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Ross Village Bakery: a slice of fantasy

Since its conception Studio Ghibli has been known for their beautiful animated films driven by incredibly gripping storylines. With diverse casts, from large fluffy rabbits to a fat radish spirit, Studio Ghibli’s whimsy and creativity is an inspiration to everyone across the globe. Kiki’s Delivery Service is one of Studio Ghibli’s many masterpieces, and to think that a key location in the film found its long lost twin in the middle of Tasmania is quite surprising.

Kiki’s Delivery Service is a tale about a young witch who has moved from the urban life to a small port town. An elderly lady who owns a bakery offers her a home, and in exchange, Kiki uses witchcraft to deliver goods across the town. Whilst the actual name of the bakery is Japanese wordplay, it has been christened by fans as ‘Kiki’s Bakery.’ The bakery is small and quaint, and despite the animators using Sweden as their inspiration for this film, fans choose to flock to Tasmania instead.

Ross Village Bakery has been around for about 150 years. An hour and a half drive north from Hobart, Ross is a town that breathes history. Convict hands moulded the houses that border its streets, as well as its landmark bridge. Ross Bakery is just one of the many sandstone buildings in Church Street. Its exterior does little to reveal what’s inside: a small, quaint bakery with a sprinkle of fantasy.

As I open the door, the bell rings to herald the arrival of another customer. I am immediately greeted with welcome signs written by Japanese visitors. “Welcome to Kiki’s Bakery!” one sign reads. To the regular customer, Ross Bakery is known for its heavenly vanilla slice and delicious custard pie. But to those who are  familiar with a young witch and her pet cat who delivers goods around a small town, the experience becomes nothing short of magical.

The tourists who visit the bakery to see its resemblance to Kiki’s Bakery are always a pleasure, according to Ross Bakery co-owner Carl Crosby. “They get so animated when they enter the bakery.”

The hustle and bustle surrounds us as we chat. The smell of pastry wafts across the room, as the bell  jingled every once in awhile. “Each day we get Kiki fans stopping by, most are very happy and excited to be here and try a scallop pie and vanilla slice.”

While some visitors simply wish to immerse themselves in the bakery’s atmosphere, there are some who take it to the next level. “One that stands out to me is a small child dressed as Kiki. She was adorable and had photos taken holding the peel in the oven,” Carl reminisces on one of the many memorable moments within the bakery. “Another is a young man who stayed in the backpacker room. He came down from breakfast dressed as Kiki.” The visitor was kind enough to leave his Kiki attire at the bakery, and Carl shows photos of him donning the outfit.

The uncanny resemblance was established by the fans. “We have been working at the Ross Village Bakery for 8 years. We were not working here when this connection was first discovered. Many Japanese would come into the bakery and wanted to see the oven and a room that we use for accommodation,” Carl said. Since then, they have openly welcomed this connection.

The walls are adorned with Kiki memorabilia and photos of visitors themselves. Above the ice cream freezer in the corner is one of their many guestbooks, where customers are free to put their thoughts on paper. Doodles of Kiki and her cat, Jiji, are scattered  throughout, alongside sweet messages. “It’s been my dream to visit Ross Bakery,” one message writes. “I will return!”

Carl leads me outside and to the back, an ornate key in hand. Nestled at the very back of the bakery is Kiki’s room. An incredibly small attic, it can accommodate up to three people. At the very back of the room is a Kiki figurine, and another guestbook. Once again, it is filled with many messages detailing their experiences, some written in English, some written in Japanese. During the night, guests can look up at the night sky, and close their eyes before the stars.

However, Ross Bakery should not only be known as ‘the place that looks like Kiki’s Bakery.’ “The Ross Village Bakery is one of a few original Wood-Fired Bakeries left in Australia,” Carl says. Indeed, Ross is listed as a cultural heritage site in the Register of the National Estate (which has been replaced by the Australian National Heritage List).

“I think in spite of the perceived anime connection, tourists will still come and visit Ross.”

 

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