Travel Guide to Sayama Hills(Totoro Forest) ︳Tokyo

Have you ever watched the movie “My neighbor Totoro”? Do you remember the beautiful countryside where the two sisters meet the mystical creatures, and the great adventure in the movie? If you do, check out below photos of Sayama Hills, you will find how similar the forest is to the  scenes in the movie as many of the settings in the movie are actually based on Sayama Hills.

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Located about 24 miles from the Tokyo metropolitan area, Sayama Hills is a lush natural hills blending with farming lands. The area now is in risk of being destroyed, so The Homeland of Totoro Foundation started to raise funds and acquired lands for preservation of the forest, the environmental action of the public and the contributors of the funds is a reflection of the relationship between humans and the environment, and is what Ghibli studio always try to convey in their movies.
Take a trip to the Sayama Hills will give you an idea of Japanese satoyama landscape, a peek into the real scene of “My Neighbor Totoro" and it’s a place to enjoy Japanese tea and the warmth of locals.
 

How to Get There

It’s most convenient to use Seibu Ikebukuro Line from Ikebukuro Station to Nishi-Tokorozawa, and change line to Seibu Sayama Line
to Seibu-Kyūjō-mae, it’s a 45-60 minute ride by train. And around 30 minute walk from Seibu-Kyūjō-mae Station to the forest.
Check out the raiway map and the timetable here.

Strolling in Totoro Forest

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My Strolling Experience:the maps on the Japanese websites leave something to be desired, there are more branch roads in the forests than marked on the maps. Rambling through the forest is pleasant, but getting to the house featured in “My Neighbor Totoro" is miserable, try to be careful at the turning point circled in red.
– First Red Circle above the Totoro Tree(トトロの木):It’s a small trail in a residential area, the turning point on the orange route is no longer exist, or it’s a street gutter actually, try the red-ovaled  road, the main road takes a little longer if you also want to see the lake scenery, in any rate it’s better than the gutter trail.
Seceond Red Circle to クロスケの家, the turning point on the route is very tricky, it leads us up a hill to a shrine and down the stairs back to the ground again, there’s no need all the way up the stairs, and it’s possible to step down the wrong stairs to totally the other side of the mountains, try stay on the main road instead of up the hills, and after you turn left back to the orange route, make sure there are two vending machines nearby on the roads, if there’s only one, go back to the shrine hills, because you are already in the wrong direction.

Walk Guides to Totoro Forest

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1. Yanasegawa River

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It’s a 20 minute walk from the Seibu-Kyūjō-mae Station to Yanasegawa river, turn left at the sign of 柳瀨川.

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Yanasegawa river is on the way to Totoro Forest, from an interview with Hayao Miyazaki, he indicated the movie scene in Spirited Away, Chihiro pulled out the old bicycle from the stink spirit, was inspired while he attended a pro-environmental activity in Yanasegawa. Strolling along the river reminded me about the song:Day of River in Spirited Away.

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There are residential houses lining on the side of the road, it’s a serene walk, but extremely hot during summer times.
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Turn right at this corner of a timber store, the path leads to the entrance of the Forest.
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The kaleyard on the path to the forest is like the actual scene out from the movie My Neighbor Totoro, I can even feel May’s crying somewhere in the garden.
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The lush trees covered this vast forest, there aren’t too many visitors, and the forest is full of life.

 

2.  “Totoro no Mori (Totoro’s Forest) #1, #3, #15”トトロの森1号地. 3号地. 15号地

“Totoro no Mori" is the lands acquired by The Homeland of Totoro Foundation with the donation from across Japan to preserve the nature of Sayama Hill, once you enter the Sayama forest, there are three Totoro no Mori, #1, #3, #15, and four others of them in the forest.

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The wetland along the trail next to #1 is great place to watch the dragonflies wing over the ponds, listen to the natural concert by the wild creatures, and explore the path with rare greenery.
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3.  “Totoro no Mori #11”トトロの森11号地

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We didn’t just go straight to the two sisters’ house, but walk around the forest to the golf clubs following the blue route, then to the house.
There are five trails to get yourself lost in the forest.
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Nearby the golf clubs are many gardens with rare flora and fruits.
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The path to the #11 is carpeted with dried leaves.
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 4. The Wind Trail

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On the way to the two sisters’ house, there’s a path(どんぐり道) leading us to an extensive view overlooking the Sayama Hills, it’s one of my favorite places about the forest, it reminds me the movie when May is chasing little totoro all the way into the forest, and the song Path of the Wind in the movie.

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There’s a good view of the houses, vegetable gardens and tea gardens.

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Sayama tea is one of the major Japnese tea, tea gardens could be seen on Sayama Hills, and there’s a tea house next to May’s house(クロスケの家) where nice tea is served, and the hostess is friendly.

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5. The Two Sister’s House(クロスケの家)

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If you follow the orange route on the map passing the どんぐり道 and the shrine(八幡神社), few minutes later, you will see this stone carved with 馬頭觀世音, but as I mention above, if you step down the wrong stairs from the shrine hills, everything on every road is quite similar, there is other stone with the same words and vending machines somewhere in the area, make sure you come across two nearby vending machines, then to 大日堂 and this stone, and the following buildings so is the two sisters’ house, all of them take no longer than 5 minutes in between.

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Finally the house!

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Totoro is welcoming us.

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The giant Totoro is the best present for this trip.

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We met the TBS at every Totoro no Mori, and the last destination, the Sisters’  House where the Totoro Fundation was based, I thought they were filming the forest for record of the forest and the activities for preservation and making an interview for their goals for the environment and the upcoming acquisition for another Totoro no Mori the end of the month.

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We had tea in the tea house next to the two sisters’ house, the hostess speak little English, but we communicate through gestures, and really had a good time there, they even gave me two tea bags as a present while we were leaving, they were the first Japanese we had a rather deep talk, and I really like them a lot.

6. The Beauty of Sayama Lake

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7. Totoro Tree(トトロの木)

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This is the gutter I mention previously, it’s the only walkway I find according to the map, you see why I recommend you the main road.

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The residential area to the totoro tree.

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Hello, Totoro!

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The source of Yanasegawa river.

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