They're Real! 10 Places in Japan Every Studio Ghibli Fan Should Visit



They're Real! 10 Places in Japan Every Studio Ghibli Fan Should Visit


For any respectable Studio Ghibli fan, a trip to Japan can't be complete without a visit to the Ghibli Museum in Tokyo. But let's be honest, wouldn't it be awesome to actually explore Princess Mononoke's forest, bathe in the hot spring from Spirited away, or visit Satsuki and Mei's house from Totoro? Actually, these are all things that you can (more or less) do in Japan!
Read on to discover some of the places in Japan that have inspired or are connected with the works of Studio Ghibli!

1. Spirited Away: The Bathhouse

Spirited Away: the Bathouse


Dogo Onsen Honkan bathhouse

It's impossible to forget Aburaya, the massive bathhouse filled with whimsical creatures and surrounded by mystery. As it happens, the design for the iconic place was inspired by several real-life hot spring resorts in Japan. Dogo Onsen in Matsuyama, Ehime Prefecture, was confirmed as one of the sources of inspiration. The establishment boasts a long history dating back some 3000 years! With its charming wooden structure and seemingly endless corridors, it really gives off a Spirited Away feel. The night scenery with the lit windows looks just like it!


Dogo Onsen Honkan bathhouse | 道後温泉本館
Address: 5-6 Dogo Yunomachi, Matsuyama-shi, Ehime (MAP)
Hours: 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.
Access: From JR Matsuyama Station: approx. 25 min. by Iyotetsu Tram bound for Dogo Onsen / From Matsuyama City Station: approx. 20 min. by Iyotetsu Tram bound for Dogo Onsen / From Matsuyama Airport: approx. 40 min. by Matsuyama Airport Limousine Bus bound for Dogo Onsen Station


Spirited Away: The Bathhouse



Another place that is said to have been the basis for the Spirited Away bathhouse is the Sekizenkan inn in Shima Onsen, Gunma Prefecture. A look at that red bridge is enough to see the resemblance! This traditional inn is believed to be the oldest onsen building in Japan, and its location hidden away in the forest gives it an even more magic atmosphere.


Sekizenkan | 積善館
Address: 4236, Shima Ko, Nakanojo-machi, Agatsuma-gun, Gunma (MAP)
Hours: vary depending on the facility
Access: approx. 40 min. bus from JR Nakanojo Station. Nakanojo Station can be reached from Ueno Station in Tokyo via the Limited Express Kusatsu train (approx. 120 min.).

2. Spirited Away: the Tarai-bune 

Spirited Away: the Tarai-bune 


Yajima Taiken Koryukan

Remember that odd washtub-like boat that they use at some point in the movie? When I first saw it I thought it was just a fruit of the writers' imagination. Turns out it's a real type of Japanese boat called tarai-bune. You can actually ride these boats if you go to Sado Island in Niigata! The shape originated from the need to fish in narrow coves where higher maneuverability was required, so they took inspiration from Japanese tarai (laundry tubs) and improved the design.


Yajima Taiken Koryukan | 矢島体験交流館
Address: 365-1 Ogi, Sado-shi, Niigata (MAP)
Hours: 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Holidays: Closed on October 21 (due to a village festival) and from November to March
Fees: Tub boat ride: adults 600 yen / children 400 yen
Access: approx. 5 min. by car from Ogi port

3. My Neighbor Totoro: Totoro's Forest

My Neighbor Totoro: Totoro's Forest


Sayama Hills (Totoro's Forest)

For all of those who wish that they could meet the beloved furry creature every time they walk through the woods, there is a place just outside Tokyo that is known as “Totoro no Mori” (Totoro’s Forest). Located in Sayama Hills, it served as the model for the forest where Satsuki and Mei met Totoro. The forest is actually a nature reserve protected by the Foundation of Totoro no Furusato (The Hometown of Totoro).
There are actually several "Totoro Forest" spots located mainly in the northern part of Sayama Hills, and even a facility called "Kurosuke's House" where you can take a picture with a giant Totoro. All these places are connected by roads or pleasant hiking trails.


Sayama Hills (Totoro's Forest) | 狭山丘陵(トトロの森)
Address: Kurosuke’s House, 3-1169-1 Mikashima, Tokorozawa-shi, Saitama (MAP)
Access: See the Totoro Forest guide (PDF file)

*Kurosuke's house is temporarily closed to prevent the spread of COVID 19. Please check the official website before your visit.

4. My Neighbor Totoro: Satsuki and Mei's House

My Neighbor Totoro: Satsuki and Mei's House


My Neighbor Totoro: Satsuki and Mei's House

If Totoro's forest is not enough for you, maybe you should pay a visit to Satsuki and Mei's house! You'll find a faithful replica of the building inside the Ai Chikyuhaku Memorial Park in Aichi Prefecture. This is actually the same place where Ghibli Park, a whole Ghibli-themed amusement park, is set to open. You can visit both the outside and inside of the house. They even recreated the surrounding trees and landscape!
You can purchase a visiting ticket for the house on the day of your visit, but an advance reservation is recommended.


Satsuki and Mei's House | サツキとメイの家(愛・地球博記念公園)
Address: 1533-1 Ibaragabasama, Nagakute-shi, Aichi (MAP)
**Satsuki and Mei's House is temporarily closed and will reopen from April 22 to October 31, 2021 with the following schedule. For the opening information from November 2021, please check the official website.
Hours: 10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. (4:30 on Saturdays, Sundays and National Holidays)
Closed from Monday to Wednesday (except when National Holidays)
Fees: adults 520 yen, children 250 yen
Access: 15-minute walk from Ai Chikyuhaku Kinen Koen Station or you can take a free shuttle bus from the station.
Website (Japanese-only):

5. My Neighbor Totoro: Shiro-Hige's Cream Puff Factory

My Neighbor Totoro: Shiro-Hige's Cream Puff Factory


My Neighbor Totoro: Shiro-Hige's Cream Puff Factory

If Totoro is one of your favorite Ghibli movies you won't be able to resist this place! This adorable café in Tokyo painstakingly handcrafts Totoro-shaped cream puffs that inevitably sell out every day. They come with a lot of different fillings that change throughout the year. The custard cream and chocolate ones are available year-round but make sure you try some of the seasonal flavors as well.


Shiro-Hige's Cream Puff Factory Daita Branch | 白髭のシュークリーム工房 代田店
Address: 5-3-1 Daita, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo (MAP)
Hours: 10:30 a.m. - 7:00 p.m.
Closed on Tuesdays (if Tuesday is a national holiday it will close on Wednesday instead)
Access: approx. 3 min. walk from Setagaya-Daita Station on the Odakyu Line / approx. 7 min walk from Shimokitazawa Station on the Odakyu and Keio lines.

Shiro-Hige's Cream Puff Factory Kichijoji Branch | 白髭のシュークリーム工房 吉祥寺店
Address: 2-7-5 Kichijoji Minami-cho, Musashino-shi, Tokyo (MAP)
Hours: 11:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. on weekdays / 11:00 a.m. - 7:00 p.m. on weekends
Closed on Tuesdays (if Tuesday is a national holiday it will close on Wednesday instead) 
Access: approx. 5 min. walk from Kichijoji Station on the JR and Keio lines.

*The Kichijoji shop is currently being open on weekdays only.

6. Princess Mononoke: the Forest

Princess Mononoke: the Forest


Yakushima Island

The ambience and atmosphere of the lush forest in the film Princess Mononoke is unforgettable. This forest too was modeled after a real place in Japan: Yakushima Island in Kagoshima Prefecture, and more specifically the Shiratani Unsuikyo Ravine. Here you'll find fantastical sceneries like areas where moss covers the ground and trees as far as the eye can see. Many people visit Yakushima, either to enjoy the beautiful nature or to immerse themselves in their favorite Ghibli film.


Yakushima Island | 屋久島
Address: Yakushima-cho, Kumage-gun, Kagoshima (MAP)
Access: Yakushima has a small airport with direct flights from Osaka, Fukuoka and Kagoshima. From Tokyo you have to fly to Kagoshima first and then connect to Yakushima. The island can also be reached by sea via jetfoil or ferry (see transport information here)

7. Howl's Moving Castle: the Giant Ghibli Clock

Howl's Moving Castle


Howl's Moving Castle: the Giant Ghibli Clock

While there isn't a real life location for this particular Ghibli film, this 18 meters wide, 12 meters tall clock/sculpture designed by Hayao Miyazaki himself might be the next best thing. Located outside the Nippon Television building in Tokyo's Shinbashi district, its design closely resembles that of Howl's iconic moving castle. The massive clock's many contraptions, mechanisms and gears actually come to life several times a day, so be sure to catch the show!


NI-Tele Big Clock | 日テレ大時計
Address: 1-6-1 Higashishinbashi, Minato-ku, Tokyo (MAP)
Show hours: Monday to Friday 12:00 p.m., 1:00 p.m., 3:00 p.m., 6:00 p.m., 8:00 p.m. / Weekends 10:00 a.m., 12:00 p.m., 1:00 p.m., 3:00 p.m., 6:00 p.m., 8:00 p.m.
*The number of shows is currently temporarily reduced to two times a day every day at 3:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.
Access: 1 min. walk from Shimbashi Station on the Yurikamome Line / 1 min. walk from Shiodome Station on the Toei Oedo Line / 2 min. walk from Shimbashi Station Toei Asakusa Line / 3 min. walk from Shimbashi Station on the Tokyo Metro.
Website (Japanese-only):

8. Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea: Ponyo's Island

Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea: Ponyo's Island


Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea: Ponyo's Island

The small coastal village that appears in this film was inspired by Tomonoura, a port town in Hiroshima Prefecture. The round shape of the harbor immediately gives away the resemblance to its film counterpart. Tomonoura has a lovely old town center with old-fashioned alleys, a picturesque light house and scenic views of the Seto Inland Sea.
Bonus: if you get here by bus from Fukuyama Station, you might get lucky and catch the Tomotetsu Bonnet Bus which looks like Totoro's cat bus!


Tomonoura | 鞆の浦
Address: Tomocho, Fukuyama-shi, Hiroshima (MAP)
Access: 30 min. by bus from JR Fukuyama Station
Website (Japanese-only):

9.  Whisper of the Heart: Seiseki Sakuragaoka

This film was surprisingly true to its real counterpart location, right down to the Keio Line train that you'll have to catch to get here. Seiseki Sakuragaoka is a hilly town on the outskirts of Tokyo and the real-life place for "Whisper of the Heart". Many fans come here to roam the streets in search of landmarks that appear in the film! 
Seiseki Sakuragaoka walking map

Right in front of the train station is a map that illustrates all the main spots that you can visit.

Whisper of the Heart: Seiseki Sakuragaoka


Whisper of the Heart: Seiseki Sakuragaoka

Recognize this shrine?


Konpiragu Shrine | 金比羅宮
Address: 1-54-4 Sakuragaoka, Tama-shi, Tokyo (MAP)

Whisper of the Heart: Seiseki Sakuragaoka


Whisper of the Heart: Seiseki Sakuragaoka

Sadly the peculiar-looking antique shop seen in the film is not a real building, but at least you can take a picture with this replica outside the train station.


Seiseki Sakuragaoka | 聖蹟桜ヶ丘
Address: 1 Sekido, Tama, Tokyo (MAP)
Access to Seiseki Sakuragaoka Station: From Shinjuku Station: 26 min. train ride on the Keio Line / From Shibuya Station: take the Keio Inokashira Line to Meidaimae (approx. 7 min), then take the Keio Line (approx. 20 min.)
Seiseki Sakuragaoka Walking Map (Japanese-only):

10. From Up on Poppy Hill: Yokohama

From Up on Poppy Hill: Yokohama


From Up on Poppy Hill: Yokohama

This film is set in 1963 Yokohama, so it's natural that some of the places and shops that appear in it have been inspired by real-life locations, especially the neighborhood of Yamate. Another landmark that appears in the movie is the Hikawa Maru, a massive ocean liner now permanently docked at Yamashita Park and open to the public as a museum.


Hikawa Maru | 氷川丸
Address: Yamashita Park, Yamashita-cho, Naka-ku, Yokohama, Kanagawa (MAP)
Hours: 10:00 a.m. - 05:00 p.m. (doors close at  4:30)
Closed on Monday (if Monday is a National Holiday it closes the following day instead) and irregular days
Access: 3min. walk from Exit 4 of Motomachi-Chukagai Station on the Minatomirai Line / 15 min. walk from Ishikawacho Station or Kannai Station on the JR Negishi Line

*Hikawa Maru is temporarily closed due to Coronavirus. Please check the official website for the latest information.



Was your favorite Ghibli film in this list? I hope this article helped you discover bits of Japan that you didn't know about. Visiting the places that have inspired such wonderful works can be as magical as watching the films!

*The above article is based on information from March 2021.
*Prices, business hours and other information in this article are subject to change.

About the Author
Laura is an Italian living and working in Tokyo. She loves exploring hidden and unknown places, taking pictures and listening to Punk Rock music. When she’s not busy doing the above, she might enjoy a craft beer or play the sanshin (an Okinawan instrument similar to a shamisen).


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