For all the Ghibli fans who wish they could visit the places of their favorite films for real, this is for you. I have put together an itinerary for visiting two of their films’ real life locales, ‘Whisper of the Heart’ and ‘From Up on Poppy Hill’. Both are easy to reach thanks to Tokyo’s extensive transportation network. This will take you to some of these films’ most iconic sights, and makes for a fun afternoon/evening to tie into your visit to the famous Ghibli Museum in Mitaka. I have done extensive research into the various trains one must take to reach each destination, and mapped out the destinations and the best of each place to visit based on time and reviews by those who have made similar trips.
To begin, head to either Tokyo or Shinjuku Station and get on the JR Chuo Line heading west. Tickets can be acquired at ticket counters or machines near the platform gates, which have an English option that eliminates the language barrier. I highly recommend picking up one of several IC cards rather than buying individual tickets. These can be acquired at stations at either a machine or ticket counter, and one can add money to it at a machine using the onscreen instructions. IC cards streamline getting on and off transit and can save precious time.
It’s a 46-minute train ride from Shinjuku to Hachiōji Station. If you’re visiting the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka, get off the JR Chuo Line at either Kichijoji or Mitaka Station, take the South Exit and follow the signs to the museum. Buses do travel from both stations to the museum, and the Ghibli Museum even offers its own bus service between the museum and Mitaka Station, but the walk only takes about 15 minutes from either station and isn’t grueling. Getting off at Kichijoji Station also allows you to detour through Inokashira Park on your way to or from the museum. The Ghibli Museum is full of Studio Ghibli-themed exhibits and memorabilia, as well as a café serving Ghibli-themed dishes, and is absolutely worth the visit for any Ghibli or anime fan. Because it’s so popular, reservations are required so be sure to get your tickets well in advance. Visit the Ghibli Museum website for more information.
Once you arrive at Hachiōji Station, take the North Exit and walk a short distance to nearby Keiō-hachiōji Station and hop on the Keio Line to Seiseki-Sakuragaoka Station. A fun trick is to open your music app, put on headphones, and start playing “Country Roads” by Olivia Newton-John once the train leaves Mogusaen Station. It’s a two minute ride from here, and the song will help immerse you in where you’re headed. Seiseki-Sakuragaoka, though not the actual name, is the one largely used by anime fans for the location of ‘Whisper of the Heart’. “Country Roads” is the opening song of the movie, and listening to it helps build the excitement. Another way to enhance the experience is to listen to the film’s soundtrack while exploring.
You’ll recognize the area around the station from various scenes in the movie, such as the large Keio sign. Located just outside is a model of the antique shop and a map showing some of the film’s most famous locations. From here head straight along Sakura Dori, crossing the Okuri River and up the winding Irohazaka Dori to the first of the most recognizable sites in the film, the stairs. Walk up these then make a left to get to the next site, Konpira Gu, the shrine that Shizuku visits. Continue up Irohazaka Dori to the traffic circle and follow it clockwise to the location of the antique shop Shizuku and Seiji spend time at. Sadly the shop doesn’t exist in real life, but it can still be fun to imagine it there. Across the way is a small café that’s worth the stop for a break and cup of tea after all the walking.
Once done here, make your way back to Seiseki-Sakuragaoka station, heading down the stairs just like Shizuku. If you want a small detour, after walking down the first set of stairs and crossing the road, turn left up the path to another set of stairs. This is where the library is in the film, though it, like the antique shop, sadly doesn’t exist in real life. Head up these then turn right and follow the road around the corner, taking the next right to reach a nice view of the cityscape stretching out before you. Retrace your steps to Irohazaka Dori and back to the station. Be sure to listen closely to the station jingle before getting on the train (it’s the intro to Country Roads!).
To reach the next film’s location, you have to head to Yokohama. Continue east on the Keio Line two stops to Bubaigawara Station and transfer to the JR Nambu Line to reach Musashi-Kosugi Station, from where you’ll get on the Tōkyū Tōyoko Line to Motomachi-Chūkagai Station. Once it reaches Yokohama Station, stay on it as it’ll continue on as a local train to Motomachi on the MinatoMirai Line. The total trip should take between 70 and 80 minutes.
Follow the signs for Yamashita Park, and once outside walk to the second street, Mizumachi-dori. Turn right and follow it to the pedestrian bridge. Cross the bridge then follow the series of paths up the hill to Harbor View Park. The observation deck provides a great vantage point for the sunset and is where you’ll find the famous signal flags from ‘From Up on Poppy Hill’. After sunset, follow Yamate Hondori to Daikanzaka Slope, and follow it down the same path Shun and Umi take on his bike down to Yokohama Motomachi Shopping Street. Near the bottom is a butcher shop called Maruei Shōten, where you can get the same fried snack Shun and Umi share.
Yokohama Motomachi is lined with shops and cafes that are fun to walk past as the last light of day fades. This area is also the setting for one of Studio Ghibli’s other films, ‘The Cat Returns’. Start back over the pedestrian bridge and turn right to continue on the connecting bridge to Yamashita Park. Follow the paths to the waterfront, then enjoy a casual nighttime stroll along the harbor where Shun and Umi walked. Just like with ‘Whisper of the Heart’, listening to the film’s soundtrack will greatly enhance the experience. That said, I would recommend listening to Aoi Teshima’s album from the film over the official soundtrack, but that’s up to you. I feel her version of the songs exhibit more emotion than the soundtrack’s versions do.
Walk along the Yamashita Rinko Line Promenade, turn left at the second crosswalk and follow the path through the park. Cross the street to reach the opposite corner and the train track. Follow it across the Kishamichi Promenade to Minato Mirai-Ōdori, cross the road and walk straight to Sakuragichō Station. Ride the JR Keihin-Tōhoku/Negishi Line all the way to Tokyo Station, or get off at Yokohama and return on the JR Shonan-Shinjuku Line to Shinjuku Station. This completes your Ghibli day adventure. Hope you had fun and got some great pictures!