Areas that let anime fans step into the worlds of My Neighbor Totoro and Whisper of the Heart will open as scheduled.

The coronavirus outbreak has led to the cancellation or delay of a number of things fans of Japanese animation were looking forward to. Comiket got called off altogether, while the unveiling of the real-life, full-size moving Gundam statue and opening of the final Rebuild of Evangelion movie have been postponed indefinitely.

But amidst all the tests of anime fan patience, there’s now a bit of good news, as the announcement has been made that the effects of the pandemic will not be delaying the opening of the Studio Ghibli theme park. Speaking at a press conference, Hideaki Omori, governor of Aichi Prefecture (where Ghibli Park will be located) said that while the start of construction has been delayed by the pandemic, builders will be beginning work next month, and still expect to meet their target of the park being ready to receive guests in fall of 2022.

Construction will initially focus on three of the planned five areas of the park: the My Neighbor Totoro-inspired Dondoko Forest (with a reproduction of sisters Mei and Satsuki’s country home from the film), Ghibli’s Giant Warehouse (which will house a theater, exhibition room, and cafe), and the Hill of Youth (where guests can visit the antique shop seen in Whisper of the Heart). Handling these three zones will be Kajima Corporation, a Tokyo-based contractor that’s been in business for almost 200 years and whose previous projects include the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge (which links Japan’s main island of Honshu with the island of Shikoku) and the undersea Seikan Tunnel (which connects Honshu with Hokkaido Prefecture). Kajima’s contributions are projected to cost 10.7 billion yen (approximately US$100 million).

The contractor for the remaining two areas, Village of Mononoke (featuring locations from The Princess Mononoke) and Valley of the Witches (saluting Kiki’s Delivery Service) will be announce next month, with those sections of the park scheduled to open to the public sometime in 2023.

Sources: Ghibli no Sekai, Yahoo! Japan News/Metele
Images: Aichi Prefecture
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