Anime settings come to life in the Valley of Witches, with amusement park rides and hot dogs in cat paws! 

Back in 2017, Studio Ghibli announced plans to open a theme park in Aichi Prefecture, and roughly five years later, in November 2022, the park finally opened its doors to the public.

It was only the first area to open, though, and after another year of waiting, visitors were welcomed into the second area, dedicated to the world of Princess Mononoke. Now, the park is about to open the third and final area of Ghibli Park, and members of the press were the first to step inside for a preview on 28 February, ahead of the official 16 March opening date.

This last section of the park to be revealed is known as Valley of Witches, and is dedicated to the studio’s witch-centric anime movies: Kiki’s Delivery Service, Howl’s Moving Castle, and Earwig and the Witch.

▼ Two of the highlights in this area are Howl’s Castle, which emits smoke several times an hour…

▼ …and Gütiokipänjä, the bakery from Kiki’s Delivery Service, where visitors can purchase baked goods on the ground floor.

▼ This video shows what the structures look like in real life.

No detail has been spared in bringing these anime worlds to life, through not only the beautiful buildings but the interiors, which mimic the colours and lighting from the films.

The Okino Residence, from Kiki’s Delivery Service, for example, has two stories to explore, with the “witch’s shop” on the ground floor replicating the flower-filled space where Kiki’s mother makes potions, and Kiki’s bedroom upstairs giving us an insight into the day-to-day life of the Okino family.

The Hatter Hat Store is just as captivating, giving us a chance to step into Sophie’s workshop and actually purchase hats, as well as original candy in cute tins.

▼ Upstairs is the Witch’s Bookshelf, a bookstore with books related to witches and magic.

The Witch’s House is the home of Earwig, or “Aya” as she’s known in Japanese, the main character from Earwig and the Witch. The building contains a library, bathroom and kitchen, as well as Earwig’s bedroom and Bella Yaga’s workroom, which is filled with mysterious magical ingredients.

While the interiors are gorgeous, there’s a lot to do outdoors as well, with ride-on play equipment designed to look like a “mobile amusement park that comes to the village once a year“. This includes a merry-go-round featuring vehicles, animals, and characters from films like Kiki’s Delivery Service, Howl’s Moving Castle and Princess Mononoke.

▼ This ride costs 500 yen (US$3.33) for children aged 3 to 12 (free for children under 2), or 1,000 yen for adults.

There’s also a “Flying Machine“, inspired by the world of Laputa: Castle in the Sky, with Laputa and the Tiger Moth in the middle of it all.

▼ Tickets for this ride cost 500 yen, and can be used only by children aged 3-12, although one accompanying adult can ride with a child.

▼ Take a look at the merry-go-round and Flying Machine in this cued-up video below!

Next to the Flying Machine is Airplane Tower, a playground for children modelled after the home of a character who dreams of flying.

The streets in the valley are lined with stone walls that give the impression of a former village, and there are wastelands and old wells nearby. There’s also a clock tower with an eye-catching roof decoration of two witches flying on broomsticks, which rings its three bells to announce the time to the village, and visitors can climb the tower to get a panoramic view of Howl’s Castle.

▼ Moving on to the gourmet side of things, we have a sit-down restaurant called the Flying Oven

▼ …and a food stand called Hot Tin Roof, where you can buy hot dogs with cat paw buns!

▼ For shopping, we have a store called “Witch Coven 13“.

Visitors to the area certainly won’t go hungry, with a bakery, food stand and sit-down restaurant to choose from, and judging by the cued-up videos below, they look so good we’ll want to visit them all.

▼ Take a look at what’s for sale inside the bakery here:

▼ The Hot Tin Roof cat paw hot dog looks just as good in real life as it does in the photos!

▼ The Flying Oven serves hearty meals inspired by European cuisine, including a Napolitan Quiche for 1,850 yen.

▼ The Witch Coven 13 store is filled with an array of exclusive goods, although cameras weren’t allowed entry on the day.

With the opening of this new area comes a new range of tickets, giving you entry to different areas and different buildings. Visitors from March onwards can purchase an “O-Sanpo Day Pass” — “o-sanpo” or “sanpo” means “stroll”, and “Sanpo” is the My Neighbour Totoro opening song — that allows you to enter all areas of the park.

The standard O-Sanpo Pass is priced at 3,500 yen (US$24.07) for adults on weekdays and 4,000 yen for weekends (children aged 4-12 pay half price and children 0-4 enter for free), and gets you entry into all the areas, while the Premium O-Sanpo Pass (priced at 7,300 yen for adults on weekdays and 7,800 yen on weekends) comes with the extra benefit of being able to enter the following five buildings:

  • World Emporium (Hill of Youth)
  • Satsuki and Mei’s House (Dondoko Forest)
  • The Okino Residence, Howl’s Castle, The House of Witches (Valley of Witches)

Tickets, which are sold for set time slots, must be purchased in advance, so be sure to check out the official site online. Though the Premium O-Sanpo Pass might seem a bit pricey, after seeing what Howl’s Castle and the Witch’s House looks like, we think it’s worth the investment.

▼ Howl’s Castle has so much to see inside, and the outside world even flips to a different scene to give you the sense that you’ve been transported, like in the movie.

▼ The Witch’s House is complete with a peep hole in Earwig’s bedroom.

▼ And while we’re at it, let’s take a final peek inside the Hatter Hat Store as well.

Tickets for 16 March, when Valley of Witches opens, will go on sale at 5:00 p.m. (JST) on 9 March. With so much to see and do in this new area alone, a visit to Ghibli Park is definitely worth adding to the itinerary, and with the adorable new Catbuses transporting visitors around the site, it’ll be a fun day out for the whole family!

Source, images: PR Times
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