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Totoro Tree: Sacred 1,000-Year-Old Cedar Tree That Looks Just Like The Ghibli Forest Spirit

Totoro tree in Sakegawa Village

If there’s anything the cult classic My Neighbour Totoro has taught us, it is that nature is full of beauty and surprises. In the rural Sakegawa Village of Yamagata Prefecture, an ancient cedar tree is nicknamed the “Totoro Tree” due to its striking resemblance to the titular rabbit-like woodland creature. 

Ancient cedar tree that resembles Totoro  

Totoro Tree
Image credit: @moe_matsui

Though affectionately referred to as the “Kosugi no Ōsugi” (小杉の大杉; small cedar on big cedar) by the locals, the sacred cedar tree has also earned the moniker of “Totoro Tree”, and it’s not hard to see why. 

Totoro TreeImage credit: @____amerinco____

Estimated to be around 1000 years old, the Totoro Tree measures 20m tall, complete with a pair of ear-like protrusions at the tip of its crown. 

The tree widens nearing its trunk, with the root circumference measuring 6.3m, and the result is not unlike the protruding belly of Totoro. 

Totoro Tree - totoro plushieImage credit: @milkychan123

Thanks to its unique shape, the Totoro Tree has compelled numerous Ghibli fans to pay it a visit. Many bring along an umbrella as a prop for a commemorative shot – it’s a homage to the iconic umbrella scene in the film where the pair of sisters and Totoro wait for the bus in the rain. 

Totoro Tree - totoro figuresImage credit: @ponsta___gram

Nicknamed the “married couple cedar”

Totoro Tree - pointed parts of the treeImage credit: Yamagata Kanko

Besides its resemblance to Totoro, the tree is also known as a spiritual spot for couples as the pair of branches on top are bonded in an inseparable union. Near the base of the tree, you’ll find a mountain god enshrined there.  

Totoro TreeImage credit: @mapooo

Hence, the tree is also referred to as the “married couple cedar” (夫婦杉; fūfu sugi) and “matchmaking tree” (縁結びの木; enmusubi no ki). If you have a significant other who is coincidentally a Ghibli fan, the Totoro Tree needs to be on your bucket list. 

Locating the Totoro Tree

Totoro Tree - signboardImage credit: @road7800

Due to the tree’s secluded location, the easiest way to get there is by car. That said, it is still possible to get there by public transportation.

You’d have to first get to JR Shinjō Station – the nearest train station from the tree – which is accessible via the Yamagata Shinkansen from JR Yamagata Station. A one-way trip costs ¥3,030 (~USD22.60) and will take around an hour. 

Totoro Tree - signboardImage credit: @mapooo

From there, transfer to the Ōu Line and alight at Uzen Toyosato Station. Locate the Toyosato Ekimae bus stop, and board the bus that’s headed for Ōashizawa (大芦沢) on the Ōashizawa-Toyosato Station Line

After around 20 minutes, alight at the Kosugi stop (小杉) and the Totoro Tree is just a 6-minute walk away. Bus schedules can be found here. The transfers will cost an additional ¥440 (~USD3.28).

Totoro Tree - signboardImage credit: @kiyomi238

If you’re planning to drive there, take note that the road to the parking lot near the tree will not be passable during winter due to accumulated snow.

Address: Magarigawa, Sakegawa, Mogami District, 999-5206 Yamagata
Contact: 0233-55-2111

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Cover image adapted from (clockwise from left): @moe_matsui, Yamagata Kanko and Studio Ghibli