I had visited the Ghibli Museum before, back in 2006, but since then I have become much more of a Ghibli fan and seen a lot more of the movies. Of course, there have also been new movies since then, so I was excited to see what had changed, and what I had missed before.
It’s so easy to get to the museum from central Tokyo. You just take the JR Chuo line to Mitaka Station and either take the bus or walk. There are even special buses just for the Ghibli Museum.
(That was the best picture I could get – I kept missing them!)
And if you walk, you can follow the cute signs along the way.
As I said in my last post, I approached from Kichijoji Station this time, and the museum was just as easy to find. it’s very well signposted, in English.
If you want to go to the museum, the one thing to remember is that you have to buy your tickets in advance. You can either do this from within Japan at a Lawson’s store (requiring some Japanese), or if you are outside Japan you can check here for information about how to get tickets in your country. Adult tickets are only 1000 Yen, and it’s well worth the money.
Unfortunately, you aren’t allowed to take photos inside the museum (only outside). I knew this, and thought it was a shame at first, but actually I realised that not being able to take photos made me enjoy it all a lot more because I could really take it all in without being constantly behind my camera lens. However, I still wanted to be able to share the museum with you, so I bought a book in the gift shop and have scanned in a few of the pictures to give you a taste of the museum. So, whenever you see a picture in this blog of the inside of the museum, that has come from the official museum book (all the outside photos are my own).
As you enter the museum, there is a fake ticket kiosk which is manned by Totoro…
…and the magic starts there! You should really keep your eyes open as you walk around the museum and grounds, because the detail there is amazing.
The museum building itself is nothing like usual stuffy museums. It’s a curiously shaped building, covered in vines and plants, and it really captures the spirit of Ghibli.
As you enter the museum, you are magically transported to another world.
It’s a world where cartoons are somehow real, and you are allowed to interact with them. The museum is designed in such a way that there is no right or wrong, no route to walk or way to go. You are free to play. Adults can be children, too. I love climbing up the staircases and ducking down to pop through tiny doorways.
I have two favourite parts inside the museum. One is the gorgeous Cat Bus, which kids (unfortunately not adults) can climb on:
The other is a three-dimensional zoetrope of “Bouncing Totoro”:
I sat glued to it, absorbed in the magic, just like all the little kids around me.
The museum also has a small cinema, which screens exclusive short animated films.
Every person who has entered the museum is allowed to go into the cinema once, but I didn’t know that last time and missed out. This time I excitedly sat down to watch a wonderful little movie called 「パン種とたまご姫」(Pan-dane to Tamago-hime). The English title is “Mr. Dough and the Egg Princess“.
(Picture borrowed from official Ghibli Museum website)
The film was very sweet, and there was no speaking (if I remember correctly) so it was easy to understand.
One of the museum highlights is the huge Robot Soldier from Laputa: Castle in the Sky (天空の城ラピュタ / Tenkū no Shiro Rapyuta) which stands on the roof of the museum, acting as a guardian.
After all the magic and excitement, you might be feeling hungry. If you visit the museum and have time, I highly recommend visiting the Straw Hat Cafe. There are cheaper alternatives (hot dogs and ice creams), but the cafe is worth the extra money and worth the inevitable wait (I had to queue up for the best part of an hour before I could go in).
If you ask, they will give you an English menu:
Inside the cafe it is beautifully decorated:
I ordered a “Sunset Ice-Cream Soda”, and was amazed to discover that it came with a straw made out of real straw!
If you have any interest in Studio Ghibli, even just a small interest, I would recommend visiting the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka. It’s a perfect way to spend a morning or afternoon, and escape the hustle and bustle of central Tokyo. The museum’s location is easily accessible, and yet peaceful and relaxing. And the gift shop is unmissable!
Finally, if you are a Ghibli fan, you’ll probably already know that the next release is going to be Goro Miyazaki’s “Kokurikozaka kara” (コクリコ坂から – literally “From Kokuriko Hill”). This movie, which is based on a manga series, is due for release in Japan in July (I think). I wonder when it will make it over to England?! In the meantime, I will have to satisfy my Ghibli cravings by watching the DVDs I already have, and hoping The Borrower Arrietty (借りぐらしのアリエッティ / Karigurashi no Arietti) gets released on DVD soon (it’s due for release in Japan this month)…