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Ghibli Park in central Japan offers peek to media ahead of Nov. 1 opening

NAGAKUTE, Aichi -- Three areas of the new Studio Ghibli Inc. theme park, including depictions from popular films including "My Neighbor Totoro" and "Whisper of the Heart," were fully unveiled for the first time at a media preview on Oct. 12.

    The violin workshop inside the "World Emporium" at Ghibli Park, which was shown to the press before the park's official Nov. 1 opening, is seen in Nagakute, Aichi Prefecture, on Oct. 12, 2022. (C) Studio Ghibli (Mainichi/Koji Hyodo)

    Ghibli Park is slated to open partially at Expo 2005 Aichi Commemorative Park in Nagakute, Aichi Prefecture, on Nov. 1 this year. It will eventually have five areas, spread over an approximately 7.1-hectare site.

    Film director Goro Miyazaki, who is overseeing the theme park's development, revealed to the press that the idea of the park came about when his father Hayao, a legendary animation director, said in 2013 that he was retiring from making feature films.

    Goro said the decision to build the park was motivated by a desire to "preserve Ghibli's works for future generations so that they would not be forgotten." However, he quipped that he felt somewhat shortchanged after Hayao came back from retirement, drawing laughter from those attending.

    Opening in November are "Ghibli's Grand Warehouse," which will be the main area; "Hill of Youth," which includes a reproduction of an antique store from the movie "Whisper of the Heart"; and "Dondoko Forest," which is inspired by the Showa period landscape depicted in movie "My Neighbor Totoro."

    There are also exhibits related to famous scenes from Ghibli films, such as Yubaba's office from "Spirited Away" and the garden with the towering Robot Soldier from "Castle in the Sky."

    "We made sure to use local materials," Goro explained. This included lumber from Aichi Prefecture for the park's buildings, and tiles made from Seto ware, which is produced around the prefectural city of Seto, to decorate the central staircase. Goro also said that the park was developed in a way that makes the most of its natural surroundings, and that "the trees surrounding the park make it look as if it has been there for a long time."

    Director Goro Miyazaki, left, holds a press conference ahead of the Nov. 1 opening of Ghibli Park in Nagakute, Aichi Prefecture, on Oct. 12, 2022. (Mainichi/Sanami Kato)

    Aichi Gov. Hideaki Omura, who was also present at the press conference, commented, "Ghibli's works are packed in this place. I hope people from all over the world will enjoy the park."

    The remaining two areas that will open at a later date are "Mononoke Village," themed on "Princess Mononoke," and "Valley of Witches," themed on "Kiki's Delivery Service." They are scheduled to open in the fall of 2023 and in March 2024, respectively.

    The total project cost is approximately 34 billion yen (about $231 million). The prefectural government has been developing the facility and a company jointly established by Studio Ghibli and The Chunichi Shimbun will be in charge of its management and operation.

    (Japanese original by Sanami Kato, Nagoya News Center)

    In Photos: A sneak peek inside Studio Ghibli's theme park in Aichi Pref.

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