One of the most iconic animation studios across the globe must be Studio Ghibli. This Japanese masterpiece creation center has marked generations with its awe-inspiring films. Yet there is a real-life correspondent for some of its bucolic sets. Various film locations in Japan inspired those dreamy movie backgrounds. Curious already?

Fairytale-Like Film Locations In Japan

In Spirited Away (2001) or Princess Mononoke (1997), there is always more to see in our surroundings. The magical realm fascinatingly intertwines with reality, through each story. Yet one may often wonder, where did Hayao Miyazaki and his team get the ideas from? Creators always rely on something already existing to inspire them for new ideas. And so it happens that many film locations in Japan are the root source for this fantastical world.

Consider the stunning Dōgo Onsen, found in the castle city of Matsuyama. Situated on Shikoku island, this bathhouse attracts more than Ghibli fans. A local legend led to the fame of this place as having curative hot springs. The impressive complex has been amuse for Spirited Away (2001).

Do not miss the 18-century castle and shopping arcade Obiya-machi from Kōchi. Also found on Shikoku island, these played a major role in Ocean Waves(1993).

If Princess Mononoke (1997) is at the top of your anime list, then check out Shiratani Unsui-kyo Gorge. You can find it on the island of Yakushima, now a Unesco World Heritage site. Talk about reinforcing the importance of keeping a balance with nature, right?

We could not skip the Sayama Hills, found about an hour away from Tokyo. This lush green forest from Saitama has inspired the set for My Neighbour Totoro (1988).

Film locations in Japan are as dreamy in Miyazaki’s animations, as they are in reality. Some have actually turned into fantasy-like attractions.

Where Animation Comes To Life

As respect for nature is part of Japanese culture, some areas are safely conserved. But there are also locations with a creative twist added.

One of the most famous Ghibli characters, Totoro, even has his own forest. As Miyazaki grew up in the region of Sayama Hills, the landscape here led him to the bucolic backdrops in the movie. So, in 1996, he helped establish a foundation meant to conserve the natural habitat here. Now, fans and tourists can roam around the trails from Totoro’s Forest.

If you are a Disneyland fanatic, there is also a whimsical version of Ghibli-land to see. You can find it in Western Tokyo. The Ghibli Museum Mitaka has plenty of attractions for children(and adults).

For the nostalgics, Japan has a life-sized replica of the wooden home from My Neighbour Totoro (1988). You can find it outside of the city of Nagoya, in Moricoro Park. The replica carefully considers even small details like the Wellington boots. There are plans to transform the area into a larger Studio Ghibli Theme Park, by 2022.

Given the beauty of such film locations in Japan, Miyazaki’s films could only turn out magical, right?