Almost sharing a name with the Studio Ghibli character doesn’t get him inside, but Seiji still gets an early look.

As fans will fondly remember, Studio Ghibli’s Whisper of the Heart is the touching story of junior high sweethearts Shizuku Tsukishima and Seiji Amasawa. The backdrop for much of their budding romance is the Earth Shop, an antique store run by Seiji’s grandfather.

Until now, the store has only existed within the 1995 anime movie and its source material manga, but there’s a real-world Earth Shop being built, as the setting is being reconstructed for the Ghibli Park theme park under construction near Nagoya. Ghibli Park doesn’t officially open until November 1, but we’re obviously too impatient to wait that long, and who better to scope out the place where Shizuku and Seiji fell in love than, well, Seiji?

▼ By which, of course, we mean Seiji the SoraNews24 Japanese-language reporter.

Yes, even though there’s a real-world Earth Shop, there’s still no real-world Seiji Amasawa. So we sent the closest facsimile we could find, our reporter Seiji Nakazawa, who’s also the biggest anime fan in our office.

Unfortunately, despite having the same name as Whisper of the Heart’s male lead, Seiji was not allowed into the still-under-construction Earth Shop (maybe it’s because he and anime Seiji write their names with different kanji — 聖司 for the Ghibli star and 星児 for our reporter). However, one of the many ways that Ghibli Park is unique is that it’s actually a group of disconnected section being developed inside the preexisting Aichi Earth Expo Memorial Park. That means that the exterior structures of the Ghibli Park facilities can be seen from various vantage points around the still open-to-the-public areas.

The Earth Shop is going to be the highlight attraction of Ghibli Park’s Hill of Youth area, and true to that name, the building is perched atop a hill. Not only will this provide nice views from the shop, it also makes it easy to spot from below, as you can see the roof in the above photo.

Right now, though, the rising approach to the building is closed off, so currently the best views are from the grassy lawn section on the opposite side of the pond that borders Hill of Youth.

Though it’s a well-loved classic, there’s a subset of Whisper of the Heart viewers who find the anime somewhat depressing to watch. At just 14 years old Shizuku and Seiji both develop remarkably complete visions of what they want to do with their lives, both in terms of romance and career, so much so that real-world adults can feel deflated by their comparative lack of direction. But while Seiji Nakazawa can’t match Seiji Amasawa’s all-encompassing conviction, he does have something anime Seiji doesn’t: a 60x-zoom lens camera that he got from a Tokyo electronics store’s lucky bag promotion last New Year’s!

Sure, hope and dreams are all fine and good, but you’d be surprised how much you can achieve with hi-spec optical/imaging technology too!

The Earth Shop is coming along nicely, looking just as it does in Seiji’s memories of watching Whisper of the Heart. The resemblance is so strong that he started to daydream about Shizuku to popping out onto the balcony to say hi.

▼ “Seiji, we’re not open yet. Go home.”

Whether intentional or not, there are two other nice things about the Earth Shop being so visible from sections of the park outside the Hill of Youth (which seems to hold true too for the Totoro house in Ghibli Park’s Dondoko Forest section, which Seiji also scoped out). For one, it helps create a sense of real-world place for the building. Unlike some other Ghibli anime with only a vaguely defined setting, Whisper of the Heart explicitly takes place in modern Japan, so seeing the Earth Shop existing in a matter-of-fact manner, not closed off behind obscuring gates and walls, makes it feel all the more like the neighborhood antique shop Shizuku stumbles across.

The really nice thing about all those lines of sight to the building, though, is that Ghibli Park is going to have very strict attendance caps. Hill of Youth will only be allowing 900 guests a day on weekends, and even fewer, a mere 780, on weekdays. Demand for those slots is going to far outstrip supply, so there are going to be a lot of fans who’d like to visit the Earth Shop, but won’t be able to get a ticket.

Ghibli Park having attendance caps is predictable and understandable, considering how the Ghibli Museum in Tokyo also caps visitor numbers to help maintain a relaxed, congestion-free atmosphere. For those unable to get a ticket to actually go inside the Hill of Youth area, though, it looks like you’ll still be able to see the Earth Shop itself from the free, non-capped sections of Aichi Earth Expo Memorial Park

Photos ©SoraNews24
Whisper of the Heart image: Studio Ghibli
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