5 Studio Ghibli Movies’ Fantastic Settings and Their Real Life Inspirations | FAST JAPAN
Seiseki Sakuragaoka - Whisper of the Heart

5 Studio Ghibli Movies’ Fantastic Settings and Their Real Life Inspirations

From lush forested landscapes to simple Japanese towns Studio Ghibli draws inspiration from everything inbetween. It’s worth it to visit these next Japan's destinations to see where your favorite movies came from.

If you’ve never heard of Studio Ghibli then you need to crawl out from under that rock. This studio produces and creates some of the most iconic characters and settings in all of animation. Their stories are original and the direction of the films are truly on par if not better than their western counterpart, Disney. If you have ever seen a movie from Studio Ghibli then you are already familiar with the in depth and fantastical settings and scenery that comes with these movies. We are going to introduce real life places that inspired settings and scenery in five different Studio Ghibli movies.


#1. Yakushima – Princess Mononoke

Yakushima - Princess Mononoke
Photo Credit: Casey Yee@flickr.comflickr.com

This movie follows the story of a prince caught in the struggle between a forest princess and the slow expansion of civilization. The inspiration for scenery in the movie comes from an actual place, Yakushima. This island is one of UNESCO World Heritage sights in Japan, and for good reason.

This island is covered in lush vegetation and stepping into the forest on this island takes you to another world. The sights and sounds whisk you away to a land before humans. If you are in or around Kagoshima there is ferry that travels to this island twice a day.
[map lat=”30.309349″ lng=”130.632910″][/map]


#2. Dogo Onsen – Spirited Away

Dogo Onsen - Spirited Away
Photo Credit: hotel-katuragi.jp

A girl and her parents stumble onto what seems like an abandoned theme park, but soon they are whisked away to another world full of impossible creatures and dangerous beings. The parents of the girl are turned into pigs and in order to save them the main character must take up work at Aburaya. Aburaya is the fantastical onsen setting for most of this movie and is modeled after the Dogo Onsen.

Dogo onsen is one of the oldest of its kind in Japan and is recognized as a National Cultural Treasure of Japan. This onsen doesn’t have a place to stay over, and most patrons make day trips to this historic place. So if you find yourself in Ehime Prefecture on Shikoku be sure to check this place out.
[map lat=”33.852064″ lng=”132.786422″][/map]


#3. Sayama Kyuryo – My Neighbor Totoro

Sayama Kyuryo - My Neighbor Totoro
Photo Credit: sayamaparks.com

When two young girls move to a rural village in Japan they run into a mythical creature and his companions. Sayama Kyuryo is part of Sayama city in Saitama Prefecture. This rural area is the inspiration for the forest setting in the Ghibli Movie, My Neighbor Totoro. The forest and lakes in this area really take back to a simpler time.

The influence this area had on the movie and the subsequent influence had on the area of Sayama is pretty neat. After the success of the film the surrounding forest in Sayama was named “Totoro’s Forest”. Today that same forest is being protected by a non-profit called the Totoro Fund.
[map lat=”35.774745″ lng=”139.445152″][/map]


#4. Seiseki Sakuragaoka – Whisper of the Heart

Seiseki Sakuragaoka - Whisper of the Heart
Photo Credit: Eiji Saito@flickr.com

The story follows the life of 14-year-old Shizuku as she discovers the name of a boy who borrows many of the same books as she does. This romantic drama tells an endearing tale and once again the setting is taken from an actual place in Japan, Seiseki Sakuragaoka.

The surrounding neighborhood isn’t anything too special, but you can clearly see the resemblance in the animated movie. In fact there are several locations in Seiseki Sakuragaoka that are depicted almost exactly the same in the movie. You can see most of the scenes in the movie in this town. The train station, and the iconic street leading to the library are some of the many scenes that you can see the real life inspiration for here in Seiseki Sakuragaoka.
[map lat=”35.650797″ lng=”139.446944″][/map]


#5. Seibien – The Secret World of Arrietty

Seibien - The Secret World of Arrietty
Photo Credit: seibien.jp

This is a tale about a family of tiny people. This family lives in the walls in a typical house and they borrow things to survive. Arrietty is part of this family and befriends a human boy. The inspiration for the setting came from Seibien. This place is recognized as a national place of scenic beauty. From the design of the garden to the actual house if you are familiar with the movie you will notice the uncanny resemblance.

The garden and house both actually date back over 100 years. The design of the house is unique as well featuring a Japanese styled first floor and western styled second floor. If you ever get the chance to visit keep an eye out for tiny people, because you never know who you might find.
[map lat=”40.616721″ lng=”140.569966″][/map]


It’s amazing how Studio Ghibli manages to recreate and design real life places into animated movies. The attention to detail while still having a unique feel is second to none, and the fact that you can visit most of these places is amazing. So the next time you are in Japan and want to see the inspiration behind your favorite Ghibli movie remember this article.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Lydia Rollins

    June 15, 2016 at 2:19 pm

    Yes! I love Ghibli and I love the way this author presented it! Keep up the great writing!

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