Every Ghibli fans' dream come true, the house that Satsuki and Mei lived in, as seen in the popular animation film "My Neighbour Totoro", can be visited in real life! The house is completely true to the one in the animation, down to every last detail including the water bucket with a hole at the bottom! If you have ever watched Totoro, you will definitely want to visit this house.
First of all, entrance to Satsuki and Mei's house does require tickets. These cannot be purchased on the day, but need to booked in advance. The easiest way is to get someone you know in Japan to go to Lawson (convenience store), and use the Roppi machine to get you a ticket. If you don't have that option available, you can still try go to Lawson once you are in Japan, and try and book a ticket yourself using Roppi. The tickets cost ¥510 for a half hour tour of the house. Other options of purchasing the tickets can be found here.
Satsuki and Mei's house is most easily accessed from the city of Nagoya. It is located in Moricoro Park, or Aichi Expo Park, where the 2005 World Expo was held. From Nagoya Station, you take the Higashiyama Line to Fujigaoka Station. Once you reach Fujigaoka, you take the Linimo (a magnetic levitation train that was introduced at the world expo in 2005) to Ai Chikyū-Haku Rinen Kōen Station. The whole journey takes about an hour from Nagoya Station. Within the park, you can either take the free shuttle bus, or you can rent a bicycle for ¥100. If you want to rent a bicycle, follow the green signs saying レンタルサイクル (rental cycle), and you will find a bicycle rental shop. More details on that can be found here. It is an easy 15 minute cycle from the entrance of the park to Satsuki and Mei's house. There is a little parking lot for you to park you bicycle, and then you walk up to a viewing platform where you can see the house from far away! Going in autumn was a huge bonus because the house was nestled among beautiful autumn leaves, really giving it a magical feeling. You will feel just like you've stepped into the world of Totoro.
The ticket comes with a designated time, so make sure you arrive on time for the briefing. Once you go down from the elevation platform, follow the path towards the sign saying reception (受付) - make sure you don't stop at the brown gate outside the house! Turn left at the brown gate and keep going down that path, and you will see the reception. Hand them your ticket purchased from Lawson, and they will give you a little information pamphlet and entry permit. The briefing is all in Japanese, but basically the most important thing is that you are allowed to take photos of the house, but only from the outside. No photography is allowed inside the house. The staff will remind you about this if they catch you taking photos inside! The staff will also keep reminding you how much time you have left on the tour. The tour is basically half an hour of free exploring by yourself, and you are allowed inside the house and all the rooms. You are allowed and encouraged to open drawers to find things from the movie. Make sure to spot the details from the film, as the house is recreated with a huge attention to the little details, including the hand drawn calendar that Mei did.
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I love Japan for its people, culture, food, scenery, and overall ambiance and never-ending list of things to explore and enjoy. I lived in Kyoto for one year as an exchange student, and was able to travel around various parts of Japan during that exchange time. Now I'm back in Auckland, NZ, but am aiming to be back in Japan soon in the future for travel or work!