If you are a fan of Studio Ghibli, you need to plan a trip down to Moricoro Park in Aichi Prefecture right now. From now until 8 November 2015, there will be two one-of-a-kind exhibitions held in Expo 2005 as part of the 32nd National Urban Greenery Fair. These, combined with the permanent life-size replica of Satsuki and Mei’s house as seen in My Neighbour Totoro, makes it three fantastic reasons to visit this park, if you are a fan of the animation studio.
The first exhibit is exclusively on the movie When Marnie Was There, produced by Studio Ghibli in 2014. You can buy tickets here for ¥1,000, which will also admit you into the other exhibition on the history of the studio. There is also a gift shop selling general Studio Ghibli merchandise. The exhibition features the art work and behind the scenes planning of the sets and characters for the movie. It features many early sketches and paintings as well as immersive life-size 3D sets, which recreate scenes from the movie. Unfortunately, all explanations and the audio tour are in Japanese, but it is still very fascinating to see how the movie was designed and developed, without being able to read Japanese.
The next exhibition is an overview of Studio Ghibli’s achievements and milestones over 30 years of history, starting from Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind in 1984, to When Marnie Was There. This will even be a trip down memory lane for long-time fans, as they showcase movie posters ever produced over 30 years in chronological order. There is also a room full of merchandise from over the years, and a screen showing Japanese advertisements that have involved or alluded to Studio Ghibli’s creations. Along a similar vein to the other exhibit, they have a room dedicated to the production process, showing how certain scenes went from storyboard to the final product, using examples from Princess Mononoke, one of the studio’s biggest commercial successes. You will also get to read notes and letters written between the animators and producers, as well as see photos of the staff at Studio Ghibli hanging out together, celebrating or giving press conferences. This gives a rare insight into the experience of working in the studio. Finally, if you are visiting with a child elementary school level and below, they can climb into the furry cat bus from My Neighbour Totoro while you watch In envy.
To complete your trip, you can visit Satsuki and Mei’s house located at the corner of the park. It’s advisable to book ahead, as it was sold out when I reached there. A guide will give you a tour of the house, and you are allowed to explore and touch everything inside.
Unfortunately, the two temporary exhibitions strictly do not allow photography. Also, you will miss out somewhat if you can’t read and understand Japanese. Nevertheless, it is an amazing and immersive experience that is worth the trip.
You can get here by taking the Linimo line to Ai-Chikyuhaku-Kinen-Koen Station from Fujigaoka Station. A separate ticket needs to be bought for this transfer. The staff will direct you to buy a special ¥700 ticket, with an exclusive When Marnie Was There design, for the round trip to Moricoro Park. From the station, it is a short walk along a link way directly into the park. As the Greenery Fair is also ongoing, you can also take the chance to explore the numerous gardens and small exhibitions, most of which are free to enter.