As a fan of the Ghibli movie “My Neighbor Totoro,” I made a hiking trip to Totoro’s Forest (Totoro no Mori) located at Sayama Hill, Tokorozawa, Saitama about 1 hour train ride away from Tokyo.
Here you have a chance to see real life scenes that were inspired by Oscar winning animated film maker Hayao Miyazaki. It is said that this movie is about the childhood of Hayao Miyazaki because his hometown is Tokorozawa! And he is one of 5 initial sponsors for Totoro no Furusato Foundation that works to protect the natural habitats of Sayama Hill.
Once you get the hill, there is lack of signs so you need to look around very carefully to find the route. Because Sayama is a rural place so you can see many small vegetable fields in front of each houses. Surroundings are quiet and peaceful, pedestrians are rare. We met some friendly farmers on the way and they showed us to the way to Totoro’s forest.
Let’s find Totoro shaped tree and it will lead you to the wood. If you love nature and countryside, Sayama is the ideal place for you!
On the way to the woods, we came across a picnic spot facing Sayama Lake. The lake is much more impressive than I expected. I guess it is extremely beautiful in the spring and autumn with colors of leaves. There are tables and chairs for you to relax there.
Going along the lake, we followed a slope leading to the destination. Thanks to Totoro no Furusato Foundation, the forest keeps its wild beauty as so many years ago that I saw in the movie. Here is the birthplace of Totoro, the mystical creature that protects the wood!
There is a shrine named Mikajima Inari that wasn’t shown on Google Map. Wandering in the forest would be a good idea to relax and understand more about the relationship between human and the environment. If you have time, find some traces of Totoro there!
Our next destination is Totoro’s Kurosuke House. It opens on Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday from 10am to 3pm only. This house was built over 100 years ago, totally by wood and has been registered as national cultural asset.
As we entered the gate, I realized that my shoes stepped on something, just looked down and I found many donguri (oak nuts) on the ground. Do you remember, donguri is the favorite thing of the two little girls in the movie, and it is the food of Totoro also?
The house keeps the traditional farm house architecture with old stone fireplace and paintings on the sliding paper door. Do you recall the name Makkuro Kurosuke or so-called Susuwatari that showed up in My Neighbor Totoro and Spirited Away? They are black soot that are believed to live in old house and only kids can see. And the adventure of the two little girls in My Neighbor Totoro starts from these Makkuro Kurosuke. There is a very huge Totoro and some little ones sitting right at the door to welcome you! Even though people call them as ghosts but I think they are so cute.
There is a table near the fireplace with a small Totoro and a notebook for children to draw whatever they like. You can write a letter to Totoro there. They also sell some Totoro shaped souvenirs there. Don’t forget to buy one Totoro, it will protect the forests in your country! As this foundation is established to protect the forest, so tourists and visitors can do charity to preserve the nature.
Say goodbye to Totoro, we left the Kurosuke house. There is a lovely tea house right in front of the main entrance of the house. We dropped in and had some tea there. Sayama tea is one of the most famous teas in Japan, tea gardens can be found in Sayma Hills. In comparison with other regions, Sayama tea has thick leaves so it has a very special taste. Just come here and enjoy!
Our guide will take you to Totoro’s Forest upon request.
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