“My Neighbor Totoro” is one of Miyazaki’s most beloved films. He has the impeccable ability of capturing the surreal in the mundane parts of our lives. If you’re as big a fan of anime as I am, then you’ll enjoy this small hike through Sayama Hills. Sayama Hills is a forest park about one hour outside of Tokyo located in Saitama prefecture. It was the forest that inspired Hayao Miyazaki to create the movie “My Neighbor Totoro.” While the movie is a direct reflection of the beauty of the forest, it does not bring the real thing justice. I can’t guarantee that you’ll be visited by the benevolent Totoro spirit himself, but I promise you’ll feel a sense of magic while walking through the forest.
Getting to the forest is simple but it takes a bit of time. From Shinjuku station take the chou line for Nakano to Kokubunji Station. Then switch to the Seibu-Tamako line towards Seibu Yuenchi. Finally, at Seibu Yuenchi station take the Seibu-Yamaguchi line to Seibukyujo Mae station.
Once you reach Seibukyujo Mae station, the forest is about a twenty-minute walk from the station. You feel like you’re going the wrong way, since you do have to walk through a residential area but if you follow your (Google) map you’ll be on the right path. It’s a serene walk but it can be extremely hot during the summer time, so don’t forget to pack plenty of water.
The Totoro forest is one of the most beautiful forests I’ve ever walked through. All the plant life was a luscious green color. At the entrance of the forest, you’ll come across a map that’s in Japanese. It shows the paths you walk in the forest and gives a little information about what is in the area. There are three Totoro spots, #1, #3, #15, and a few other spots located in the forest. At each of these spots you can find some signs in Japanese detailing a little bit of background information about the local fauna.
The area is currently at risk for being destroyed but the Homeland of Totoro Foundation has raised funds and acquired land rights to preserve the forest.
The Kurosuke House
Unbeknownst to me, the Kurosuke House is actually farther away from the Totoro forest. And it can be a dangerous trek if you’re going on foot. The recommended trail on the map is actually a road map. You can walk it but I advise you find alternate routes otherwise you’ll walk into dangerous traffic intersections.
The house is only open Tuesday, Fridays, and Saturdays from 9am to 5pm. All other days and holidays it’s closed. As soon as you walk up to the house you’re greeted by the huge Totoro statue. You are able to take off your shoes and walk around the tatami mats. From inside you can take the best pictures of Totoro. In the second house you can learn about all the efforts the Totoro Foundation is making at conserving the land. Unfortunately, all the information is in Japanese but it’s an interesting place to look at. Before you leave, make sure you buy some Totoro goods to contribute to the forest conservation efforts.