The Spirit Realm (霊界 reikai, lit. "spirit world") is the main setting for the Japanese animated film Spirited Away. It is home to the Bathhouse owned by Yubaba and the cottage owned by Zeniba, two of the film's core locations. Unlike the Human World, most of the Spirit Realm's occupants usually go about their activities at night rather than during the day.
The Spirit Realm is largely similar and directly linked to the Human World (though individuals from the Human World are rarely seen and scorned upon in the Spirit Realm). It has a substantially less-polluted environment and less-advanced technology. In exchange for their lack of technology, some inhabitants of the Spirit Realm are known to be capable of practicing magic, as well as exhibit various other, inhuman powers.
Like the Human World, the Spirit Realm is quite large in size, with most of its revealed locations covered in a vast amount of water. Spirits who wish to travel from one place to another take the one-way Sea Train or a luxurious boat to cross the water. Haku, when he first meets Chihiro Ogino in the Spirit Realm, tells her to get across the river, in order to get back to the clock tower's tunnel to be in the Human World, but the water shows vast size as it appears to be much larger than a simple river, shown when the boat floats all the way from water at the clock tower to the unnamed land close to the restaurants and bathhouse (probably a town or city). The one-way train introduced in the film stops by a total of six known stations before resting.
The currency of the realm (as shown in various scenes from the film) are small, solid gold pieces. They are considered rare and extremely valuable by Yubaba and most of the Bathhouse Workers. The exact exchange rate between a gold piece and the Japanese Yen is not shown or mentioned in the movie.
The Red Gate
The red gate is what connects the Human World to the Spirit Realm. It is depicted (from the perspective of individuals in the Spirit Realm) as a large clock tower built onto a plaster-made tunnel. When active, it has a red, green and dark brown color scheme of plaster, and although only 1 tunnel to enter through from either side of the different worlds, there are 3 identical openings (possibly 3 tunnels) inside the very front and even another opening much farther away to the right side. When Chihiro and her parents first entered, the tunnel was the one all the way to the right of the other two identical openings, although outside before entering, this one tunnel is in the middle of the tower, with two other large "pictures or drawings" of the same type of tunnels on either side of it. Inside, there are multiple benches, chairs, and even decorative pillars, as if it is one of the train stations for spirits to sit on and wait for the train. When inactive, the clock tower does not appear this way; there is no plaster on the building's front, back, or tunnel, and no tower. Instead, the lower rectangular part of the building becomes made of pale brick with moss covering most of the front. The exit becomes a regular tunnel without any of the decorations, benches, or the other two openings inside the front of the building.
The Bathhouse is the most prominent location in the Spirit Realm as well as the core setting for Spirited Away. It is located on one of the realm's many islands and is surrounded by various Food Stalls and restaurant districts. It opens around sunset and is most active during the night. The Bathhouse is located on the island Yūya.
Zeniba's Cottage (The Sixth Station)
Zeniba's Cottage is another important location in Spirited Away. It is located in the sixth and last station of the one-way train's route and is surrounded by uncluttered space, several other cottages and undisturbed nature. Whether this location in the realm is more active during the day or night is not mentioned or elaborated on in the film. The location is called Swamp Bottom.
At the start of the film, Chihiro finds herself waist-deep in sea water at night and also spots a luxurious ocean liner crossing the vast amount of water to reach the land in which Yubaba's Bathhouse is located on. The ocean liner comes from an unnamed piece of land with many bright lights accentuating its countless buildings. This sea water begins at the very start of the stairs in front of, during the day, the waterless stone river; however, during the night, this water is much larger than the size of a river, since it goes all the way from the stairs, over the stone "river", far to the clock tower and other buildings nearby.
In the Spirit Realm, rules are hard and fast. They are even more powerful than Spirit Realm Magic. If someone breaks one of the rules, punishment is applied almost instantly. The first one is mentioned at the beginning of the film. When someone doesn't work, that person either disappears or becomes an animal that is eaten later in the Bathhouse.
Another rule is that Yubaba has to employ everyone who asks for a job.
The last one is that Chihiro has to pass a final test before she can leave the Spirit Realm.
- The Art of Spirited Away, page 16