Visiting Ghibli Park & Ghibli’s Grand Warehouse

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A report straight from the newly-opened Ghibli Park Grand Warehouse. It’s a must-see for fans of Totoro, Spirited Away, or any other Studio Ghibli film!

Ghibli Park



From the moment the new Ghibli Park was announced back in 2019, all of us on the Japankuru team knew that we needed to see it, and the prospect of waiting all the way until 2022 for our very first glimpse seemed unbearable. Then the pandemic began, and things went a little haywire. But fortunately for all the Ghibli fans around the world, construction stayed pretty much on track, and a large chunk of the new Ghibli Park opened on schedule at the end of 2022. Soon, Japan's borders were wide open to travelers and Ghibli Park tickets became available for purchase all around the world – the time had finally come for the Japankuru team to go and take a look. With our eyes full of stars and our imaginations bursting with Totoro catbuses and friendly No-Faces, we headed to Aichi Prefecture to take a look.

Ghibli Park (ジブリパーク)
Expo 2005 Aichi Commemorative Park (Moricoro Park), Ibaragabasama-otsu 1533-1, Nagakute, Aichi
Official Website (jp)

Getting Ghibli Park Tickets (and Getting to the Park)



Unfortunately, getting tickets for the Ghibli Park can be a bit of a hurdle (just like the Ghibli Museum in Tokyo), with fierce competition and limited ticket availability. Tickets now become available approximately three months ahead of time, on the 10th of each month, but early entrance times and weekend dates sell out fast, along with certain areas. Ghibli Park has a unique setup, spread out in sections all around the Expo 2005 Aichi Commemorative Park, and although three areas are open now, two of them (the Hill of Youth and Dondoko Forest) are still only reserved for ticket purchasers in Japan – and they sell out fast, even on weekdays. By the time the Japankuru team got around to buying tickets, unfortunately only a month ahead of time, we could only get tickets to the third Ghibli Park area: the Grand Warehouse. As it turns out, that was more than enough to fill the day. Overseas ticket purchasers who only have access to the Grand Warehouse still get plenty to enjoy!

▷ Tickets reservations from within Japan.
▷ Tickets reservations from overseas.



When the day finally arrived and we made our way to Ghibli Park all the way from Tokyo, we were surprised at how easy it was to get to the park. It's just a couple easy train transfers!

① Tokyo Station to Nagoya Station via the shinkansen (bullet train)
② Nagoya Station to Fujigaoka Station via the Higashiyama subway line
③ Fujigaoka Station to Ai-Chikyuhaku-Kinen-Koen Station via the Linimo maglev train

Shinkansen going from Tokyo to Nagoya leave multiple times an hour every hour, and you can easily hop on many of them using the JR Pass, but if you're planning on heading over early in the morning we recommend reserving a seat in advance. Tokyo to Nagoya is a surprisingly common morning commute! Our timed entrance tickets for the Grand Warehouse allowed us in at 11:00, so we chose a train that arrived in Nagoya around 9:30. The least obvious part of the trip came next, since signs for the Higashiyama subway line at Nagoya Station are a little lacking, but with the help of a friendly station employee we found our way to the outside entrance. The final transfer to the Linimo line was extremely simple, with ample signage, and lots of other passengers making the same transfer. In the blink of an eye, we were exiting the station directly into the park, on our way to the "warehouse."

Entering Ghibli Park



Ghibli Park is just a portion of the Expo 2005 Aichi Commemorative Park, but because of the way its spread out, you already get a glimpse of Ghibli as soon as you arrive at the park gates. Like a steampunk dream, the Elevator Tower is a sure sign that this is no average park, with its fairytale architecture apparently inspired by the structures found in both Howl's Moving Castle and Castle in the Sky. The tower is technically a part of the Hill of Youth – the area closest to the entrance – but the elevators inside are used to take everyone down to the main park space below. From there, the Grand Warehouse is just a couple minutes' walk. Line up, get your ticket checked, pick up your Cinema Orion movie ticket on the way in, and you're ready to explore!

Minami-machi ・ Children’s Town ・ Cat Bus Room



The first "attraction" you see when you enter the Grand Warehouse is the Becoming Characters in Memorable Ghibli Scenes exhibition, but we decided to save that for later, and explore deeper into the warehouse first instead. First stop: Minami-machi, which is made up to look like a little alley like you might find in any Japanese town, except with its own retro Ghibli spin. The shops sell Ghibli books, modeling kits, and old-fashioned Japanese sweets, and the walls are hung with posters straight from a movie background. Stop by for a taste of Showa-era Japan (1926-1989) in the form of some classic snacks, and plenty of good photo spots.



Then turn into Children's Town and the Cat Bus Room, both of which are no-photo zones (and mostly for children). Kids get to climb on top of a cute patchwork catbus the size of a golf cart, and explore a little cityscape made to scale for their short statures. Adults aren't allowed into every part of this area, but it's worth taking a look no matter your age – we liked the cozy plush-covered Totoro enclave!

Garden in the Sky ・ The House Below ・ Director’s Room



Continuing on from one end of Children's Town, we slipped around the back corner and over to the Garden in the Sky, a small nook carved into the corner of the warehouse. Here, a three-dimensional mural takes the form of one of the iconic robots from Castle in the Sky, nestled into Laputa's vine-covered walls. We quickly lined up to take some pictures with our new robot friend!



A little further down the wall, we also ran into the Director's Room, which surprisingly had nothing at all to do with Ghibli's most famous film directors. Instead of Hayao Miyazaki or the late great Isao Takahata, this office belonged to Yubaba, and on the inside was a diorama from the scene where this bathhouse "director" agreed to take on Chihiro as bathhouse staff. We quickly snapped some pictures of the inside, with all the contract papers suspended in mid-air, before heading back past the robot and down the stairs into "The House Below."



Walking into Arietty's garden was a little like walking into wonderland, shrinking a few sizes too small as all the plants began to tower overhead. After climbing into some human-sized jars for some pictures and gazing up at dandelions twice the size of each of our heads, we took a peek at some of the Borrowers' rooms, including Arietty's own room, little pencil nubbins, giant thumbtacks and all!

It soon became clear that the Grand Warehouse was nothing if not a place for photos, making it notably different from the Ghibli Museum in Tokyo (where photography is off-limits in most of the facility).

Delicious! Animating Memorable Meals Exhibition ・Everything Ghibli! Exhibition



Our next stop was another no-photo zone, perhaps because the "Delicious! Animating Memorable Meals Exhibition" was originally displayed at the Tokyo Ghibli Museum. But it's new revived form would be worth a visit even if you had already seen the exhibit in Tokyo. The walls are plastered with concept sketches and original animation cells from some of the most iconic meals in all of Studio Ghibli's films, from the irresistible rice balls that Haku feeds Chihiro in Spirited Away, to the sweet and simple red bean and cake sandwiches nibbled on in The Wind Rises. (More on those later!) Plus, in addition to all that, the later rooms house a series of life-size three-dimensional replicas of kitchens and restaurants from the movies. You can't take pictures here, but if you've ever wondered how you might react if it were YOU facing the tempting street food feast for the gods that turned Chihiro's parents into pigs, this is the place to find out. (Although the smell isn't quite so tantalizing when the food is made of plastic.)



The second half of the exhibition area (the Everything Ghibli Exhibition) is photography-friendly, and it shows. After a few rooms filled with Ghibli movie posters and more from around the world, showing off the international appeal of these beloved movies, a series of new photo spots present themselves one after another: a giant (life-size?) catbus big enough for adults to sit inside and take pictures with, comfy Totoro and catbus armchairs, and even a "Totoro Bar" with the fluffy forest spirit himself standing behind the counter. If you still haven't taken some great pictures at Ghibli Park by this point, it's worth asking: what have you been doing?

Cinema Orion ・ Open Warehouse ・ Becoming Characters in Memorable Ghibli Scenes



The exhibition exit let us out just down the hall from the ultra-popular Becoming Characters in Memorable Ghibli Scenes exhibition, but the long line scared us off and we thought "maybe the line will get a little shorter later in the afternoon?" (We were, in fact, wrong.) Instead we went up the grand staircase, admiring the mosaics as we went, and walked right into the packed Cinema Orion just before the next film showing began. For better of for worse, the short films shown at Ghibli Park are the same ones you can catch at the Ghibli Museum in Tokyo. (Both theaters rotate through the catalog periodically, changing films about once a month.) This means there aren't currently any short films that can only be seen at Ghibli Park, but it also means that if there was a short film you wanted to see at the museum, you might be able to catch it here instead. During the Japankuru visit, the short film playing was Koro's Big Day Out (コロの大散歩), a heartwarming romp starring an animated puppy and real puppy voice actors! (Sadly for this Japankuru writer, it happened to be the same short film playing during a past visit to the Ghibli Museum.)



After a relaxing theater experience, we headed right back downstairs, took a loop through the Open Warehouse (an actual storage space for old Ghibli exhibition pieces) before – finally – lining up for our turn in the Becoming Characters in Memorable Ghibli Scenes exhibition. This series of rooms delivers exactly what the name promises: Ghibli film sets, straight from the animations, brought to life but missing key characters – that's where you come in. Pose in iconic scenes from Spirited Away, Ponyo, and Princess Mononoke, or take the place of characters in some of Ghibli's less wildly famous titles, like The Wind Rises or Ocean Waves (ever heard of that one?)! The Japankuru team particularly enjoyed pretending to be Pazu and catching Sheeta from the air, just like the movie poster for Castle in the Sky. And despite the long line to get in, this exhibition isn't too overcrowded inside, so you can take pictures at every single movie scene if you really want to!

Siberi❆An Milk Stand ・ Transcontinental Flight Café



With all the main attractions photographed till our fingers ached, we realized there was one rather important thing that we had forgotten to do all day at the Ghibli Park, being so deeply distracted by all the excitement in every direction. We had forgotten to eat lunch. And at this point, our stomachs were starting to protest. But we decided to keep going a little out of order, and go for dessert first, making a beeline to the park's little sweets shop inspired by The Wind Rises. Milk Stand Siberi❆An has a very limited menu, since it's main focus is "Siberia" cake sandwiches filled with red bean, which come filled with a choice of chunky or smooth red bean jam (anko/餡子). The obvious drink pairing is milk, served in retro Japanese milk bottles labeled with Ghibli Park's original cat princess logo, but you can opt for a juice box or tea instead. The sweet little cakes were the perfect pick-me-up after a day scrambling around and around the Grand Warehouse, although we wouldn't necessarily recommend waiting until you're starving to gobble the sandwiches down in seconds.



It was late afternoon by the time we got to the Transcontinental Flight Cafe – the main eatery in the Ghibli Park Grand Warehouse. With things winding down for the day, there were only one or two tables taken, but the large dining space with plentiful seating looked like it wouldn't be hard to find a place to eat even during more reasonable lunch hours. Unfortunately, some of the more unique options were already sold out (like their Nagoya-style miso katsu pizza!), but a selection of sandwiches were available all the way until last order (4:30 pm), so even latecomers had options to choose from. The food at the Transcontinental Flight Cafe isn't particularly cheap for the portion sizes, but it's not nearly as overpriced as many themepark meals can get, and more importantly, it was pretty good! The prosciutto ham and cheese or the BLT are great options for anyone looking for a simple, reliable sandwich, and the hummus sandwich actually has some of the best hummus we've had in Japan – great for vegetarians. Adventurous eaters looking for the kind of sandwich you won't find outside Japan might want to try the ketchup spaghetti (Napolitan) sandwich, which is literally a roll filled with sweet spaghetti.

Adventurous Flying Squadron Gift Shop ・ Rotunda Kazegaoka



The last stop for the Japankuru team before leaving Ghibli's Grand Warehouse was the Adventurous Flying Squadron Gift Shop, and you better believe we were excited to buy some souvenirs. The store is absolutely packed with Ghibli-themed items of all kinds, and also with quite a few other shoppers, so making your way through the crowds can be a little hectic, but it's worth the struggle. There are Ghibli Park t-shirts, accessories embroidered with little Ponyos, stuffed patchwork catbus toys of all sizes, high-end jewelry and porcelain themed after designs from Castle in the Sky or My Neighbor Totoro, cookies in beautifully decorated tins, plus endless stickers, enamel pins, postcards, and tons more. It's an overwhelming way to end a trip to the Ghibli Park Grand Warehouse, and it sure is hard to keep to a budget!



After finally making our way through the check-out line and out the Grand Warehouse exit for good, we actually stopped at one more destination on our way back to the train, called the Rotunda Kazegaoka. This Ghibli Park gift shop is right across from the station, and it's not inside of any of the roped off Ghibli Park areas, which means you can actually check it out without any entrance tickets. Inside, offerings include general Expo 2005 Aichi Commemorative Park merchandise and an interesting selection of imported snacks, alongside a selection of Ghibli products. Despite the smaller selection, the intriguing items at the Rotunda Kazegaoka really called out to the Japankuru team – we were totally taken by the simple embroidered t-shirts featuring flowers and little soot spirits, along with the line of Ghibli hats made to look like those worn by Ghibli characters. It was very hard to convince ourselves that we didn't really need to buy a straw hats on a rainy spring day, even if they did look like those worn by Sophie from Howl's Moving Castle and May from Totoro, but we did manage to tear ourselves away in the end, and we got back on the train, all the way to Tokyo.

Ghibli’s Grand Warehouse vs. the Ghibli Museum



left: Ghibli Museum / right: Ghibli Park

Both are magical spaces, filled with unique exhibitions on Studio Ghibli's animations, with theaters and catbuses and gift shops full of temptations, so what's the difference between Tokyo's Ghibli Museum and the Nagoya's Ghibli Park Grand Warehouse? Is it worth traveling all the way to central Japan to see Ghibli Park? It's a question worth asking, since the museum is conveniently located in a western Tokyo suburb, whereas the park is about three hours from Tokyo via shinkansen. But the answer is one you will have to come to yourself. There are a couple factors to consider:

① Size: The Ghibli Museum is one standalone building in a Tokyo park, which means it's just not that big. They do a great job of packing in lots to see at the cozy museum, and every space is lovingly curated, but the Grand Warehouse takes up half a former convention center, so there are a lot of different unique areas spread out in all directions. If going somewhere big and impactful is a priority, Ghibli Park is the winner, and that's not even mentioning the OTHER areas of the park that you can buy separate tickets for.

② Content: Ghibli Park is all about taking pictures, and the Ghibli Museum is about experiencing everything Studio Ghibli for yourself. The Grand Warehouse is full of amazing spots to insert yourself into your favorite scene and capture the memory on film, but photography is totally forbidden throughout most of the Ghibli Museum – instead, there are rooms focused on the fun of animation, recreations of real Studio Ghibli desks and offices, and rotating thematic exhibitions.

Do you want to go to a museum, or a theme park? That's probably the best way to decide which to see first!

The Perfect Ghibli Park Route & Some Thoughts for Next Time



If you glanced at the map for Ghibli's Grand Warehouse while following along with our adventures at Ghibli Park then you might have noticed, but we did not plan our route to be particularly efficient. Mostly, we went straight to whatever caught our eye next, and that meant crisscrossing the space over and over, taking different routes and seeing everything from a million different angles. Fortunately, it turns out that that's not a bad way to do things at Ghibli Park! There are a lot of strictly scheduled guides to Ghibli's Grand Warehouse, but if you're spending the whole day there (like many visitors are), we think following your heart and doing a little bit of wandering is a great option – it means you'll catch all the amazing detail that Studio Ghibli put into the spaces.

So once you get inside, where should you go first? Well, anywhere is probably fine, and just heading straight to the spot you want to see most is as valid a choice as any! The line for the Becoming Characters in Memorable Ghibli Scenes exhibition is fairly quick, but it gets longer throughout the day, so it's not a bad choice to head there as soon as you go in. If you want your choice of sandwiches and pizza toppings at the cafe, we'd definitely recommend going earlier rather than later. You can even go there for lunch as soon as you enter the park, and strategize where you want to go next! Just remember to bring a mobile battery to keep your phone charged as you snap the day away, and you'll have a great time enjoying this amazing Studio Ghibli destination!

For more info and updates from Japan, check Japankuru for new articles, and don't forget to follow us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook!

Details

NAME:Ghibli Park (ジブリパーク)

ACCESS:Ai-Chikyuhaku-Kinen-Koen Station

OFFICIAL WEBSITE:

https://ghibli-park.jp/

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    • Niki, in south-west Hokkaido, is about 30 minutes from Otaru. The small town is rich with natural resources, fresh water, and clean air, making it a thriving center for fruit farms. Cherries, tomatoes, and grapes are all cultivated in the area, and thanks to a growing local wine industry, it's quickly becoming a food and wine hotspot. Together with the neighboring town of Yoichi, it's a noted area for wine tourism.

    • Niseko is about two hours from New Chitose Airport, in the western part of Hokkaido. It's one of Japan's most noted winter resort areas, and a frequent destination for international visitors. That's all because of the super high-quality powder snow, which wins the hearts of beginners and experts alike, bringing them back for repeat visits. That's not all, though, it's also a great place to enjoy Hokkaido's culinary scene and some beautiful onsen (hot springs).

    • Otaru is in western Hokkaido, about 30 minutes from Sapporo Station. The city thrived around its busy harbor in the 19th and 20th centuries thanks to active trade and fishing, and the buildings remaining from that period are still popular attractions, centered around Otaru Canal. With its history as a center of fishing, it's no surprise that the area's fresh sushi is a must-try. Otaru has over 100 sushi shops, quite a few of which are lined up on Sushiya Dori (Sushi Street).

    • SAPPORO

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      Sapporo, in the south-western part of Hokkaido, is the prefecture's political and economic capital. The local New Chitose Airport see arrivals from major cities like Tokyo and Osaka, alongside international flights. Every February, the Sapporo Snow Festival is held in Odori Park―one of the biggest events in Hokkaido. It's also a hotspot for great food, known as a culinary treasure chest, and Sapporo is a destination for ramen, grilled mutton, soup curry, and of course Hokkaido's beloved seafood.

    • Consisting of six prefectures, the Tohoku Region (東北地方) is up in the northeastern part of Japan's main island. It's the source of plenty of the nation's agriculture (which means great food), and packed with beautiful scenery. Explore the region's stunning mountains, lakes, and hot springs!

    • Akita Prefecture is on the Sea of Japan, in the northern reaches of Japan's northern Tohoku region. Akita has more officially registered important intangible culture assets than anywhere else in Japan, and to this day visitors can experience traditional culture throughout the prefecture, from the Oga Peninsula's Namahage (registered with UNESCO as a part of Japan's intangible cultural heritage), to the Tohoku top 3 Kanto Festival. Mysterious little spots like the Oyu Stone Circle Site and Ryu no Atama (Dragon's Head) are also worth a visit!

    • FUKUSHIMA

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      Fukushima Prefecture sits at the southern tip of Japan's northern Tohoku region, and is divided into three parts with their own different charms: the Coastal Area (Hama-dori), the Central Area (Naka-dori), and the Aizu Area. There's Aizu-Wakamatsu with its Edo-era history and medieval castles, Oze National Park, Kitakata ramen, and Bandai Ski Resort (with its famous powder snow). Fukushima is a beautiful place to enjoy the vivid colors and sightseeing of Japan's beloved four seasons.

    • YAMAGATA

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      Yamagata Prefecture is up against the Sea of Japan, in the southern part of the Tohoku region, and it's especially popular in winter, when travelers soak in the onsen (hot springs) and ski down snowy slopes. International skiiers are especially fond of Zao Onsen Ski Resort and Gassan Ski Resort, and in recent years visitors have been drawn to the area to see the mystical sight of local frost-covered trees. Some destinations are popular regardless of the season, like Risshakuji Temple, AKA Yamadera, Ginzan Onsen's nostalgic old-fashioned streets, and Zao's Okama Lake, all great for taking pictures. Yamagata is also the place to try Yonezawa beef, one of the top 3 varieties of wagyu beef.

    • Japan's most densely populated area, the Kanto Region (関東地方) includes 7 prefectures: Gunma, Tochigi, Ibaraki, Saitama, Tokyo, Chiba, and Kanagawa, which means it also contains the Tokyo Metropolitan Area. In modern-day Japan, Kanto is the cultural, political, and economic heartland of the country, and each prefecture offers something a little different from its neighbors.

    • Gunma Prefecture is easily accessible from Tokyo, and in addition to the area's popular natural attractions like Oze Marshland and Fukiware Falls, Gunma also has a number of popular hot springs (Kusatsu, Ikaho, Minakami, Shima)―it's even called an Onsen Kingdom. The prefecture is popular with history buffs and train lovers, thanks to spots like world heritage site Tomioka Silk Mill, the historic Megane-bashi Bridge, and the Watarase Keikoku Sightseeing Railway.

    • TOCHIGI

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      Tochigi Prefecture's capital is Utsunomiya, known for famous gyoza, and just an hour from Tokyo. The prefecture is full of nature-related sightseeing opportunities year-round, from the blooming of spring flowers to color fall foliage. Tochigi also has plenty of extremely well-known sightseeing destinations, like World Heritage Site Nikko Toshogu Shrine, Lake Chuzenji, and Ashikaga Flower Park―famous for expansive wisteria trellises. In recent years the mountain resort town of Nasu has also become a popular excursion, thanks in part to the local imperial villa. Tochigi is a beautiful place to enjoy the world around you.

    • Tokyo (東京) is Japan's busy capital, and the most populous metropolitan area in the world. While the city as a whole is quite modern, crowded with skyscrapers and bustling crowds, Tokyo also holds onto its traditional side in places like the Imperial Palace and Asakusa neighborhood. It's one of the world's top cities when it comes to culture, the arts, fashion, games, high-tech industries, transportation, and more.

    • The Chubu Region (中部地方) is located right in the center of Japan's main island, and consists of 9 prefectures: Aichi, Fukui, Gifu, Ishikawa, Nagano, Niigata, Shizuoka, Toyama, and Yamanashi. It's primarily famous for its mountains, as the region contains both Mt. Fuji and the Japanese Alps. The ski resorts in Niigata and Nagano also draw visitors from around the world, making it a popular winter destination.

    • Nagano Prefecture's popularity starts with a wealth of historic treasures, like Matsumoto Castle, Zenkoji Temple, and Togakushi Shrine, but the highlight might just be the prefecture's natural vistas surrounded by the "Japanese Alps." Nagano's fruit is famous, and there are plenty of places to pick it fresh, and the area is full of hot springs, including Jigokudani Monkey Park―where monkeys take baths as well! Thanks to the construction of the Hokuriku shinkansen line, Nagano is easily reachable from the Tokyo area, adding it to plenty of travel itineraries. And after the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics, ski resorts like Hakuba and Shiga Kogen are known around the world.

    • Aichi Prefecture sits in the center of the Japanese islands, and its capital city, Nagoya, is a center of politics, commerce, and culture. While Aichi is home to major industry, and is even the birthplace of Toyota cars, it's proximity to the sea and the mountains means it's also a place with beautiful natural scenery, like Saku Island, Koijigahama Beach, Mt. Horaiji. Often used a stage for major battles in Japanese history, Sengoku era commanders like Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and Tokugawa Ieyasu left their own footprints on Aichi, and historic buildings like Nagoya Castle, Inuyama Castle, and those in Meiji Mura are still around to tell the tale.

    • NIIGATA

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      Niigata is a prefecture on Japan's main island of Honshu, situated right on the coast of the Sea of Japan, and abundant with the gifts of nature. It's known for popular ski resorts such as Echigo-Yuzawa, Japanese national parks, and natural hot spring baths, plus local products like fresh seafood, rice, and sake. Visitors often spend time in the prefectural capital, Niigata City, or venture across the water to Sado Island.

    • SHIZUOKA

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      Shizuoka Prefecture is sandwiched between eastern and western Japan, giving the prefecture easy access to both Tokyo and Osaka. Not only is it known for beautiful natural attractions, with everything from Mount Fuji to Suruga Bay, Lake Hamanako, and Sumata Pass―Shizuoka's Izu Peninsula is known as a go-to spot for hot springs lovers, with famous onsen like Atami, Ito, Shimoda, Shuzenji, and Dogashima. Shizuoka attracts all kinds of travelers thanks to historic connections with the Tokugawa clan, the Oigawa Railway, fresh eel cuisine, Hamamatsu gyoza, and famously high-quality green tea.

    • Kansai (関西) is a region that includes Mie, Nara, Wakayama, Kyoto, Osaka, Hyogo, and Shiga Prefectures. Kansai contained Japan's ancient capital for hundreds of years, and it's making a comeback as one of the most popular parts of Japan. Kyoto's temples and shrines, Osaka Castle, and the deer of Nara are all considered must-sees. Plus, the people of Kansai are especially friendly, making it a fun place to hang out.

    • Kyoto flourished as the capital of Japan between the years 794 and 1100, becoming a center for poilitics and culture, and to this day it's a great place for close encounters with Japanese history. The cobbled streets of Gion, the atmospheric road to Kiyomizudera Temple, Kinkakuji's golden walls and countless historic attractions, even Arashiyama's Togetsukyo Bridge―Kyoto is a place of many attractions. With new charms to experience throughout the seasons, travelers can't stop themselves from returning again and again.

    • Nara Prefecture's important history reaches back to 710, a time now called the Nara era, when it was once capital of Japan. Called "Heijo-kyo" during its time as a capital, it's said that nara was once the end of the silk road, leading it to flourish as a uniquely international region and produce important cultural properties of all kinds. To make the most of each season, travelers head to Nara Park, where the Nara deer who wander freely, or climb Mount Yoshino, a famous cherry blossom spot.

    • Osaka is known for friendly (and funny) people, but its history is nothing to laugh at, playing a major part in Toyotomi Hideyoshi's 16th century unification of Japan. Thanks to long years of economic activity, it's one of Japan's biggest cities, and Osaka's popular food culture earned it the nickname "The Kitchen of the Nation." To this day Osaka is the model of western Japan, and alongside historic structures like Osaka Castle, it also has major shopping malls like Umeda's Grand Front Osaka and Tennoji's Abeno Harukas. Osaka is a place to eat, eat, eat, with local specialties like takoyaki, okonomiyaki, and kushi-katsu, and for extra fun, it's home to Universal Studios Japan.

    • CHUGOKU

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      The Chugoku Region (中国地方) consists of five prefectures: Hiroshima, Okayama, Shimane, Tottori, and Yamaguchi. In Chugoku you’ll find the sand dunes of Tottori, and Hiroshima’s atomic bomb site, plus centers of ancient history like Grand Shrine of Izumo.

    • HIROSHIMA

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      Hiroshima Prefecture has everything, from world heritage sites to beautiful nature and delicious local cuisine, and it's either an hour and a half from Tokyo by plane, or four hours by train. Itsukushima Shrine on Miyajima Island and the Atomic Bomb Dome, two Hiroshima UNESCO sites, are famous around the world, but in Japan it's also famous for food. Seafood from the Seto Inland Sea, especially oysters, Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki, and Setouchi lemons are all popular, and the natural scenery alone is worth seeing.

    • SHIKOKU

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      On the other side of the Seto Inland Sea opposite Japan’s main island, Shikoku (四国) is a region made up of four prefectures: Ehime, Kagawa, Kochi, and Tokushima. The area is famous for its udon (in Kagawa), and the beautiful Dogo Onsen hot springs (in Ehime).

    • Kagawa Prefecture is on the northern part of the island of Shikoku, facing Japan's main island and the Seto Inland Sea. It's known for being the smallest prefecture in Japan, by area, but at the same time Kagawa is called the "Udon Prefecture" thanks to its famous sanuki udon. Aside from Kotohiragu Shrine and Ritsurin Garden, the prefecture's small islands are popular, and Kagawa is full of unique destinations, like Angel Road. They say that if you lay eyes on Zenigata Sunae, a huge Kagawa sand painting, you'll never have money troubles ever again.

    • Located in the most southwestern part of Japan, Kyushu (九州) is an island of 7 prefectures: Fukuoka, Saga, Nagasaki, Kumamoto, Oita, Miyazaki, and Kagoshima. The island's unique culture has been influenced by Chinese and Dutch trade, along with missionaries coming in through Nagasaki's port. Modern-day travelers love the lush natural scenery and fresh food, plus the natural hot springs found all throughout the area (thanks to volcanic activity)!

    • FUKUOKA

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      Fukuoka Prefecture has the highest population on the southern island of Kyushu, with two major cities: Fukuoka and Kitakyushu. Thanks to growing transportation networks, Fukuoka is more accessible than ever, and so are the many local attractions. On top of historical spots like Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine, travelers shouldn't miss Fukuoka's food scene, with motsu nabe (offal hotpot), mentaiko (spicy cod roe), and famous Hakata ramen―best eaten from a food stall in the Nakasu area of Hakata. Plus, it's full of all sorts of destinations for travelers, like trendy shopping centers, and the beautiful nature of Itoshima and Yanagawa.

    • KAGOSHIMA

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      Kagoshima Prefecture played a major role in Japan's modernization as a backdrop for famous historical figures like samurais Saigo Takamori and Okubo Toshimichi, who pushed Japan out of the Edo era and into the Meiji. Because of that, Sengan-en Garden is just one of many historical destinations, and when it comes to attractions Kagoshima has plenty: the active volcano of Sakurajima, popular hot springs Ibusuki Onsen and Kirishima Onsen, World Heritage Site Yakushima Island, even what Japan calls the "island closest to heaven," Amami Oshima. Kagoshima might be found on the very southernmost tip of the southern island of Kyushu, but there's plenty to see.

    • OKINAWA

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      The island chain of Okinawa (沖縄) makes up the southernmost tip of Japan, which is why it's also the most tropical area in the country. Thanks to a history of independence and totally distinct political and cultural events, Okinawa has a unique culture, and remnants of the Ryukyu Kingdom are still visible all over the islands. Food, language, traditional dress, it's all a little different! It's also said to be the birthplace of karate.

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