Japanese authorities have vowed to take action following reports that visitors to a theme park showcasing scenes from beloved animated films have been taking indecent photographs of themselves with statues of the characters.
In February, photos were posted to social media showing men “pretending to sexually assault young female characters” in Ghibli Park, Singapore’s Straits Times newspaper reported.
Ghibli Park is a theme park dedicated to the work of popular animation company Studio Ghibli, such as Academy Award-winning “Spirited Away,” and “My Neighbor Totoro.” It is located in Aichi prefecture, less than an hour from Kyoto by train.
“Frankly speaking, posting photos like that on social media is very inappropriate. From adults to children, people go to Ghibli Park to enter the Ghibli world and enjoy themselves,” Hideaki Ōmura, governor of Aichi Prefecture, told a press conference Thursday.
“Clearly this action disturbed many people,” he said, adding that his team has told park management that “they need to firmly stop such actions once spotted and confirmed.”
“For those who come to the park to do this kind of thing, I would much prefer them not to come at all,” he added.
“Of course we need to take harsher measures against this kind of behavior. This is basically destruction of property. It’s just like what people were doing at conveyor belt sushi restaurants,” he said, referring to recent instances of so-called sushi terrorism in Japan, in which people have filmed themselves licking shared soy sauce bottles in restaurants or touching plates of food coming down conveyor belts, before sharing the videos on social media.
The theme park, which opened in November after years of delays due to the Covid-19 pandemic, brings some of Studio Ghibli’s most beloved characters and scenes to life inside a forest within Aichi Earth Expo Memorial Park – the former home of Expo 2005.
As the park itself admits, “there are no big attractions or rides in Ghibli Park.” Guests are instead encouraged to “take a stroll, feel the wind, and discover the wonders.”
So far, three of the five planned areas of the park are currently open to visitors: “Ghibli’s Grand Warehouse,” a large indoor “town” filled with streets, exhibits and famous scenes from the studio’s films; “Hill of Youth,” which overlooks the park and boasts panoramic views; and “Dondoko Forest,” a children-only area featuring the house from the classic animation “My Neighbor Totoro” and a Totoro-themed playground.
CNN’s Maggie Hiufu Wong contributed reporting.