Studio Ghibli, considered one of the most successful anime film studios in the world, does not need any introduction. The studio’s 2001 feature film, Spirited Away, is recognized as the second highest-grossing film at the box office in Japan to date. Awards won by the studio’s movies include multiple Animage Grand Prix awards, four Japan Academy Prize for Animation of the Year awards, and one Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.
Nearly all films produced by Studio Ghibli feature scenery and settings based on real locations in Japan, too, and many locations are open for local and international visitors to see.
1. Dogo Onsen from Spirited Away
Although there are many captivating scenes in Spirited Away (available on Max), the bathhouse may be one of the most captivating. The bathhouse in the film, which attracted many spirits, was designed after Dogo Onsen, the oldest bathhouse in Japan. This onsen was built around 1894 and is located in the town of Matsuyama.
2. Kamikochi Imperial Hotel from The Wind Rises
The Hotel Kusukaru from The Wind Rises is the backdrop for many pivotal scenes of the movie The Wind Rises, and it was designed based on the real Kamikochi Imperial Hotel. This real-life hotel is located near the Japanese Alps, and it was built in 1933. Visitors can stay at this hotel to explore the interior decorating, which mirrors the setting of the fictional hotel in The Wind Rises. Guests can also walk to the KamikÅchi Hot Spring nearby or explore trails through the woods that surround the building.
3. Kushiro, Hokkaido from When Marnie Was There
The Kushiro area of Hokkaido in Japan is considered to be the inspiration for the setting of When Marnie Was There. This area is full of marshes and woodlands, and it is home to the Japanese red-crowned crane, which is an endangered species. If you visit this area, be sure to walk the trails at the Kushiro Marsh Observatory and stop by the iconic Nusamai Bridge.
4. Sayama Hills from My Neighbor Totoro
My Neighbor Totoro is a magical film in which two sisters make friends with three rabbit-like creatures in a forest. The forest of the film is based on Sayama Hills, a massive forest found on the Tokyo-Saitama border. Today, the area has even been dubbed Totoro’s Forest by visitors for its resemblance to the woods in the film.
5. Tomonoura, Hiroshima from Ponyo
In Ponyo, a fish girl meets a human boy in a fishing town, and the town is based on Tomonoura, a city in eastern Hiroshima. The film’s creator, Hayao Miyazaki, stayed in this town for two months before beginning work on the movie, and it is home to landmarks like Jōyatō Lighthouse and the Seto Inland Sea.
6. Yakushima, Kagoshima from Princess Mononoke
The island of Yakushima in the Kagoshima Prefecture is noted as being the inspiration for the film Princess Mononoke. Yakushima itself is a registered UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it is home to cedar trees that are over 1,000 years old. Visitors can also find many waterfalls here and spot some nesting sea turtles on the beaches from May to July.
7. Shirakami-sanchi from Princess Mononoke
The Shirakami-sanchi forest in the Tōhoku region of northern Honshū is another World Heritage Site, and it was this region that served as inspiration for the Princess Mononoke film. A unique feature of this forest is its Siebold’s beech trees, which once covered the majority of northern Japan. However, most of these trees have dwindled in numbers in the country due to logging. Hence, this location is now serving as a place for them to be preserved.
8. Seiseki Sakuragaoka from Whisper of the Heart
Seiseki Sakuragaoka is a railway station in Tokyo. The train station seen in Whisper of the Heart was based on this station. Visitors who want to see Seiseki Sakuragaoka should take a train from Shinjuku, which is only 30 minutes away. From Seiseki Sakuragaoka, visitors can also explore the area and find the Konpira Shrine nearby, which was also featured in the movie.
9. Seibien from The Secret World of Arrietty
Seibien is a beautiful garden in the city of Hirakawa, and it was recreated completely in the Studio Ghibli film The Secret World of Arrietty. It originally took nine years for the real garden to be made, and many weeks for it to be re-made in the movie. Visitors can see it all within just a day.
The scenery of all Studio Ghibli films is some of the best that modern animated films have to offer, and it’s intriguing to know that most of these film scenes are based on real locations in Japan. If you get the chance, be sure to experience the scenes of Studio Ghibli movies for yourself when in Japan.