One of my favourite movies in the ENTIRE WORLD is My Neighbor Totoro (となりのトトロ Tonari no Totoro in Japanese). I love all of the Studio Ghibli movies, but Totoro is my absolute favourite, forever and always.
I’ve been to the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka a couple times (you might remember that I was there a few months ago), and it’s an amazing, whimsical place that you should visit if you’re into Ghibli movies. But for me, visiting the Totoro house was better.
It’s called Satsuki and Mei’s House (サツキとメイの家) and it’s in the middle of a large park (the Expo 2005 site) in Nagakute, just outside of Nagoya. It is an extremely detailed reproduction of the house from the movie, and the level of detail is breathtaking. If you’re a fan of Totoro, you will be blown away.
The fact that the house is in what seems like the middle of nowhere kind of adds to the experience. Nothing is ever mentioned about Totoro or the movie. It’s just a house, a house that seems like it actually had people living in it. Unlike every other attraction I’ve been to in Japan, there are no souvenirs for sale. There is no store. It’s just a house. A magical house.
If you’ve seen the movie as many times as I have, everything will seem bizarrely familiar.
To get to the Expo 2005 park, you have to take the Linimo, a maglev (!) train that takes you to the park and surrounding areas. You can’t pay with a Suica or any kind of ICC card though, you have to buy an actual ticket for ¥340.
Morizo (モリゾー) and Kiccoro (キッコロ), the park’s slightly disturbing mascots in bush form.
I did not enter the lawn.
Japanese parks: full of deadly creatures. A poster warning about suzumebachi, the MOST TERRIFYING BEE EVER (seriously, look at the Wikipedia page) whose sting can kill you, and the mamushi, the most venomous snake in Japan whose bite can kill you. Fun!
So, because we decided to go to Nagoya on a last-minute whim, we couldn’t buy tickets to Satsuki and Mei’s House beforehand. If you decide to go more than a day in advance, you can buy tickets from the kiosk at any Lawson store. If you are like us, and decide to go last-minute, you can get tickets at the park in the morning, on a first come, first served basis.
The park is quite large, but there are signs and maps showing you where to go. ♪歩こう～歩こう～私は元気～♪
Yay! Tickets! We were the only people waiting around before the house opened. We probably could have come later, but we were only in Nagoya for one day. “Hayai!” (“So early!”) exclaimed the lady at the counter when she saw us waiting. We were there for the first tour of the day. The tour is conducted entirely in Japanese, and you’ll get more out of it if you know at least some Japanese. But you don’t need to be able to speak or read Japanese to take the tour because most of it is self-guided. As our little group (about 10-12 people) made its way to the house, our friendly tour guide kept everyone entertained with Totoro trivia.
The bus stop from the movie! It was very fitting that it happened to be a rainy day.
Just like Satsuki.
Annnnnnnnd, it’s the HOUSE!
It’s so surreal to see this house in real life. It’s like a dream. A weird, weird dream.
You’ll remember this post if you’ve seen the movie.
We were only allowed to take photos outside, none inside the house. If you want to see more photos from inside the house, check out Martin Hsu’s page. (But it’s better if you go yourself!) This is the father’s study, with books everywhere, just like the movie.
There was a calendar on the wall, apparently drawn by Mei. It was May, so it’s Children’s Day themed. So cute!
A paint set. All of the items in the house were from the same time period as the movie. The movie takes place in 1958, but the house is supposed to be set just after the movie, when Satsuki and Mei’s mom has come from from the hospital.
On the desk.
It’s so strange how much it seems like someone actually lived here. Like the Kusakabes were real people.
The living room from the outside.
Another shot of the living room.
The hallway where you see Mei and Satsuki run around at the beginning of the movie.
Under the steps: a tea set.
The water pump.
It even pumps water.
THE BUCKET! How amazing is it that it even has the hole in the bottom?
The detail. It kills me.
The tour guide took this photo of us through the bucket.
IT’S JUST LIKE WHEN MEI LOOKS THROUGH THE BUCKET!
People examining the kitchen.
Under the house, there’s a trail of donguri (acorns) like the one Mei finds.
The entrance to the house.
In the genkan (entryway) there are shoes for every member of the family, including Mei’s red sandals.
Inside the house, you can go through all the closets and drawers and cupboards. They are all carefully filled with the family’s clothes and other possessions. There are Showa-era toys in the closet and the kitchen is stocked with cans of food from the time period. It is all very, very, very detailed and perfect and peculiar and wonderful. Even the bathroom was just like the movie, with the round tub with a wooden lid. (I didn’t find any makkuro kurosuke though. I think I’m too old to see them.)
At the end of the tour, you can walk over to this… I don’t even know what it’s called. An elevated platform that exists pretty much solely for you to get a good view of the house. It’s crazy but totally seems like a Miyazaki thing to build a platform just for this.
Is it worth the trek to Nagoya just to visit Satsuki and Mei’s house? YES. If you are a Totoro or Ghibli fan, you will love it, and it’s a uniquely Japanese experience. If you’re visiting Japan and you’re travelling between Tokyo and Osaka, the shinkansen stops in Nagoya on the way. Spend a day of your trip to visit the house and eat some misokatsu.