Hidebochi has run an udon shop for 32 years and worked as a “weekend carpenter” for 52 years. But this summer, the 59-year-old undertook a different sort of construction. He decided to make Totoro for his grandchildren who just moved from Vancouver, Canada to live with him in Mihama, Mie Prefecture, Japan.

Like the young protagonists in Studio Ghibli‘s 1988 film Totoro, Hidebochi’s granddaughters moved far from the world they knew to a new home in the country. 6-year-old Ringo and 3-year-old Mei, who shares a name with one of the stars of Hayao Miyazaki‘s classic anime, were born in Canada. Hidebochi started his project to ease the sisters’ transition and help prevent them from saying, “I want to go back to Vancouver!”

Hidebochi decided to recreate the rain scene from Totoro. In the film, Totoro receives an umbrella from Satsuki as they wait at a bus stop.


Hidebochi’s life-size Totoro stands three meters (about 10 feet) tall. The crafty grandfather constructed his Totoro from materials like water pipes, wood, and rugs. A concrete block keeps Totoro secure in front of the Teuchi Udon Ōishi-ka shop. A camera in Totoro’s nose lets Hidebochi’s family know when visitors come to meet the iconic character. Totoro can play music from the film when people visit him.


Totoro waits next to the Kōshiyama Eki Mae catbus stop near the Kōshiyama train station in Mihama. Visitors who want to ride the catbus may be out of luck because it only comes at night from about midnight to 5:00 a.m., according to Hidebochi’s catbus stop sign.

People who want to meet Totoro can visit him on sunny days until 5:30 p.m. On rainy days, he hides under a plastic tarp because Satsuki’s umbrella never was big enough. Anyone is invited to take their picture with Totoro. However, a notice on a donation box next to Totoro requests that people who take pictures donate 100 yen (about US$1) to help cover maintenance costs.




Hidebochi placed Totoro so that Ringo and Mei can always see him from their room above the udon shop. At the end of Hidebochi’s video showing the making of his creation, the girls recreate the scene from the film. If their smiling faces are any indication, they’ve grown happy in their new home just like Satsuki and Mei.


Before his granddaughters inspired the Totoro project, Hidebochi made a rideable Thomas the Tank Engine in 2012. He gave rides to local children at a nursery school.

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