An introduction to Satsuki and Mei’s daily life
Totoro House is an original attraction drawn from the anime My Neighbor Totoro, from Studio Ghibli, located in the commemorative park of Aichi’s 2005 Universal Exhibition, in Nagakute city, in the east part of Nagoya. It is a faithful replica of Miyazaki’s version and represents, in real-life scale, the lives of the two heroines Satsuki and Mei in 1950s Japan.
In 1988, Studio Ghibli released My Neighbor Totoro, one of its biggest animation movies, which quickly became a national and global success. This timeless anime, which celebrated its 30th birthday in 2018, continues to move new generations, who dive with delight into the two sisters’ adventure.
A real-scale replica of the Kusakabe family’s home was built in Aichi prefecture for the Universal Exhibition in 2005. Built with local and natural material, the house exactly reproduces every detail of the anime and gives a living and faithful overview of Japan’s daily life in the 1950s, a prosperous period when Japanese people lived closer to nature than they do now.
To enter the small house, you must take off your shoes. Magic starts at this moment, and we fall 🍁 into Miyazaki’s universe. Quickly, the first view is down at the Kusakabe family’s tidy shoes. The colorful boots of the two sisters allow us to imagine the heights of the children.
Then, we continue toward the living room, where a small table with a school bag laid down upon it. As we get closer the staff surprisingly announces that we can actually touch and open it! No need to say it twice; we immediately dive into the school bag, where we can find algebra exercises (carefully done) and an ancient sport manual, in which exercises are explained and illustrated. Just behind, in a big futon arrangement, we discover the sisters’ toys, which you can try out if your head is not too big.
Exploration goes on in the office, related to the veranda, where many books and magazines are accumulated. Each small detail is accounted for, from the calendar, open at a specific date, to the position of the rocking chair. A strange feeling comes out of this room, between emotion and nostalgia, just as if the house had suddenly became abandoned.
Going back toward a small room, we can find an old wooden dresser with several drawers full of the family’s clothes, such as Dad’s coat, Mum’s dresses, beauty accessories and Satsuki and Mei’s clothes. We can unfold each piece to have a better look. An old smell comes to the nose to reinforce the ambiance.
The visit ends up with the technical rooms: the bathroom 🛁 and kitchen. Not far away, in the garden, the well reminds us that at this time, running water did not exist in homes. Inside, we can observe two choshu-buro (or goemon-buro) style baths, meaning the steel bath is directly heated by wood, just like a cauldron. In the vintage kitchen, the smell of dried bonito makes it seem as if someone had just prepared a meal.
Purchasing tickets in advance to enjoy a supervised visit
Visiting Totoro’s House is not free, with a limited time to only 30 minutes. Several solutions are possible for visitors to purchase their tickets:
- Asking 3 months in advance through a written letter: This process is convenient for locals but long and tedious for foreign travelers.
- Trying to purchase a ticket on the same day at the house: This process is possible, but there is no guarantee. The number of places is limited to 50 people by group and by time, and it would be unfortunate to be stuck at the entrance.
- Ordering at a Loppi machine in a Lawson konbini: This is the easiest and safest manner, which we recommend choosing. Just like the Ghibli Museum’s tickets, these monthly tickets go on sale starting the 10th of the previous month (for example, the 10th of March for a visit in April). Because it is less attended than its counterpart in Tokyo, it is possible to find hour slots even a few days before you visit. Attention: Tickets can also be booked online, but consider getting paper tickets at a Lawson.
Once there, the rotation of visitors is organized in a military way, with two simultaneous groups: one will be inside the home while the other is outside. Those who are a bit too slow or are not respecting the rules will be immediately reminded of the codes of conduct by the staff. It’s good to know that inside pictures are totally forbidden.
Discovering Satsuki and Mei’s House is unmissable for all fan of Totoro and Studio Ghibli. The place remains isolated from the main touristy zones, about one hour away by public transportation from Nagoya. We advise to set up this visit as a stopover on Tokaido Road for a night. The round trip from Osaka or Kyoto is possible in a day but takes a lot of time.
Otherwise, the most patient ones will wait for the next official Studio Ghibli theme park 🎡’s opening, which will be centered around Totoro’s House and accessible to the public in 2022.