As a devoted fan of the animated film “My Neighbor Totoro” by Studio Ghibli, I embarked on a journey to discover the Totoro Forest (Totoro no mori) on the Sayama Hills in Tokorozawa, Saitama, just an hour away from Tokyo by train. This is where you can witness the scenes from the movie, beautifully recreated by the Oscar-winning filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki. They say that the film depicts Miyazaki’s childhood, as Tokorozawa happens to be his hometown! He is also one of the five benefactors of the Totoro Furusato Foundation, which aims to protect the Sayama Hills ecosystem.
- Exploring the Sayama Hills:
As we ascended the hills, there weren’t many signs to guide us, so we had to pay close attention to our surroundings. Since Sayama is a rural area, we encountered small vegetable gardens in front of every house. The atmosphere was serene, and we rarely encountered people along the way. However, we met friendly farmers who kindly directed us to the Totoro Forest.
While on the way to the forest, we passed by a recreational area that offered a picturesque view of Lake Sayama. The sight of the lake left a lasting impression on me, surpassing my expectations. I can only imagine how beautiful it must be during spring and autumn, adorned with golden leaves. The area provided tables and chairs, allowing visitors to relax and enjoy the surroundings.
- Entering the Totoro Forest:
Thanks to the Totoro Furusato Foundation, the forest has preserved its pristine beauty, just as depicted in the film. This is the birthplace of Totoro, the guardian spirit of the forest! Inside the forest, you’ll find a temple called Mikajima Inari, which isn’t listed on Google Maps. Taking a leisurely stroll through the woods is a great way to relax and learn more about the relationship between humans and the environment. If you have the time, follow some of Totoro’s footprints!
Next on our journey was the Totoro Kurosuke House, open on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays from 10 AM to 3 PM. This house, primarily made of wood and recognized as a national cultural asset, was built over 100 years ago. As I entered the gate, I felt something under my shoe. Looking down, I saw numerous acorns (donguri) scattered on the ground. Do you remember? Donguri is what the two girls in the film love, and it’s also Totoro’s food!
The house retains the traditional architectural style of a rural home, with a rustic stone kitchen and ornate sliding doors. Remember Makkuro Kurosuke or Susuwatari, the little black soot sprites that appeared in “My Neighbor Totoro” and “Spirited Away”? They are the creatures that people say live only in old houses and can only be seen by children. The adventure of the two girls in “My Neighbor Totoro” also began with these Makkuro Kurosuke. Inside the house, there’s a large Totoro and some small Totoros at its feet, welcoming you at the front door! Despite being referred to as “ghosts,” I found them incredibly adorable.
Near the kitchen, there’s a small table with a miniature Totoro and a notebook for children to draw whatever they like. You can even write a letter to Totoro here. The house also sells Totoro-themed souvenirs. Don’t forget to buy a Totoro; it will protect the forests in your hometown! Since this foundation was established to protect the forest, tourists and visitors can contribute to conservation efforts.
- Farewell to Totoro:
We bid farewell to the Kurosuke House, and right in front of the main gate, there’s a charming tea house. We decided to stop by and enjoy some tea. Sayama green tea is renowned in Japan, as it is grown in the tea fields on the Sayama Hills. The leaves of Sayama tea are thicker compared to other regions, giving it a distinctive flavor. Don’t miss the opportunity to savor it!
Exploring the Totoro Forest was a magical experience that allowed me to step into the world of “My Neighbor Totoro” and appreciate the beauty of nature. From the serene Sayama Hills to the enchanting Kurosuke House, every moment was filled with wonder and nostalgia. Whether you’re a fan of the film or simply love nature, a visit to this magical place will leave you with cherished memories. So, what are you waiting for? Come and embark on your own adventure to the world of Totoro! If you’re a fan of Totoro and want to bring a piece of the enchanting world into your life, look no further! Follow our website https://totoromerch.com/shop/ to explore a wide range of Totoro merchandise and immerse yourself in the magic. From cozy apparel to adorable collectibles, we have something to delight every Totoro enthusiast. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to own a piece of Totoro and showcase your love for this beloved character.
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