Apart from the food (obviously), one of the most appealing aspects of Studio Ghibli movies is the gorgeous landscapes. They are so popular, in fact, that you can watch a ‘Studio Ghibli Nature Loop’ on HBO Max, for something incredibly soothing to put on in the background. And one of the most beautiful is the forest that lucky Mei finds her neighbour Totoro in.
Well, it turns out that the stunning forest was inspired by one specific real woodland area and that’s the forests of the town of Tokorozawa, just north of Tokyo, in Saitama Prefecture. Director Hayao Miyazaki drew inspiration from his strolls through Tokorozawa’s Kaminoyama area, and his connection to the town didn’t end with Totoro’s release in 1988. Miyazaki has been living in the town since 1970, and has made preservation of its natural spaces a personal cause.
Miyazaki’s wife has also made a book filled with lovely illustrations of the area. And according to SoraNews24, there is now a Tokorozawa project to turn approximately 8.5 acres of land in Kaminoyama into a preserved and protected green space, which contains around 7000 trees.
Hayao Miyazaki is known for his themes and preoccupations in his films, such as being anti-war, and railing against industrialisation and pollution. Therefore, his role as a nature preserver comes as no surprise. He came out of retirement around five years ago to begin work on one last animated masterpiece for Studio Ghibli. Miyazaki and his team still work by hand, and it is painstaking and cannot be hurried. But, it goes without saying that we cannot wait.
With so much doom and gloom in the news, it does warm our cockles to think that there are a few acres of stunningly beautiful and magical woodland in Japan that will be preserved. The thought of Totoro’s bower in the camphour tree being somewhere out there can help us sleep better at night.
If you love the work of Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli, check out our guide to the best anime movies.