From now on, if you want to see much of anything at Ghibli Park you’re going to need a Premium ticket, which costs almost as much as a Disneyland one.

Studio Ghibli doesn’t like to rush things. The anime production company co-founded by Hayao Miyazaki famously takes as much time as it feels like it needs to properly polish its artistic visions, and that same philosophy seems to apply to Ghibli Park, the Ghibli theme park in Aichi Prefecture, near Nagoya.

So when Ghibli Park first started welcoming guests in the fall of 2022, only three areas, Ghibli’s Grand Warehouse, Dondoko Forest (i.e. the Totoro area), and Hill of Youth (inspired by Whisper of the Heart) were open. This month saw the opening of the Princess Mononoke-themed Mononoke Village. It won’t be until this coming spring, though, that Ghibli Park is completely operational, with the opening of the Valley of Witches area, where fans can step into the worlds of Howl’s Moving Castle, Kiki’s Delivery Service, and Earwig and the Witch.

We finally have an exact opening date for Valley of Witches, plus an on-sale date for tickets and a first-time sneak peek at some of the attractions, including Ghibli Park’s first conventional amusement park-style rides. Somewhat less joyous is the simultaneous announcement of a new ticket system for Ghibli Park with some unexpected complexities and a pretty big price jump.

But let’s start with the happy stuff. Valley of Witches will have its grand opening on March 16. Like the Ghibli Museum in Tokyo, advance reservations are required for Ghibli Park tickets. At 2 p.m. on the 10th of every month tickets go on sale for dates two oonths later, so that means your first opportunity to purchase tickets to see the Valley of the Witches will be on January 10. If you want to get in even earlier, though, a pair of preview days will be held on March 6 and 10, which can be applied for between November 29 (today) and December 7 through the Boo-Woo Ticket ticketing service here, with winners informed by December 15.

As for the Valley of Witches attractions, in addition to the recreations of Howl’s Moving Castle and the Kiki’s Delivery Service bakery pictured above (the latter of which is a functioning restaurant you can eat at), Ghibli Park has revealed concept art for the area’s merry-go-round, where guests can ride on vehicles and animals from various Studio Ghibli anime.

▼ Some of which definitely look like Yakul the red elk from Princess Mononoke

There’s also a Flying Machine carousel that raises riders up in the air, sort of like the Dumbo attraction at Disneyland.

Both of these are limited to riders between 3 and 12 years old, but the art design looks like it should be a treat for Ghibli fans of any age. Elsewhere in Valley of Witches guests can visit the Okino Home, where Kiki lives with her parents at the start of her film…

…the Hatter’s Hat Shop from Howl’s Moving Castle

…the Witch’s House, the setting for the majority of Earwig and the Witch

…and the Flying Machine Boarding Tower, described as “a play space for kids in the image of the house of young boys dreaming of flying in the skies, like Castle in the Sky’s Pazu or Kiki’s Delivery Service’s Tombo.”

OK, so that all pretty much sounds great, but what about the new ticket system, which goes into effect for tickets purchased in January (i.e. tickets for Ghibli Park visits in March of next year or later)? Here things are much more of a mixed bag.

Ghibli Park has a unique layout in that its different areas are not connected to each other, but are spread out around Expo 2005 Aichi Commemorative Park. When Ghibli Park first opened, each of its initial three areas required separate tickets, which broke down like this:
● Ghibli’s Grand Warehouse
Adults: 2,000/2,500 yen (weekdays/weekends)
Children (age 4 -12): 1,000/1,250 yen
● Dondoko Forest
Adults: 1,000 yen
Children: 500 yen
● Hill of Youth
Adults: 1,000 yen
Children: 500 yen

That meant that you could see at least a part of Ghibli Park for as little as 1,000 yen (US6.70) for adults or 500 yen for kids, and seeing everything would cost either 4,000/4,500 yen for adults or 2,000/2,250 yen for children. A few months after that, Ghibli Park got rid of the Hill of Youth-only ticket, combining it with the Ghibli’s Grand Warehouse, but with no change to the prices (i.e. the combination ticket cost exactly the same as those two areas’ tickets had when purchased separately).

Then the ticket system changed again with the opening of Mononoke Village this month, and it currently works like this:
● Ghibli’s Grand Warehouse/Mononoke Village combo
Adults: 2,500/3,000 yen (weekdays/weekends)
Children: 1,250/1,500 yen
● Dondoko Forest
Adults: 1,000 yen
Children: 500 yen
● Hill of Youth
Adults: 1,000 yen
Children: 500 yen

At the bottom end, adults/kids can still get into part of Ghibli Park for as little as 1,000/500 yen (US$6.70/US$3.35). Seeing everything now costs 4,500/5,000 yen for adults or 2,250/2,500 yen for kids, a moderate increase, but one that feels fair since there’s a whole new area, Mononoke Village, to see.

The upcoming new ticket system will almost completely do away with separate tickets for separate areas, with a total of three different ticket classes, the Ghibli Park Stroll Ticket, Ghibli Park Big Stroll ticket, and Ghibli Park Premium Big Stroll Ticket.

● Ghibli Park Stroll Ticket
Adults 1,500/2,000 yen (weekdays/weekends)
Children 750/1,000 yen

The Stroll Ticket (Sanpo-ken in Japanese) doesn’t admit you to Ghibli’s Grand Warehouse, but it does get you into the four other parts of the park, which seems like a great deal. There’s a catch, though: you’re only allowed into the outdoor parts of those sections. The Stroll Ticket doesn’t let you into any of Ghibli Park’s buildings, including its shops and restaurants. If all you have is a Stroll Ticket, you can’t even ride the Valley of Witches merry-go-round or flying machines, or bake mochi in Mononoke Village, even though all of those activities require separate payments on top of a ticket to Ghibli Park.

● Ghibli Park Big Stroll Ticket
Adults 3,500/4,000 yen (weekdays/weekends)
Children 1,750/2,000 yen

The Big Stroll Ticket gets you into all five sections of Ghibli Park, including Ghibli’s Grand Warehouse, and grants you eligibility to spend money in shops, restaurants, the Valley of Witches rides, and the Mononoke mochi-roasting activity. But how about going inside Howl’s Moving Castle? Nope. Mei and Satsuki’s house in the Totoro forest? Nuh-uh. If there’s nothing to spend money on inside, The Big Stroll Ticket doesn’t let you into any of the buildings in Valley of Witches, Dondoko Forest, or Hill of Youth.

● Ghibli Park Premium Big Stroll Ticket
Adults 7,300/7,800 yen (weekdays/weekends)
Children 3,650/3,900 yen

So if you want to go inside any of the non-shop/restaurant buildings other than Ghibli’s Grand Warehouse, you’ll need to step all the way up to the Ghibli Park Premium Big Stroll Ticket. This is an all-access ticket that grants you admission to all sections of Ghibli Park and all of their buildings.

As mentioned above, to see everything currently at Ghibli Park costs 4,500/5,000 yen for adults and 2,250/2,500 yen for kids, so the Ghibli Park Premium Big Stroll Ticket represents a substantial jump in cost. Arguably the even more painful price increase, though, is the one at the bottom end for anyone who wants to see something more than just the building exteriors. If, for example, you just want to go inside the Totoro house, right now you can do that for 1,000 yen. Come March, though, that’ll cost you at least 7,300 yen, regardless of whether or not you’re interested in seeing anything else. Taking into account the multi-generational appeal of Studio Ghibli’s anime, those price increases are going to really add up for families, especially with even 13-year-olds requiring an adult ticket.

As for silver linings, Ghibli Park remains free for children 3 and younger. You could also argue that though the shift away from single-area tickets has eliminated the most affordable ways to see a portion of the park, it also prevents the quandary of a situation where you can only secure a ticket to one area and aren’t sure whether to take it or wait another month to see if you can get more.

Still, it’s surprising how quickly Ghibli Park has gone from quaintly affordable to nearly as expensive as Tokyo Disneyland and Osaka’s Universal Studios Japan, despite being much smaller in scale and offering far fewer attractions and activities.

● Tokyo Disneyland
Adults: 7,900-10,900 yen
Children: 4,700-5,600 yen
● Universal Studios Japan
Adults: 8,600 yen
Children: 5,600 yen
● Ghibli Park Premium Big Stroll Ticket
Adults 7,300-7,800 yen
Children 3,650-3,900 yen

In all likelihood, Ghibli Park’s price increase won’t put a major dent in its attractiveness to foreign tourists, since even an extra 6,000 yen or so is a drop in the bucket when compared to the cost of airfare to Japan and hotels to stay in during the trip. It may make the park less alluring to Japanese domestic travelers, though, especially for those living within day-trip distance of Tokyo’s Ghibli Museum, where adult admission is still just 1,000 yen.

Related: Ghibli Park
Sources: PR Times, Ghibli Park, Tokyo Disneyland, Universal Studios Japan, Ghibli Museum
Images: PR Times
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