"Laputa: Castle in the Sky," released in 1986, is the first full-length animated film released to the world by Studio Ghibli, and it is an early example of the steampunk genre. Hayao Miyazaki, the director, conceived the original story himself. In his childhood, he used to fantasize about the Welsh region of England and Ireland and it later became the inspiration for Laputa.
Finding the real life Laputa is not that easy...in fact, more than a half-dozen of real life locations are said to be Laputa's model. We are going to land in the Welsh region in England first, where Miyazaki was inspired by the 1984 Miner's strike, then Cairns in Australia, New Zealand, Slovakia, and Tomogashima Island in Japan for the final destination. Find your Laputa and get ready for a flight on the airship, "The Tiger Moth"!
"A girl is falling from the sky...!"
Pazu, an orphan boy from a coal mining town, sees a mysterious light descending from the night sky on his way home. It is Sheeta, a girl who fell from an airship, and came down wrapped in a blue light that emitted from a mysterious stone.
Sheeta, whose real name is actually Lucita Toel Ul Laputa, is from a family that has inherited the 'flying stone', a blue stone made in Laputa, a legendary castle floating in the sky. The stone protects its owner and someday becomes a beacon when he or she returns home, and it is also made of the material that enables the floating cities to stay aloft.
The ambitious flying empire, lead by Muska (one of the few true villains in Miyazaki's films), tries to steal the flying stone and sends his army to capture Sheeta. Pazu decides to help Sheeta travel to her castle and protect the stone.
Japanese Cast and Crew
Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Mayumi Tanaka (Pazu)
Keiko Yokozawa (Sheeta)
Hatsui Kotoye (Dora)
TERADA Nori (Musca)
Fusio Tsuneda (Grandpa Pom)
Hiroshi Ito (Duffy)
Wife (Machiko Washio) and others
Colonel Muska is an essential character in the story of "Laputa: Castle in the Sky." On the surface, he appears to be a gentleman, but he is a ruthless man who will stop at nothing to revive Laputa. The actor who voices Musca is so crucial, because without Colonel Musca, Laputa would not have been the masterpiece that it is today.
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Movie Sets and Locations
There are many locations around the world that are rumored to be locations for Laputa. Studio Ghibli's official website states that they used the Welsh region of England as a reference for the production of Laputa. In addition to this, we will introduce other fascinating locations from Cairns in Australia, New Zealand, Slovakia, and Tomogashima Island in Japan.
Big Pit National Coal Mining Museum (South Wales, United Kingdom)
Pazu's hometown, Slug Valley, is a mining town in the film. South Wales is an area that flourished due to coal mining during the Industrial Revolution in England. Hayao Miyazaki was incredibly affected by the passion of the coal miners fighting for their jobs and their communities, and thus wanted to reflect that spirit in Laputa.
The scene at the beginning of the movie that Pazu finds Sheeta falling from the sky is said to be inspired by the Big Pit winding tower, which is located on the grounds of the Big Pit National Coal Museum, a World Heritage Site in Amguedffa Cymru, South Wales.
This steel tower has been used as the drive for the elevator in the coal mine.
Here, you can also experience the Underground Tour in a real underground coal mine and go 300 feet underground to witness the tunnels where coal miners worked.
Carnarvon Castle (North Wales, England)
Carnarvon Castle is a World Heritage Site and it looks more like a fortress than a castle.
It is said to be the model for the fortress where Sheeta was trapped by Muska. If you go inside the castle, you will find Laputa-like points everywhere.
The small room where Sheeta mumbles her secret words, the bridge that the robot soldiers cut down to disrupt Pazu and Sheeta's escape, the top of the north wing where Sheeta runs into...they are all real!
Prince Charles' coronation as Prince of Wales took place here, and the coronation scene in the Netflix drama 'The Crown' was filmed at Carnarvon Castle.
Curtain Fig National Park (Cairns, Australia)
In Curtain Fig National Park, there is a large 500-year-old fig tree called "Curtain Fig"... and it looks like a curtain! It is about a 75-minutes drive from downtown Cairns.
It is also known as the "choking fig tree" because it grows so large that it wraps around other trees and eventually strangles them to death. This large tree reminds you of the scene where the giant flying stone at the center of Laputa was surrounded by tree roots.
Paronella Park (Cairns, Australia)
Paronella Park is a mysterious old castle located about 100km south of Cairns. The moss-covered atmosphere will also remind you of a perished Laputa.
It is an important cultural asset of Queensland, and is located about an hour's drive further south from the Curtain Fig National Park mentioned above. Although it was once abandoned due to a natural disaster, it is now a popular tourist destination.
Waitomo Cave (North Island/New Zealand)
New Zealand's Waitomo Cave is not very far from Australia, if you fly.
This huge limestone cave is called the "Eighth Wonder" after the 'Seven Wonders of the World', and you can actually see the blue-white light of the flying stones from Laputa.
After watching the cave, you can board on a boat and down the river through the dark cave. The walls and ceiling of the cave are covered with the countless fireflies that glows bluish-white, making you feel as if you are looking up at a myriad of stars in the night sky.
Experience the the secret of the flying stone, that old Pom, whom Sheeta and Pazu met in the mine cave, told them. You will be overwhelmed by the blue-white light, just like them.
Spis Castle (Zehra, Slovakia)
The Spis Castle is the huge castle remains on the hill, that looks almost like Laputa Castle. This castle was built in the 12th century by Hungarian monarch. Slovakia owns and maintains this castle as state's property and tourists visit here to enjoy the middle age's knights tales.
It is said that in this castle the Luxurious banquet was frequently held and it usually took more than 4 hours to finish their course!
An Abandoned Army Fortress (Tomogashima Island, Japan)
Tomogashima island is actually a group of four islands. One of the islands, Okinoshima, is home to the ruins of a Japanese military fortress that dates back to Japan's Meiji era (1868-1912). The fortress has been abandoned for a long time, and as the red brick buildings are slowly reclaimed by nature, the atmosphere of the island starts to look more and more like one of Miyazaki's sketches.
The island is beautiful, and you can spend the whole day hiking the trails. Okinoshima is wild, but there are maps, signs, and even a hotel and cafe, so it isn't completely cut off from civilization. However, if you are coming it's recommended you come prepared for a hike, and interestingly enough...you should bring a flashlight.
This is because the most popular sightseeing point of the island, the Third Battery Ruins, is accessible by a long tunnel. Don't expect any electricity here! Even on a bright day the tunnels are pitch black by the time you are a few feet in (and if you are scared of spiders..don't look up). They are also surprisingly cold, and it is reminiscent of when Chihiro is passing through the tunnel to the spirit world in "Spirited Away." Don't worry though, the chill of the tunnels will leave you as soon as you exit and see the views.
The ferry that you need to take to get to the island is called the "Tomogashima Kisen" and it only runs a few times a day from Kada Port, Wakayama City. It is recommended to purchase tickets in advance.
Cairns, the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, is warm throughout the year, so you can enjoy ocean and mountain activities regardless of the season. After enjoying the location, why not enjoy the rich nature of Cairns?
National Park, Green Island
Green Island is located about 27 km off the coast of Cairns and is the most accessible island in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
It takes about 45 minutes from Cairns by high-speed boat, and half-day tours are also available, so even those with little time to spare can participate.
Snorkeling is an activity that can be enjoyed by young and old alike, as you can observe the colorful tropical fish and coral reefs. If you are lucky, you may even be able to swim with wild sea turtles.
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Kuranda Highland Train and Skyrail
Kuranda, a small village located northwest of Cairns, is home to the world's oldest tropical rainforest. It is registered as a World Heritage Site as part of Queensland's Wet Tropics.
The Kuranda Railway provides easy access to the rainforest, connecting Cairns and Kuranda in about 1 hour and 45 minutes.
This railroad has been featured in "From a Window on the World" and you can enjoy the tropical rainforest scenery from the train windows.
In addition to the train, there is also a cable car between Cairns and Kuranda called the Skyrail, which takes about an hour and allows you to view the rainforest from a high altitude. You can also enjoy the Skyrail on the way out and the train on the way back (or vice versa).
Local Food and Souvenirs
We will introduce some of the sweets associated with the movie locations and recommended restaurants. The food culture in Wales is a bit different from that in London, so be sure to try some traditional Welsh food and sweets.
Tu Hwnt I’r Bont (Tea Room)
Tu Hwnt I’r Bont is a very cute ivy-covered tea room that looks as if it has wandered into the world of a picture book.
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The history of this building dates back to the late 14th century, and it was once used as a courthouse.
You can enjoy traditional Welsh pastries such as rose bliss (bread filled with raisins and other dried fruits), freshly baked scones and cakes, and sandwiches made with homemade ham.
Dundee's Restaurant is a long-established restaurant with two locations in Cairns. The second restaurant is located inside the Cairns Aquarium, and has a unique concept where you can enjoy your meal while watching tropical fish. The raw oysters are delivered daily from local fishermen, so they are very fresh.
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Along with seafood, the restaurant also serves a variety of meat dishes, such as kangaroo steak, a typical Australian dish.
Green Island, the green jewel of the Great Barrier Reef, is not a castle in the sky.
This all-suite hotel, with private balconies, offers a luxurious tropical resort experience.
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Sunset drinks, snorkel and kayak rentals, coral viewing on a glass-bottom boat, fish feeding and night nature walks are all provided free of charge for guests. If you are going to Cairns and have the time, I highly recommend staying overnight rather than taking a day trip to Green Island.
"Laputa the Castle in the Sky" is full of adventure, romance, fantasy, charming villains, and beautiful music that you will never get tired of watching. For fans who want to experience more of that atmosphere, the "Ghibli Park" is scheduled to open in the fall of 2022 at the Aichi Expo Memorial Park in Nagakute City. The 'Great Robot Soldier' from Laputa will be there to welcome you! We cannot wait for Covid's Travel Restrictions to be lifted!