Voice-activated water gardens feature characters from My Neighbour Totoro, Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away.

Studio Ghibli is well known for crafting beautifully animated movies, but the artistry and attention to detail that makes a Ghibli film so memorable spills over to its official merchandise range too.

It’s the reason why we previously fell in love with a Catbus clock with a moving tail and humidifiers that bring film scenes to life, but the latest product announcement has truly blown us away, because now we’ll be able to purchase bonsai water gardens featuring some of our favourite movie characters.

There are four to choose from, starting with the My Neighbour Totoro Water Garden Bonsai Kasajuku.

Before we get into the details that make this product so impressive, let’s pause to admire the name it’s been given, “kasajuku“, as it’s an adorable title that needs a little unpacking to understand.

The word “shuku” (read as “juku” when used as a suffix) literally translates to “post town”, and usually refers to a place where people once stopped for a rest on an old route like the Koshu Kaido, which connected Kai Province (modern-day Yamanashi Prefecture) with Edo (modern-day Tokyo) during the Edo Period (1603-1867). Today, this route still exists to a large extent, along National Route 20, and some of the old names remain too — like “Shinjuku” in Tokyo which literally means “new post town“.

For this beautiful new product, Studio Ghibli has tacked the word “kasa” (“umbrella“) before “juku“, creating a word that means “Umbrella Post Town” or “Umbrella Rest Town“, with all of its romantic old connotations.

▼ And because it’s a bonsai, it’s presented on a stand, just like a real miniature tree.

Ghibli fans will recognise the scene depicted in the bonsai as the one where Totoro appears when Mei and her older sister Satsuki are waiting for their father to arrive on the bus. It’s pouring with rain at the bus stop, and Satsuki, who has Mei on her back in a pale blue raincoat, hands an umbrella to Totoro, who delights in the sound the rain makes when it hits the umbrella.

▼ The rainy scene is perfectly replicated in this water fountain.

What makes this water fountain even more magical is the fact that it’s voice-activated, so once you speak to it, the rain-shower begins, lasting for five minutes at a time.

There are a few noticeable changes to the scene from the movie, because instead of two girls at the bus stop, there’s only one. However, unlike the promotional poster for the movie, which shows a mysterious girl that’s neither Satsuki nor Mei, the girl here is clearly Mei.

There’s also a frog nearby, and a smaller Totoro holding a leaf, which sways gently under the drops of water.

All the water fountains are battery operated, with the option for USB power, and come with two settings — one for voice-activated five-minute operation and the other for continual water operation.

The next two water fountains are an homage to the 1997 Ghibli film, Princess Mononoke.

The Princess Mononoke Water Garden Bonsai Mysterious Forest depicts a forest scene from the movie, where the Shishigami (Deer God) is seen standing on a body of water.

The god of the forest is joined by a group of kodama spirits, a trio of which remain dry beside the tree, while the others enjoy a gentle trickle of water within the hollowed-out trunk.

The Princess Mononoke Water Garden Bonsai Moonlit Forest is similar to the one described above, only this time the Shishigami is looking towards the skies.

▼ Unlike the others, this model can only be purchased online.

Here, its antlers appear to be transforming into the semi-translucent spikes of the Nightwalker, the giant form it turns into at night.

▼ The water also trickles down to the feet of the forest god in this watery scene.

This fountain also has a group of kodama, but these ones glow in the dark, a feature that’s only available in this limited-edition model.

Finally, we have the Spirited Away Water Garden Bonsai Souzu no Niwa.

A “souzu” is a bamboo water feature often seen in a traditional Japanese “niwa” (“garden“), and that’s what’s depicted in this beautiful water garden. Once the bamboo cylinder fills up with water, it tips down, releasing the water and lightening the weight, which makes it return to its original position to repeat the process.

The provider of the water in this scene is No Face, who’s shown with clasped hands, a position it takes when offering people things in the movie.

▼ “Eh, eh, eh…”

Watching the scene is Yubaba’s bird, and Yubaba’s baby, Boh, in the fly and mouse forms they were turned into after a curse was placed on them by Yubaba’s sister, Zeniba.

▼ Yubaba’s bird

▼ Yubaba’s baby

▼ Even without the water running, these water gardens will add a Zen-like ambience to your home.

▼ Swipe through to the last image to see a video of the water fountains in action.

All the water gardens go on sale at Donguri Kyowakoku stores and online from 26 December, except the Princess Mononoke Water Garden Bonsai Moonlit Forest, which can only be purchased online.

Online sales start at 10:00 a.m. Japan time on 26 December, and despite the relatively high price tag of 17,600 yen (US$132.74) each, they’re likely to sell out fast so be sure to act quick if you’d like to get one!

Source: Donguri Kyowakoku
Top image: Donguri Kyowakoku

Insert images: Donguri Kyowakoku (1, 2, 3, 4)
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