For All the Ghibli Fans: How About a Walk in the Totoro Forest?
If you are just like me an absolute fan of cute, kind and inspiring works of the anime studio Ghibli, this is a nice thing to do in Japan. Of course, you probably already know everything about the beautiful and magical Ghibli Studio’s (former studio) museum in Mitaka and are planning to visit it. It’s a very nice place to check when in Tokyo, as well as the picturesque Inokashira park (井の頭公園) it’s located in and the Kichijoji station’s area with lots of shops and restaurants. Just make sure to reserve your tickets in advance, the place seems to be becoming more popular every year.
The so-called Totoro forest walks is a more outdoor activity. I did it a few years ago and things might’ve changed. But it looks like it is still possible to be done throughout the year. There is no particular limitation on time, only make sure you have a comfortable pair of shoes and enough water to consume. It took me at least few hours of walking, despite of not taking many pictures nor making long stops for rest.
The walking area is called Sayama Hills (Tokorozawa, Saitama prefecture) and is unofficially called “Totoro forest.” Ghibli’s famous film director maestro Hayao Miyazaki is said to be getting the inspiration for the legendary animated film “My neighbor Totoro” after daily walks in that forest.
There are paid group-based organized guides. The ones I’ve told about are in Japanese and you need to bring your own food and drinks. Just check the information at the pamphlets at the train stations. You will also be given a very cute map.
Sadly, you might not encounter the mister Totoro himself and his little crew. But please do not be upset. There is still House of Kurosuke, where it is believed they live. Overall, the vast natural location is beautiful. I would recommend going there in autumn. It’s a perfect neither too hot nor cold kind of air temperature. And you will be surrounded by a variety of vivid colors of fall foliage.
I am a fan of this particular season. It inspires me to shoot more photographs while doing more walks and hence being more healthy. I went together with a friend and the long hours were absolutely enjoyable. I always love how friendly people in Japan are. We met a lot of strangers walking the same paths and they greeted us and wished us a nice day. And I saw lots of PET bottles filled with water in front of houses. It’s an old myth that the reflection from the water keeps stray cats away.
After this great walk we had lunch in the local café. I’d recommend checking out the local cuisine.
The next Ghibli spot to visit is probably the Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum in Musashi-Koganei, which was used for the scenes for the Oscar-award winner animated film Spirited Away. But that is a topic for another article.