An Anime House You Can Visit: My Neighbor Totoro
My Neighbor Totoro is a renowned classic of Japanese anime that beautifully portrays the idyllic Japanese countryside around the mid-1950s to mid-1960s. The story recounts how primary school-age sisters Satsuki and Mei encounter a mysterious woodland spirit called Totoro in the local forest. Only visible to children, Totoro captivates them as he makes trees grow to massive sizes in an instant and flies freely skyward riding on a spinning top. He also helps to search for Mei when she gets lost.
My Neighbor Totoro continues to be a hit around the world, with the beautifully crafted work, which does not rely on computer graphics, a villain or violence, and its endearing cast of characters in a fantastic world portrayed in a way that continues to leave audiences smiling.
A replica of the house in the anime Totoro. The replica does more than recreate the exterior, faithfully including the same furniture and articles that appeared in the anime with all items authentic and collected from around Japan.（©Nibariki）
The study of Satsuki and Mei’s father is cluttered with books.（©Nibariki）
A replica of the house in which Satsuki and Mei live with their father in the film has been recreated in Nagakute City in Aichi Prefecture and can be found in the Expo 2005 Aichi Commemorative Park. On holidays, this house, which is designed in minute detail to resemble the house in the movie, comes alive with the joyful voices of children at play in a house they have seen only on film. Step inside the entrance and to the right is the book-cluttered study of the girls’ father, an archeologist. In the front room is the desk where Satsuki studied, a nostalgic prop that primary school students used nearly half a century ago and complete with actual reference books. Visitors are given the run of the place, and free to open the dresser in the girls’ house just as if they had come to visit the house of a friend.
The desk Satsuki used for studying.（©Nibariki）
Dresser drawers filled with family clothing.（©Nibariki）
Everything in the house, from the desk to the books and clothing, were sourced from around Japan and are from when the film is set. The house is truly a testament to the reputation Japanese have for detail.
Exploring Japanese Manga: From Daily Heroes to Professional Stars
The cover of the football manga Captain Tsubasa that influenced football greats Zinedine Zidane and Lionel Messi.（Courtesy of Yoichi Takahashi and Shueisha Inc.）
Japanese manga of course include epic stories about heroes but there is also a wealth of Japanese anime that portray daily life and the challenges youth experience at school, and these are increasingly popular overseas. In particular, sports manga stories such as "Captain Tsubasa" (also known as Flash Kicker), "Ganbare, Kickers!" and "Inazuma Eleven," all about football, have been enthusiastically embraced overseas. Captain Tsubasa follows the struggles and exploits of elementary school student Tsubasa Ozora on the road to becoming a professional football player. This story used football to communicate to many young readers the power of never giving up, inspiring a generation of readers with dreams and hopes, including the likes of FIFA World Cup participants, not only Japanese players but also football legends Zinedine Zidane and Lionel Messi.
The Kyoto International Manga Museum is housed in what was formerly an elementary school. Visitors can enjoy reading comics on the lawn outside.
Being the anime superpower that it is, you might not be surprised to learn that there are entities dedicated to the study of manga in Japan. One preeminent such place is the Kyoto International Manga Museum, located in the nation’s ancient capital of Kyoto. This museum houses approximately 300,000 comic magazines and materials from Japan and overseas. It attracts not only young people from around Japan, but is also a magnet for tourists from abroad who travel to the city, one of Japan’s most popular tourist spots.
At the museum, visitors will find the 200-meter-long "Wall of Manga" packed with nearly 50,000 manga.
Perhaps most visually stunning is the "Wall of Manga" with total length of 200 meters that groans underneath the collective weight of nearly 50,000 comics lined up by author. Visitors can take in hand any comic of their choice and read it in the halls, on the terrace or, on sunny days, lounging on the grassy grounds of the museum, which used to be an elementary school. On weekends and holidays, professional manga artists are on hand to demonstrate how they create manga as young visitors watch riveted while the artists work from a rough draft to a final product.
Today, Japanese anime and manga are much loved by children the world over. In Japan, these characters are increasingly finding their ways off comic book pages and TV screens, appearing at theme parks and other locations where children can enjoy them in the flesh. In this way, the nation that brought the world anime and manga continues to devise new ways for fans to enjoy these stories and their characters.