A whimsical wonderland that is heartbreakingly charming.
Whether you’re a fan or not of Miyazaki’s whimsical animation, you shouldn’t miss out on the official Studio Ghibli Museum in Mitaka. It’s an absolute, almost heartbreaking, delight.
From the outside, it’s already like you’ve accidentally slipped into one of the studio’s magical movies, with a beautiful spiral staircase, stained glass windows of familiar characters, and playful references to the movies along the entrance pathway that will make your inner kid smile. The museum is housed inside a patchwork mansion straight from Miyazaki’s unique imagination; doors bend, bricks curve and rooftops defy gravity.
It’s just as enchanting on the inside. The first floor exhibits cutout animations and early film reels. This is also where you’ll find the movie theater which displays short animated features by Ghibli unique to this museum (you won’t be able to see them anywhere else) that change monthly. The movie is included in your entrance ticket – made out of three frames of a real Ghibli film.
Up the wooden oak stairs, there’s a replica of what the art studio at Ghibli is like, with original drawings and more reels that let you see how your favorite stories came to life. You can learn about the creative process; it’s fascinating to browse the enormous pile of art, poetry and design books that inspired so many different worlds. The giant, soft-toy Catbus (of Totoro fame) is always filled with excited kids, while the gift shop next door teems with adults looking for a limited edition souvenir.
The cafe outside has some delicious food, but the line can get fairly long if you don’t get there early. Don’t want to wait? Check out the window beside the cafe which sells ice cream, hot dogs and drinks.
The museum is located in the leafy Mitaka district of Tokyo, and is a short bus ride or 20-minute walk through Inokashira Park from Kichijoji Station. In good weather, it’s lovely to walk through the forested park, which surrounds a small lake, following the quirky signposts to the museum.
Getting tickets to the Ghibli Museum
The process for getting into to the museum is somewhat complicated as you have to order tickets in advance, choosing a specific date and time slot. The slots are 10:00 a.m., 12:00 p.m., 2:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m., and you can only go in for up to thirty minutes after the designated time, so make sure to be punctual. If you’re overseas, you can reserve tickets at designated travel agencies, but if you forget, you can still buy the tickets in Japan at any Lawson through a Loppi ticket machine – the museum website has detailed instructions on how to do this. Go for a weekday, which is less crowded, and choose an earlier time like 10:00 if you want to head to the cafe. Tickets are surprisingly reasonable at ¥1000 each.