Monday, February 18, 2013

Studio Ghibli's Satsuki and Mei's House from Totoro in Real Life!

A very special visit...

Among all the amazing animated movies Studio Ghibli has produced, Totoro continues to be my personal favorite for a few reasons. Aside from the mastery in design, animation, and story telling led by Miyazaki-sensei, My Neighbor Totoro brings me back to my own childhood every time I watch it.

Walking into Satsuki and Mei's house felt like walking into a dream in real life. Due to countless times of Totoro screenings, the house seemed extremely familiar as if I've been there before. Walking through it brought back favorite moments and chattering between the characters. Opening up their cabinets and unfolding their clothes felt slightly intrusive, but incredibly surreal. I was more than convinced that people lived there.

The house itself was absolutely mind-blowing and felt incredibly genuine. It's the antithesis of Barbie's Dream House. In this house, the residents lived a simple and joyful life surrounded by nature. 

I'm so happy my buddy Miz introduced me to this magical place. Below I've composed a virtual tour of my visit with a very special Totoro giveaway at the end. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Satsuki & Mei's House

Location: 2005 Aichi Commemorative park, Nagakute, Japan

Address: Ibaragamasama, Kumabari, Nagakute, Aichi Prefecture 480-1101, Japan

It was rainy and chilly on the day of our visit to Satsuki and Mei's House. I didn't mind it at all, in fact, I thought this must've been what it felt like for them during winter time!

Before the tour began, all visitors for each of the 45-minute long tour gathered at the waiting station next to the ticket booth.

I was especially excited being able to share this experience with a group of moms and their kids. Including this super cute baby!

 And just for the record, yes, I went on the tour twice in a roll :P

When it came time, we were greeted by adorable tour guide ladies who led us up to the house while explaining the history and building of Satsuki and Mei's House.

After about a 5 minute walk up the hill...

We entered a dream where Totoro lived...

There it was, Satsuki and Mei's House in real life!

As you may be able to see, this was no prop, it's a real house from the ground up. In typical Ghibli fashion, every single corner of the house has been attended to with precision, authenticity, and lots of heart.

The house was designed by Goro Miyazaki and built by a team of skilled craftsmen who specialized in their own trade. More info and pictures of building the house are found in the book "How to make Satsuki and Mei's House" 

The house is set in time of 1 year after the movie was made. By this point, mom has moved back and the family lives happily under the same roof. Hurray!

I might've been channeling Satsuki as I stepped on the property, but the first thing I noticed was the rotten pillar. Visions of Satsuki and Mei running around the unstable pillar and excited about an old haunted house made me smile.

The second I stepped inside, I felt like I've entered a real house. Perhaps visiting a distant relative or an old friend.
No pictures allowed inside, but all game from outside in.

Visitors are allowed to touch everything inside the house. This includes opening up all drawers, boxes, lids, doors, windows, hidden doors, clothes, shoes… you get the idea.

Look what I found after I opened the shoe rack? Mei's adorable slippers!

As you enter, to the left leads to the astonishing room of Dad's study. Completely covered with research papers, encyclopedia, and books.

It's a little messy as if someone has been using it intensively. The window frames on the outside of the room are aged appropriately.

Walls on the inside are not only covered with maps, but an amazing drawing by Mei chan as any father would proudly display.

The interior of the house is absolutely gorgeous.  Every single piece of furniture was vintage from the same era as the story. And yes, I wanted to move in badly :)

The right wing of the house is composed of the living room, bedroom, kitchen, and bathroom.

It's more spacious than you think with lots of room for sleep overs and movie screenings… Ghibli movies, of course.

It was especially appropriate to see the little kids on the tour running around exploring the house.

One felt so at home that he jumped on the table with excitement ( the table Satsuki and Mei dumped out the acorns that Totoro gave them), mom freaked out with embarrassment and chased the kid down after apologizing to the tour guide lady profusely. But. I'm pretty sure Miyazaki-sensei would've loved that.

There lied magic behind every sliding door,inside every cabinet, and desk drawer.

Blankets, pillows, mom's pearls and kimono, dad's suits and ties, Satsuki and Mei's seasonal clothes, underwears, pjs, hair bands, and bracelets stalled neatly in them.

My favorite was Satsuki's little desk which sits quietly and neatly in a corner of the living room. On top you'll find school books on Math and Science, basic stationary, and Kokeshi doll.

Inside the desk drawers, there were little boxes tucked away filled with Mei's chalk, Satsuki's used pencils, erasers, and found objects.

With Incredible character authenticity, we found Mei and Satsuki's name stamps stored in an old cookie box. The stamps were carved with their actual names.

I couldn't resist, but leave a note to say hi :)

Through the living room and bedroom you end up in yet another unbelieably authentic room, the kitchen.

The kitchen is everything you'd imagine. A working wood burning stove and a beautifully tiled sink defined the place where Satsuki would occasionally make breakfast for the entire family.

It's also conveniently located right next to the bathtub. I couldn't get a picture of it, but a page from the book tells it all-

And in case you were wondering… yes, I did find the attic :)

The house is fully functional. It's so real that i felt like a thief going through their stuff, wonder whether that was a joke Goro Miyazaki played on us?

As we made our way out to explore the outside of the house, we were once again blown away by the amount of craftsmanship. From the wooden railing and tile roof to the sliding doors and vintage glass, every bit of it made me believe someone lived here. 

Around back we found the water pump for family hot baths and a very special metal bucket.

No sight of half transparent forest creatures, but check out what I found underneath the house!

I hope by the time I return next, one of these acorns will grow to be a massive kusunoki tree where little kids get to take naps on the tummy of a giant forest spirit.

Good time flies fast, after taking the 45-minute-long tour twice in a roll, it was time to return to reality.

As with my  Ghibli Museum visit , I was tremendously moved by the heart and soul which were poured into this little house.

Cutest moment on the tour was probably when a little girl asked, "Totoro wa?" (Where's Totoro?). I'd like to believe this was exactly the kind of magical moment that would've made Miyazaki-sensei smile with joy and all the hard work of bringing a dream house into reality would've been worth it.

The small family might not have had much in a materialistic world, but they had an insurmountable amount of wealth in joy and happiness.

Thank you, Miyazaki-sensei, Goro Miyazaki, and the tremendous crew that brought this dream into reality for fans like myself. I'm grateful and inspired by the effort and hope to keep such dedication and persistence in mind.

Now off to wait for my bus home…

And to complete the Studio Ghibli experience in Nagoya… Totoro shopping!

There's no Ghibli Gift Shop at Satsuski and Mei's House on site, but I did find these 2 great stores for your Nagoya Totoro shopping needs:

1. Messe, Totoro and Ghibli Goods

Location: Takashimaya Main Station, Esca B1

A very well stocked store filled with hard to find Ghibli memorabilia I haven't seen before. I give it 5 Totoro stars!

2. Donguri Kyowakoku ( Republic of Acorns)

Location: Sakae Koen Store, Nagoya

Adress: Higashi-Sakura 1-11-1, Oasis 21 B1 Floor, Higashi-ku, Nagoya-shi, Aichi 461-0005

Tel: 81-52-957-7011

Sharing the same space as the NHK store with Domo-kun goods, the Donguri store had lots of the same stuff as Messe just not as much. But they did have a bucket of amazing Ghibli finger puppets from every Ghibli movie which I couldn't resist!


Would you like to win these mysterious finger puppets + special Satsuki and Mei's house memorabilia? Including stamped entry tickets and pamphlets!? I know I would!

Sign up on Martin Hsu Newsletter today to enter! Giveaway rules will be included in the next Newsletter! Good luck everyone!

Lastly, a very special thanks to my buddies Mike and Miz for showing me Nagoya, Osaka, and Kyoto! Here's a little present I made them towards the end of my trip!

Without them I wouldn't have been able to visit Satsuki and Mei's house and the Ghibli stores! It's good to have good friends!!! Thanks guys!

And thank you for reading! Hopefully this post has been helpful to all the Ghibli fans out there. Book your ticket to Satsuki and Mei's House today!

Miyazaki Club for life!