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Image: GaijinPot

5 cool Studio Ghibli locations you can visit in Japan

By Matthew Coslett

Hayao Miyazaki, the genius behind Studio Ghibli, is famous for his love of visiting locations around Japan to inspire his animations. From the quiet seaside towns of "Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea" to the giant mansions in "The Secret World of Arriety," the environments and cities are as much characters in his stories as any of the lively humans or flying pigmen.

We’ve talked about Studio Ghibli locations you can visit in Japan before. But there are more places that people can check out to experience Ghibli—some of which are almost identical to Miyazaki’s movies.

Miyazaki has been famously vague about the Ghibli movies’ inspirations. When asked about the locations his films are set in, he once cryptically said: “…the forest that has existed within the hearts of Japanese from ancient times.” In this follow-up to the above post, we’ve identified five more areas in Japan that inspired him.

1. My Neighbor Totoro

The green Sayama Hills and the Kawagoe line are serene but don’t expect a cat bus. Image: iStock/ Gyro

"My Neighbor Totoro" is often considered Miyazaki’s masterpiece. When the Japanese polling site Research Panel asked fans what their favorite Studio Ghibli film was, it took almost a quarter of the votes.

Part of this popularity is thanks to its almost too-perfect-to-be-true natural setting. In fact, the animation is inspired by the Sayama Hills area of Saitama, just outside of Tokyo. The site has often been a homage for fans of Miyazaki, as not only can you see the areas that appear in his most famous anime, but you also get to see the area where the legendary anime artist grew up.

Being so close to the big city, it has been necessary to maintain funding for the area’s upkeep as Tokyo creeps ever closer. Miyazaki himself is responsible for preserving the natural environment, and it’s supported by the Foundation of Totoro no Furusato.

2. Castle in the Sky

The island of Tomogashima has its share of adventure. Image: iStock/ yoko_ken_chan

Whereas "Castle in The Sky" and "Totoro" enjoy the public’s love, on the other hand, "Ponyo" is often (unfairly in my opinion) misaligned as one of Ghibli’s lesser animations. While it lacks the epic scope of "Princess Mononoke," "Ponyo" is a relatable animation, and a big part of this is thanks to its location.

From the winding roads to the delightful, red-roofed houses to the fishing ports, the fictional home of Ponyo and Sosuke always feels like the sort of special place where magical adventures could happen.

One of the more memorable scenes is when Ponyo races through the town to the lighthouses. The red-roofed cottages that she races past are a popular attraction of Tomonoura in Hiroshima, where Miyazaki’s team stayed for months during the film’s early production. As a result, the town is recreated faithfully in the animation, and as a bonus, Tomonoura’s (Hiroshima) lighthouse can also be seen in a couple of key points.

Click here to read more.

© GaijinPot

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