A magical visit to Hayao Miyazaki’s Ghibli Museum in Japan

by Sheila on August 18, 2009

by Sheila | August 18th, 2009  

Ghibli Museum souvenirs (photo by Sheila Scarborough)The Disney release of the movie Ponyo (here’s an extensive fan review on the Ghibli Blog) has heightened interest in its creator, animation master Hayao Miyazaki, and his Japan-based company Studio Ghibli.

You can visit the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka (a western suburb of Tokyo) to see a spectacular facility dedicated to the wonderful art of Miyazaki’s hand-drawn animation. Opened in 2001, it gives you a stunning peek into the mind of the reclusive Academy Award-winning artist.

My daughter, her cousin and I visited a few years ago and we absolutely loved it. Miyazaki calls it “the kind of museum I want to make….a building put together as if it were a film.”

In addition to the imaginative, swoopy, playful storybook architecture of the building itself, there’s the 80-seat Saturn theater with Museum-exclusive short Miyazaki films (in Japanese but I assure you, it doesn’t matter) exhibits and displays about art and animation, the Straw Hat cafe, a toddler playroom with a giant plush Catbus to jump on, and the “Mamma Aiuto” gift shop that requires sumo training to handle the large, polite but persistent crowds.

I don’t have interior photos or video because it’s not permitted by Museum policy (they want you to relax and enjoy, not record things.) You can buy a souvenir booklet in the gift shop, with plenty of pictures.  We loved the handcrafted fixtures made of stained glass, the stairway mazes, the water handpump on the patio, the many ceiling paintings and the bright colors throughout.

Your admission ticket, as seen in my photo above, is an actual piece of 35mm film from one of Miyazaki’s movies.

Admission is by dated, timed tickets, so if you’re in Japan, order them at any Lawson’s (a Japanese convenience store similar to 7-Eleven.)  You can also purchase them from travel agents; this page on the Ghibli site explains ticket purchasing.

You exchange that paper coupon for the film clip souvenir ticket at a Totoro-themed admissions booth at the Museum entrance (which is also an excellent family photo opp since pictures are permitted there.)

It’s not hard to get to the Museum, which is located in pretty, green Mitaka Inokashira Park.  Take the JR Chuo Line to Mitaka station (about 20 minutes from Shinjuku station.)  Exit from the Mitaka South Exit and walk about 15 minutes along the Tamagawa Josui “Waterworks” to the Museum. There is also a bus that picks up at the station.

All Museum facilities are wheelchair-accessible except for the roof garden, which is reached by stairs.

Spending time at the Ghibli Museum will be a highlight of your family’s visit to Tokyo, even if you’ve never seen any of his movies.  Miyazaki speaks a universal language of wonder.


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{ 11 comments }

daniel thomas macinnes August 18, 2009 at 9:22 pm
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Thank you so much for helping to share The Ghibli Blog with others. I’ve worked long and hard to help build our little community, and have an essential website for everyone to gather. It really helps a lot, since I am currently the only one who runs the site.

Sounds like you had a terrific trip to the Ghibli Museum. I recently posted some footage of the museum from Youtube, courtesy of the Ghibli Museum DVD that was released in Japan. Hopefully we will all be able to visit Japan someday and make our pilgrimage.

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Sheila August 19, 2009 at 7:49 am
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Hi Daniel,

I could tell from your Ponyo review that you have an amazing wealth of Ghibli knowledge; thanks for sharing it!

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pam August 24, 2009 at 10:38 am
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We went to see Ponyo yesterday — cute, weird, visually arresting, all as expected. I fear a visit to Studio Ghibli would make me crazy, crazy I tell ya, and my normally non-shopping, well, anti-shopping really, self would go nuts buying gajillion stuffed Ghibli characters. I mean, come on, who doesn’t want their own Totoro?

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Sheila August 24, 2009 at 11:29 am
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Hi Pam!

Oh, it’s bad. We ended up with fuzzy cute sooty dust bunny susuwatari (featured in “My Neighbor Totoro” and in the furnace room scenes in “Spirited Away”) in every size you can imagine.

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lena August 27, 2009 at 12:21 am
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It seems like the museum is a lot of fun and a great place for a family visit.
Once I go to Japan will surely keep your post in mind :)

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Charlotte September 2, 2009 at 8:34 am
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your sooo lucky! I might be going this october =D

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jessiev September 3, 2009 at 7:34 am
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we LOVE studio ghibli, and can’t wait to get to japan to go see this museum. his films are just incredible – they are our family favorites. i want a catbus!! thanks for sharing this, sheila!

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Sheila September 4, 2009 at 8:10 am
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A personal catbus in one’s house would be awesome. :)

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Sheila September 4, 2009 at 8:11 am
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If you go, pls. leave a comment or drop an email to sheila “at” sheilascarborough “dot” com – let us know what you think!

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Debbie October 13, 2009 at 6:04 pm
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I would love to take my kids to go see this. Thanks for sharing.

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Sheila October 17, 2009 at 1:14 pm
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Thanks, Debbie, it’s pretty cool, and has things for every age.

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