When you’re looking for an otaku hotspot to head to, you likely imagine a themed cafe, a specialty shop, or a museum exhibition. But what about a forest? That’s exactly what we are going to talk about today!
About an hour from Tokyo’s otaku neighbourhood of Ikebukuro lies Totoro’s Forest in Saitama Prefecture. It’s a nature reserve that serves as an easy hiking area through the forest that is said to have inspired Hayao Miyazaki’s famous film My Neighbour Totoro.
Supposedly, Totoro himself lives in this forest as its guardian too, so be sure to keep your eyes open when you’re exploring...
Totoro’s Forest, Tokorozawa, Saitama
351 Kamiyamaguchi, Tokorozawa, Saitama 359-1153
Nearest train line(s)
|Cost of Admission||Free|
|Hours of Operation|| Time and days|
Forest - 9am - 5pm, every day
Kurosuke’s House - 10am - 3pm, Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday
Totoro’s Forest is a nature reserve in Saitama that was originally protected by Hayao Miyazaki himself. Using his funding, the forest was saved from development and will remain a natural area for the foreseeable future. To help encourage other people to keep the forest clean and to donate money to help protect it, it was named Totoro’s Forest. Now it’s maintained by volunteers and donations which help keep the forest clean and protected. It’s actually not just one forest, but many, though are all connected by the hiking trails or paved roads. The entirety of Totoro’s Forest is all over the area of Sayama Hills.
Totoro’s Forest is totally free to visit and enjoy. It has several trails that weave through the trees and, while there are some hills and steps, it’s generally okay for all fitness levels as long as you have appropriate footwear. The forest itself is very quiet and usually not crowded at all so it’s easy to believe that you may actually run into Totoro or one of his friends walking the paths through the trees.
There are also a few Shinto shrines along the way, which often have no one else at them, giving you a great chance to explore and take photos while feeling a true sense of peace. You can also learn more about the history and folklore of the Sayama Hills area at the museums located in the small towns you may pass (though be aware that most information is in Japanese).
While Totoro’s Forest is open every day of the week, one very special stop is only open for three days - Kurosuke’s House. If you remember the film My Neighbour Totoro, kurosuke are the sprites at the beginning that live in the big house. Kurosuke’s House is modelled after the famous house in the film and even has a big Totoro statue inside. You can buy a lot of Totoro goods there, and the money goes back to help protect Totoro’s Forest. There’s also a sketchbook where you can leave behind a special message, and a Japanese tea house to grab a traditional sweet and drink at the end of your hike.
The route to and through Totoro’s Forest is not very well marked. If you have access to the internet, it’s good to keep an eye on the GPS on your phone as well. Keep your eyes open for small signs and markers and follow them when you see them! Many of the signs along the trail are only written in Japanese, so be sure to make a note of トトロの森 before you go if you can’t read Japanese. The address we have given in this article is for Totoro’s Forest No. 1, where we suggest starting, but keep in mind that the nature reserve is spread out over 89,689 square metres.
If you’re coming to Totoro’s Forest from Tokyo, you are going to pass through a station called Tokorozawa. This neighbourhood is trying to develop itself into another otaku paradise, with a lot of anime stores, anime-themed manhole covers, an anime hotel, and a manga library! If you have time before or after your hike and want to expand your day in Saitama to include some more traditional otaku destinations, look no further than Tokorozawa. It’s just a few stops away, anyway! And be sure to listen for the station jingle on the train platform there - it’s actually Totoro’s theme song.
If you are a fan of Miyazaki’s work in Studio Ghibli, then you understand how appropriate a nature reserve is for this otaku hotspot. Miyazaki’s films often have environmental themes, so exploring a beautiful nature reserve (and donating a little money there if you can!) is exactly the sort of experience Miyazaki himself would want you to have. Totoro’s Forest may not be the otaku hotspot you expect, but if you have time to visit, it’s well worth the trip.
Are you interested in visiting Totoro’s Forest? Would you like to learn more about unexpected otaku hot spots like this one? Let us know in the comments!