリ神/Tatari Gami) and Boar God (乙事主/Okkoto Nushi) from the movie is planned.
5. Witch Valley
The unused large grass field will be used for the Witch Valley. The Castle from Howl's Moving Castle and Kiki's family home from Kiki's Delivery Service as well as children's play facilities will be provided.
Come and see Satsuki and Mei's House!
Aichi Expo Memorial Park's most popular spot is Satsuki and Mei's House. The building is modeled after the Kusakabe family home (草壁家) in the Ghibli animated movie Tonari no Totoro and is typical of the style of homes from the 30th year of Showa (1955). The home combines the beauty of both Japanese and Western architecture. The bungalow faithfully recreates the feel of the animation and makes you feel, just for a moment, that Satsuki and Mei will come walking out of the room.
Satsuki and Mei's house are open from 10:00 to 16:30 (9:30 to 16:30 on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays), and the visiting time is 30 minutes, up to 50 people may enter at a time. The attendant will give you an admission pass when you purchase a ticket. 15 minutes before the tour starts, participants gather in a white tent and listen to an explanation by staff. Please note that photography is permitted outdoors, but prohibited indoors.
When you enter the garden, a hut comes into view. Imagine Satsuki and Mei running like the wind with their feelings of curiosity and longing, as their strange journey began.
Follow them into the backyard where they found a well. If you push the pump, water will come out. Then grab the bucket that Mei found and put it over your head, and you can see the world through Mei's eyes.
This is the hole that Mei discovered! There aren't any soot gremlins (まっくろくろすけ/Makkuro kurosuke), but there are lots of acorns.
Do you remember this hallway? It's where the girls first met the old woman.
The father's bicycle and room slippers, and teacups have also been faithfully reproduced.
In the movie, the father was an archaeology teacher and his study was impressive. A scattered assortment of books such as English texts, newspapers, petrology books, hats, globes, and hand-drawn calendars. Sorry but you can only take pictures of this room from the outside, you wouldn't want to scatter all of the books!
Do you remember where Satsuki first met Totoro? It was at this bus stop! Wasn't it incredible that Satsuki and Totoro stood together at the bus stop on that rainy night?
Totoro acorns are planted here, and Satsuki and Mei are waiting for them to grow every day. One night, Totoro came out to the garden with a small Totoro and a tiny Totoro, and along with the sisters danced around the garden. When something magical happened, and a bud sprouted and grew into a giant tree.
Some parents like to imitate the movie and dance around with their children.
Let's enter the house!
Unfortunately, pictures aren't allowed, but the number of details that were recreated is amazing. The children's rain boots are placed in the shoe rack, old newspapers are on the desk, the father's outerwear is hung in the closet, and futons are in the closet. If you open one drawer, you will find a pink skirt, a white vest, a white handkerchief with the name of Satsuki and Mei, as well as a matcha bowl. The stairs to the second floor are hidden behind the doors, but the second floor is off-limits, so it might be a nuisance to the soot gremlins residing on the upper floor.
There is a bathroom in the back, and there is a large and small pot for boiling water for the bath. Next to the bathroom is a cooking area without flooring. There was no plumbing so the water was pumped up by hand. Showa-era sesame oil, soy sauce, and more are lined up on the cupboard, and it has a very old feel.
The 30 mins are over before you know it and it leaves you feeling unfulfilled.
Thinking of coming to Satsuki and Mei's house? There are two types of tickets: A same-day ticket and a reserved ticket. If you are concerned that you will not be able to get a same-day ticket, you can make an online reservation in advance. Please note that reservations can be made up to 2 days in advance.
Unfortunately, reservations made on the Internet require a Japanese phone number and address, and tickets must be picked up at a convenience store, so reservations are not possible without contact within Japan. For a same-day ticket, you can specify the times of the day. For example, I went to buy tickets by 9 am on Saturday, and there are still a lot of openings.
Other Sights in the Park.
1. Expo 2005 Museum
The Aichi Expo Memorial Museum opened in commemoration of the 2005 Aichi Expo and is free to visit. Explore the Expo's theme of Nature's Wisdom here.
Exhibits sent from various countries around the world display respect for nature, the blessings of nature, and creativity held by humankind.
Robots from the Expo are also on display here.
Outside you can see the Expo's Mascott Kikkoro (キッコロ).
Japanese Garden (Rinsho Kaen)
The clouds and fog as seen in Japanese gardens appear otherworldly as they swirl among the trees. The stones are placed with care and along with the small bridges add to the beauty of the garden.
Take part in a tea ceremony at the Kanaretei tea room for ¥500.
The tall trees of Rinsho Kaen form natural green tunnels, and if you come here in Spring, you can see hundreds of flowers in bloom all at once.
Hana no Hiroba (Flower Square)
If you are tired from walking around, take a rest at Hana no Hiroba. The flower bed outside is a great spot for taking photos.
On the 2nd floor, there is a restaurant where you can try some dishes or have some desserts!
Fun For Kids
At Aichi Children's Center, children can develop their senses for vision, touch, and hearing as well as their thinking skills while playing games and activities. Junior high school and younger are free of charge. Adults for ¥300.
Here, all the playground equipment reflects the natural terrain. Kids can go up the wooden stairs or play in the water.
The views from the 88-meter tall Ferris wheel are amazing. ¥600 for 3 years old and up. You can take your pets with you, too!
Buying Ghibli Items
If you are buying some Ghibli items, drop by at the shop in front of Satsuki & Mei's house. You can find My Neighbor Totoro items there!
If you are not happy with the items sold here, go to Sakae (栄). There is a Ghibli goods specialty store, the Donguri Republic (どんぐり共和国 / Donguri Kyowakoku), selling a variety of goods and a lot of limited-time items!
Miyazaki Hayao said that he desired to create animation that comforts the soul and that helps stave off the cruelties of reality.
That world is recreated here in the Aichi Expo Memorial Park. Come here and enjoy yourself as if you were a kid again!