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A Walk to the Totoro Tree

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Yonezawa, Yamagata Prefecture, Japan

The Totoro Tree is one of Yonezawa’s newest landmarks, and is almost unknown outside of the local area. It is actually a small group of trees growing together to form a shape which looks a lot like the cute friendly monster from the Studio Ghibli movie “Tonari no Totoro” (“My Neighbor Totoro” in English).

The Totoro Tree is on a small country road about 10 kilometers outside of town.  The most convenient way to get there is to drive.  But if you want to take your time and enjoy the scenery while getting some exercise, you can walk.

I didn’t know if I would have time to walk ALL the way there and back, so I took a bus to the nearest bus stop, about 4 kilometers from the tree, then walked the rest of the way.

Near the bus stop

A group of houses near the bus stop, about 4 kilometers from the Totoro Tree.

On the walk from the bus stop to the tree, you can take your time and enjoy the Japanese countryside.  One thing I like about Japan is that, no matter where you walk, you’re almost guaranteed to find something interesting to look at.

Farm path

I wonder where this path goes.

Corn field and persiimmon tree

A corn field and a persimmon tree. Where I come from, we have lots of corn, but no persimmons. This is the first time that I can remember seeing them both together.

Totoro Tree sign

Here’s a sign – turn right to go to the Totoro Tree.

Small shrine

There are a lot of small shrines like this in various places around the countryside.

Way off in the distance...

It:s hard to see in this picture, but from this spot, I could the Totoro Tree’s ears sticking up way off in the distance.

Small village

Now we are passing through a small village. Well, maybe not a village exacly, but a small group of houses and other buildings.

A little farther down the road, there is an old school building.  I don’t think there are many children living in the area today, but in the past there were enough of them for the neighborhood to have its own elementary school. The building is a reminder of the local history, and is a link with the past.  Let’s take a closer look.


The building on the left is the Sumomo-yama branch of Minamihara Elementary School. This small branch school closed in 2003. The main school in Minamihara is still open.

Sumomoyama School

Sumomo-yama School – main building and driveway.

Sumomoyama playground

Sumomo-yama School. The playground is still open to the public. It looks kind of lonely and forgotten, with the equipment slowly rusting away. I don’t think it’s been used for a while.

Sumomoyama school

Sumomo-yama school building and playground.

Sumomoyama pool

Sumomo-yama School has a swimming pool. I’m not sure, but it looks like the pool might still be in use.

Just beyond the school is… the Totoro Tree!

Totoro Tree

The Totoro Tree, view as you’re walking toward it from the school.

Rice field

The Totoro Tree is guarded by an army of rice monsters!

Bottom of Totoro Tree

We’re here! This is the bottom of the Totoro Tree.

Totoro shrine

The Totoro Tree shrine, directly underneath the tree. Or rather, trees, since there are several of them growing together to form the Totoro shape.

Totoro Tree

To get the best view of the tree, you need to keep walking and go around to the other side.

Viewing platform

The Totoro Tree has a viewing platform, and even a small souvenir shop and a space for picnics. I think the shop is only open during the busiest sightseeing times. It was closed on the day I took these pictures (a Monday in October).

Totoro Tree

The Totoro Tree, seen from the viewing platform.

Totoro Tree

Another view of the Totoro Tree.


Here is another traveler that I met on the road. I waited until he was safely OFF of the road before I left. I didn’t want him (her?) to get run over by a car.

Rural scenery

Here is some peaceful rural scenery from the walk home.


Not sure what this is, a storage shed or something?

Thatched roofs and gardens

Thatched roofs and gardens

Flowers and smokestack

Now we’re getting back into the city. Here are some flowers and a smokestack.

Flood control wall

The remains of a flood control wall, built in the 16th century.

That ends our walk for today. I hope you enjoyed it.

Written by hobara09

2014-01-31 at 7:37 pm

Posted in Yonezawa