The world’s first theme park dedicated to the beloved works of Studio Ghibli is finally open. It’s not a typical amusement park — there’s no roller coasters spraying water, no big-haired princesses waving from parade floats — but rather a muted ode to the legendary animation company. In comparison to the fanfare of the world’s biggest parks, like those run by Disney or Universal Studios, it may not seem like much of a grand event, but Ghibli Park signals a quiet departure for the 37-year-old studio.
Since 2001, Ghibli has run a museum in Tokyo’s Kichijoji neighborhood, adjacent to Inokashira Park. It’s easily accessible, but usually involves lines and requires a considerable hassle to get tickets. It’s also a relatively small space, with a strictly enforced no-photography policy. Staff are known to insist that visitors delete any surreptitiously taken photographs.
By contrast, the new Ghibli Park in Aichi Prefecture is an Instagrammer’s playground. In one of the three spaces that opened Tuesday, there’s a two-floor wing that lets people pose in various movie scenes, serving in essence as a sprawling photoshoot. Visitors can insert themselves into scenes from 13 Ghibli works, sitting on the “Spirited Away” train to Zeniba’s house, running across waves with Ponyo or standing under the head of a decapitated Forest Spirit from “Princess Mononoke.” It’s not difficult to imagine people traveling from all over Japan just for a selfie with No Face.