A hidden secret off the tourist trail is now attracting attention around the country… And I think someplace to take the kids in the future.
Diehard fans of Studio Ghibli’s classic 1988 animated feature film My Neighbour Totoro might know that the titular character was actually born in the real-world setting of Sayama Hills in Saitama Prefecture.
Sayama Hills is where Ghibli director Hayao Miyazaki first came up with the idea for the giant, furry, magical, forest-dwelling character, and today it’s home to Totoro’s Forest and the Totoro no Furusato (The Homeland of Totoro) Foundation.
However, it looks like Totoro has grown up and left its mythical birthplace, taking up residence in another forest much further away. Because Totoro has now been discovered in Aomori Prefecture.
The news of the mysterious forest inhabitant recently came to everyone’s attention through a tweet from @marugotoaomori, Aomori’s official sightseeing planning department.
The tweet was sent out on the same day that My Neighbour Totoro was being re-broadcast on Japanese television, and it immediately got everyone in the mood to watch the movie again. It also got them in the mood to visit Aomori to track down the unusual formation for themselves.
As you can see from the photos, nature has placed itself perfectly to create Totoro’s distinctive silhouette, capturing the creature’s rotund belly, gently sloping back, and pointy ears in exquisite detail. The surrounding greenery also helps to create a sense of movement, making it look as if the magical being was caught mid-stride, shifting through the shadows.
While the news of Totoro in Aomori spread on Twitter recently, @marugotoaomori first tweeted about it back in 2019. At that time, the Asahi Shimbun even picked up on the story, publishing a short article about how much the shape of the rock formations resembled the Ghibli character.
▼ Is that you, Mei?? A farmer walking through the opening makes for an even more enchanting photo.
This unusual Totoro is located in Rokkasho, a rural coastal village with roughly 10,200 residents, many of whom work in commercial fishing and agriculture.
Tomari, Rokkasho, 上北郡 Aomori 039-4301, Japan
The area is way off the well-beaten tourist path, but @marugotoaomori’s tweet now has Ghibli fans wanting to make a trip to the area.
People have been heaping love on Aomori’s hidden Totoro, leaving comments like:
“OMG I need to find this next time I’m in Aomori!”
“This is amazing!!”
“Wow – I had no idea such a thing existed!”
“I’m from Aomori and I never knew about this!”
“I went looking for this last year! It was quite difficult to find — there’s a little waterfall just beyond it.”
It’s true there’s not a lot of information regarding Totoro’s exact location in Rokkasho, other than the fact that it’s at a place called Tomariyakeyama, but that makes the search even more of an adventure. That way, if you do get to stumble upon the creature in the forest, it’ll be just like Mei’s first encounter with Totoro in the anime movie.
You can always stop to ask a local to help you in your search for the big friendly giant, though, as people in rural Aomori are kind and affable. And if you’d like to lay your eyes on a tree shaped like Totoro instead, there’s always this giant cedar in Yamagata Prefecture.
Address: Aomori-ken, Kamikita-gun, Rokkasho-mura, Tomariyakeyama