Giant Totoro in Kurosuke's house Totoro Forests

A hiking course (with map) through the Totoro Forest with kids. The Totoro Forest is the homeland of Totoro in the Sayama Hills of Tokorozawa in Saitama Prefecture, on the border of Tokyo. Last update on September 11th 2023.

A walking map of the Totoro Forest in Sayama Hills
From the official website

Totoro Forest, Sayama Hills, Tokorozawa

“Sayama Hills” is the most well known name for the area around Lake Sayama, a man-made, reserviour on the border of Tokyo and Saitama. However, Ghibli fans may well know it better as the Homeland of Totoro or the Totoro Forest. (Also referred to as the Totoro Foundation or the Totoro no Furusato Foundation). The area has a number of natural habitats and cultural assets that are under protection to preserve not only the nature and wildlife of the area, but also real life scenes that were the inspiration for the animated movie “Tonari no Totoro” or My Neighbour Totoro.

Many places around Japan claim to have been the inspiration for the movie, and several of them possibly played a part, but the difference with Sayama Hills is that Ghibli co-founder and My Neighbour Totoro creator Hayao Miyazaki himself, contributed to the inauguration of the Totoro Foundation in Sayama Hills, Tokorozawa.

Sayama Lake at the Totoro Foundation Homeland of Totoro and The Totoro Forests
Sayama Lake

Totoro Forest 2022

May 15th 2022 ~ Totoro Forest is currently trending further to the news that the forests are to be expanded. The Totoro no Furusato Foundation announced on May 11th that they have secured a further 4,300 square meters of forest to add to Totoro’s forest. That will bring the total land area to 11.4 hectares according to the Mainichi Shinbun (newspaper).

Sayama Hills

There is quite a bit of information on the Totoro Foundation Official English webpage. This post is to share an adaption of a MAP (below) route we took on our family hike in the Sayama Hills Totoro forest / foundation area. I adapted it to suit those coming by train, because I would advise, where possible, to avoid coming by car. The starting point on the map (shown below) is Seibu KyuJo Mae Station on the RedArrow Ikebukuro Line, Seibu-Sayama Line and Seibu-Yamaguchi Line. We actually did go by car and had to wait half an hour to get into the small car park and were charged for the privilege.

Totoro Forest Hike 2016

Despite the Totoro woods both literally and figuratively “being on the map” these days, the Sayama Hills area is not able to cater to large throngs of tourists. And there is little in the way of markers to help you on your course. I can’t help wonder if it is a ploy in attempt to preserve the tranquility and wilderness of the area. And in turn deter anyone, but the hardcore Totoro fans and avid hikers.

At the time of our Totoro forest hike and exploration my four children were aged between 1 and 7 years old. We had the 1 year old in an Out n About buggy, my preferred choice for any off road trekking and hiking. My 7 year old was well able for the journey. My (then) 5 year old was fine for the most part, but she did find the return a difficult challenge.  We needed to break up the journey a couple of times for my 4 year old, she even spent sometime in the buggy, particularly on the return leg.

Walkway along Sayama Lake at the Totoro Forest

I made two mistakes on our hike of the Totoro Homeland. 1. I hadn’t printed off the map, and 2. my phone wasn’t fully charged. Both issues combined with the lack of phone coverage in the area resulted in us going right off course and adding at least another half hour to our hike. It is also the reason that I have very few of my own photos to share in this article.

Rich rural scenes just outside Tokyo

Due to the afore mentioned lack of signposts, plus the absence of signs of life, we had to wait a long time before we encountered anyone who could set us back on track. It happened to be another family doing a Totoro forest hike. They at least had the good sense to bring a map. Luckily, they actually gave us their map. They were on their way back to the station via the lake, which is easier to navigate. Their map had been handed down by another family and another before that. You could tell; you could barely make out the ink on the sheet and it was missing a lot of landmarks. But it did the job and got us back on course.

Totoro Forest #3 from the official Totoro Foundation website
Forest #3 from the official website

Including lunch and breaks we spent about six hours hiking the Totoro forest at a leisurely pace. We had our lunch at a picnic spot near the Totoro Tree and toilets. It is right on the side of the lake. The lake is a lot more impressive than I had expected.  I imagine it is particularly beautiful in Spring and during the vibrant colours of Autumn.

–Homeland of Totoro–

Wildlife in the Totoro Forest

Although we visited in Autumn it was long before the leaves were changing colour so we missed that particular pleasure. The picnic area had a shelter and table and chairs.  It was in full use by locals and fellow tourists. There is a green area beside it where the kids could kick around a ball. If you walk on the footpath one back from the one beside the lake, parallel to the part of the lakeside course marked on the map, there is a huge amount of insects in the long grass beside the path. My kids caught hundreds of grasshoppers and insects… and then let them all go again.

Totoro Forest #1
Forest #1 from the official website

It took us about three hours to walk from the station area to Kurosuke’s house including detours, break and play times. It took us longer coming back as we intentionally took our time and mucked around a bit to make it easier on the kids. During the hike we explored three of the Totoro Woods, numbers three, one and eleven and passed the Totoro shaped tree. There are temples and shrines along the route as well as lots of natural beauty. You can see some of the places we chose to stop on the Google MyMap shown above. There were another few places, such as a wading river near Mikajima Inari shrine, that we explored. But they don’t show up on Google Maps and it is very hard to pin point them.

Kurosuke House

Kurosuke House wooden banner at the Totoro Foundation Totoro Forest Sayama Hills Homeland of Totoro

Our goal and turn around point was the Kurosoke House. Much to our disappointment, Kurosuke’s house and the Chakouba, a workshop from around the end of the Meiji period, were closed. They have the area sealed off with a rope and of course we didn’t want to disrespect the Japanese way of things. At least we have an excuse to go back and do a similar hike again. (Update 2018: Which we did and you can read about here.) You can’t see much from the perimeter of the grounds, except for the Totoro bus stop. The Kurosuke House was off limits for much of the pandemic, but it is back open now. HOWEVER, there are huge, significant changes:

Tonari No Totoro’s Kurosuke House Details

Totoro at Kurosuke House in Sayama hills tokorozawa Totoro Foundation Homeland of Totoro

On a subsequent visit we did get to go into the Kurosuke house and grounds. And it was wonderful! But unfortunately a lot has changed since then. Including a complete block on sharing photos on social media. I took the photos in this post before the block. Please read the article below for the opening hours and essential details:

This is just one of many hiking options for the vast Totoro Foundation area. You can find some on the official Totoro Foundation site and a Google search will pull up many others. There was a lot we didn’t see on the route we took, and we intentionally took our time and allocated lots of play time. But it was the best option for us at the time. We will go back to check out some of the other woods / forests, there are more than forty of them now since 2022.

Homeland of Totoro last updated September 2023.

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