This is the news we’ve all been waiting for!

Over the past few weeks, Studio Ghibli has been teasing us with snapshots from the upcoming Ghibli Park, which is currently under construction at Aichi Expo Memorial Park, in the city of Nagakute in Aichi Prefecture.

▼ Updates include this Ghibli Park “key worker” taking part in a meeting.

These teasers culminated in an exciting announcement from the studio today — well, two exciting announcements, to be precise.

The first announcement was the opening date for the park, which, for the past few years, has been vaguely set for autumn 2022. Now, the long wait to find out the exact opening date is finally over, with the studio revealing that the doors to the first phase of the park will open on 1 November.

“The opening date for Ghibli Park has been announced.”

That’s not the only news Ghibli shared today — they also announced the opening of a new online site called “Kaze ni Natte, Asobou” which is translated as “Play Along With the Wind” in English. This site, run by the Aichi Tourism Bureau, firmly cements Aichi as the “home of the Ghibli Park“, with a beautifully shot video showing the top tourist sites in the prefecture.

The video has a gorgeous Ghibli aesthetic, starting with a young girl in a forest setting who takes us on a tour of the prefecture. As we follow her on her travels, it feels as if we’re viewing it all from the point of view of a speeding Catbus, or a Totoro, flying above the countryside as it does in Ghibli’s 1988 film, My Neighbour Totoro.

▼ The video has a Japanese version (top) and an English version (below).

Speaking to the press at the opening announcement event yesterday, Suzuki said, “It’s rare for Studio Ghibli to make a live-action work that isn’t anime, but it’s good to see it.

A behind-the-scenes video has also been released, on camera editor Ussiy’s YouTube channel. It shows how the beautiful promotional video was made, and includes an appearance by Ghibli producer Toshio Suzuki, who was born in Aichi’s capital city of Nagoya, not far from Ghibli Park. Suzuki created the title letterings for the Japanese and English versions of Play Along With the Wind, and he commends the team for a job well done from the 8:45 mark in the video below.

In the behind-the-scenes clip, Ussiy describes his surprise and honour at being able to create a film produced by Studio Ghibli. He also said he began working on the project in June, and he had high praise for Rara, the elementary school girl at the centre of the story, who had to do a lot of running around during the heat of September, when the footage was shot.

Seven months in the making, this video is so captivating it has us wanting to pack our bags and book a trip to Aichi Prefecture immediately! Of course, the destination we’re most keen to see is Ghibli Park, and that’s where the video ends, at Mei and Satsuki’s house, which has been standing at the Aichi Expo Memorial Park since 2005.

Incidentally, eagle-eyed viewers will be able to spot something interesting at the end of the promo video — the book the young girl picks up at the end is marked with a feather at the The Story of the Queen of the Flowery Isles, a French fairy tale from Cabinet des Fées, a collection of 17th and 18th century fairy tales. Interestingly, that fairy tale revolves around a mother and her two daughters, one of whom disappears into the ground, where she meets a magical dog who takes her to a lovely garden.

Could this fairy tale be one of the inspirations behind Hayao Miyazaki’s My Neighbour Totoro? As we know, Mei does fall into the ground, where she meets Totoro in a lovely garden…

▼ This is another tantalising Ghibli theory we’ll have to explore another day.

Studio Ghibli did reveal that every item in the suitcase seen in the clip has a hidden story behind it. One of those hidden stories is the fact that the image of the feather is a woodblock print called “air” by none other than woodblock artist Keisuke Miyazakithe youngest son of Ghibli director Hayao Miyazaki.

The first areas of Ghibli Park to open on 1 November are: Ghibli’s Giant WarehouseHill of Youth, and Dondoko Forest, marked respectively in pink, yellow, and purple in the map below.

 Hill of Youth

Today, Aichi Governor Hideaki Omura shared a photo of the elevator tower under construction at the Hill of Youth, which is said to recall the “world view” of movies like Castle in the Sky and Howl’s Moving Castle.

Ghibli’s Giant Warehouse (below) has a video exhibition room and a children’s playground and is said to have a floor area of ​​about 9,600 square metres (103,334 square feet), which is about four times as large as the Ghibli Museum in Tokyo.

▼ Governor Omura shared a photo of the “big stairs” at the Giant Warehouse.

Dondoko Forest, where Mei and Satsuki’s house, seen in the video, is located.

It’s also been revealed today that the Dondoko Forest area will be home to a 5.2-metre (17-foot) high wooden structure in the shape of Totoro, which around five children can enter at a time (lower primary school aged children and under).

The remaining areas of the park, Witch’s Valley and Mononoke Village, are set to open in “the latter half of 2023, about one year after the opening of the preceding three areas”. This suggests a November 2023 opening, although the exact date is yet to be officially announced.

Witch’s Valley, home to a replica of Howl’s Moving Castle

Mononoke Village

According to Studio Ghibli, the admission fee to the park is currently under consideration, although they have said it will be reasonable and likely cheaper than big theme parks like Tokyo Disneyland, as the park won’t contain rides.

Like Tokyo’s Ghibli Museum, visitors will be required to book tickets in advance, with entry limited to a variety of time slots to avoid the park becoming overcrowded.

After making the announcement this afternoon, Studio Ghibli followed up with some exciting sneak-peek photos of Ghibli Park, which has been kept closely under wraps until now. Previously, the studio has only provided the public and the press with concept art, so these are the very first official images we have of the new park areas!

“We’re building the Chikyuya from Whisper of the Heart.”

“The medama of Ghibli’s Giant Warehouse.” [medama means both “eyeball” and “centrepiece”]

“We’re also building Suzuki’s house.”

That last revelation left fans asking if Miyazaki’s house will also be built at the park. With the famous director’s son, Goro, in charge of the park’s construction, who knows what might happen? Personally, we’d love to pop in for a cup of tea with any of the Miyazakis.

▼ Goro Miyazaki

▼ Here’s a closer look at the stairs and clocktower seen in the above photo, behind Goro in the Giant Warehouse, which kind of sounds like the title of a Ghibli film.

While more details are yet to be announced, one thing we do know for certain, thanks to this recent Studio Ghibli Q&A session, is that visitors to the park will be able to walk through the tunnel from Spirited Away. That’s an experience we’ll gladly trade our hopping lantern for!

Source: Chunichi Shimbun, Aichi Now, Twitter/JP_GHIBLI, YouTube/Aichi Tourism Bureau (1, 2), YouTube/Ussiy Films
Featured image: YouTube/Aichi Tourism Bureau
Insert images: Aichi Prefecture/Studio Ghibli, Studio Ghibli (1, 2), PR Times

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