A visit to my neighbor, Totoro

No one loves Totoro more than the Japanese themselves. The warm-hearted movie has inspired the nation to recreate his image in countless forms: mailboxes, pastries, children’s clothes; you name it and there is a Totoro version.

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On Christmas I saw a man dressed as Totoro driving around Tokyo with a Christmas tree attached to his motorbike decorated with objects from the movie.

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Little kids sing the theme song while walking down the road.

Middle aged men and women carry Totoro keychains attached to their briefcases.

He is well loved.

You can gather that love and maybe a few acorns too and pay him a visit in Tokyo’s neighboring prefecture, Saitama.

Saitama has a bad rep because people think it has to compete with Tokyo, but that is not true! Saitama has lots to offer, but mostly in more natural forms, which is good for you because you can visit Totoro’s house and have it all to yourself!

You can find it nestled in Sayama Hills, a nearly 9,000 acre area of farms, rice fields, wetlands, and woods protected by the Totoro no Furusato (The Homeland of Totoro) Foundation. Fighting against over-development and environmental degradation, the foundation, including founding member Hayao Miyazaki, is attempting to preserve the land that inspired the iconic film.

In Sayama Hills you can walk along trails deep in the woods, following trail markers decorated with forest sprites. (Warning: do this during a season with no mosquitos because they will suck you dry and make you want to curse the world and maybe sit down and cry a little bit because really how can there be so many mosquitos when all you want to do is see Totoro.)

Or you can go straight for the gold and visit クロスケの家 (The House of Kurosuke). This 100 year+ house is home to a giant Totoro statue and is completely infested with kurosuke (black dust bunnies). You’ll see some iconic memorabilia from the movie, as well as artistic renditions made of natural objects. You can learn about the foundation’s conservation efforts or grab a cup of green tea from the house next door.

It is completely free.

If you want to go inside the house (of course you do) then you need to go during their open hours:

Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.

Plugging in the address is probably the best way to get there. I tried simply asking people when I knew I was in the right area, but kept receiving directions to the hiking trails. The house is hidden away in a small neighborhood near a number of farms. You can (and totally should) walk from the trails to the house and even explore some of the other parks in the area. You can spend all day walking if you want. There’s lots of see! I like to bike the area, even with all the hills.

Address: 3-1169-1 Mikajima, Tokorozawa, Saitama Prefecture 359-1164, Japan

Phone: 04-2947-6047

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Lovely area approaching Totoro’s neighborhood.

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This is the neighborhood you’ll find the house.

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The very easy to miss sign to the house entrance.

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A small shrine in the area.

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The House of Kurosuke.

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Creepy stairs like from the movie.

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