If you are an anime lover, then you must know the works of Hayao Miyazaki. For decades, the legendary animator and visionary behind Studio Ghibli has produced many animated classics known throughout the world. Who can forget the post-apocalyptic eco-princess named Nausicaa? Or the perservering teenage witch in Kikiâ€™s Delivery Service? Far different from the mainstream anime aesthetics of ninjas, beguiling vixens and space robots, Miyazakiâ€™s vision is clean and simple, celebrating an imaginary 19th century Europe in all its architecture and mechanisms, and the joy of flight.
Ghibli fans, rejoice! For there is a place which brings to life the visual marvels that Miyazaki brings to the screen. The Ghibli Museum is a compound in the Mitaka suburbs, just 20 minutes away from the Shinjuku Station through the JR Chuo Main Line. Lovingly designed by the people behind Ghibli, the museum is a delightful attraction, part animation exhibit, part recreation center, and part Miyazaki tribute.
Approaching the entrance, visitors will be greeted by a stuffed Totoro and his smaller companions from the film of the same name. Ticket holders will immediately receive a prized item: clippings of film stock from various Ghibli animes. From there on, visitors are left to themselves: there are no set paths to follow, just interconnecting rooms which lead from one surprise to the next. Doubling back is inevitable, just to be certain that no section is left uninspected.
From the entranceway, visitors can gape at the 19th century European cast-iron and glass architecture, which is the background for most Miyazaki cartoons. The ground floor contains a Zoetrope, a set of Ghibli figurines in various poses that are mounted on a large rotating disc. When the disc spins and the strobe lights start blinking, each figure comes to life, seemingly moving before your very eyes. Other displays demonstrate the different fundamental concepts of animation.
The ground floor also houses a mini-theater, where a special Ghibli short feature is projected at regular intervals. One of the animations shown, for example, is Mei and the Kittenbus, a sequel to My Neighbor Totoro. In it, Mei, one of the protagonists from the original movie, helps a young Kittenbus find her way back to the Catbus colony.
A glass elevator, spiral stairwell, and regular stairs will lead visitors to the upper stories of the museum. The second floor contains replicas of an animatorâ€™s studio, complete with sketches, storyboards, tools, and reference materials. A catbus room houses a stuffed version that grade schoolers can enjoy. Adults can only watch with envy as the youngsters frolic and bounce inside and out this feline transport, with its catâ€™s eye headlights and rodent tail lights. The second floor also contains a special exhibit from famous animation studios from around the world. Aardman Animation, the studio behind Nick Parkâ€™s Wallace and Gromit, is one such guest exhibitor.
On the rooftop, amidst the rushes and grass, stands the colossal flying robot from Castle in the Sky, replicated in loving detail. The robot is already visible upon approaching the compound, its cylindrical features and spiked arms unmistakable from a distance. There are also spots on the roof which visitors can view the entire museum and Inokashira Park where it resides.
If at any time the patrons feel hungry from all this awesomeness, they can visit The Straw Hat Cafe. Within the cottage-like interior, they can fill themselves with desserts, snacks, meals, and beverages. After the tour, visitors can buy souvenirs from the gift shop and bookstore located on the second floor. Most of the reading material, plushies, stationery, toys, figurines, and other Ghibli-bilia can only be found at the museum, so make sure to stock up.
Tickets for the Ghibli Museum have to be bought in advance from travel agencies and Lawsons convenience stores. Special buses going to the museum can be boarded from specially-designated areas around Tokyo. Patrons may also opt to take the 15-minute walk to the area from the Mitaka train station. It is best to go there in the morning and during weekdays, when the lack of the weekend/afternoon crowd allows you to enjoy the sights at your leisure.
The Ghibli Museum is an essential pilgrimage for fans who grew up on the Miyazaki movies, way before they even heard of the term anime. Though the main audience is children, adults canâ€™t help but feel sorry for the little tykes: they canâ€™t appreciate the wonders that Ghibli brings in as many levels as we do. Which Studio Ghibli film have you seen and look forward to seeing the most at the Ghibli Museum when you visit Tokyo?
Download a sample brochure from Ghibli Museum: