Visiting the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka

Meeting totoro

Have you seen any Ghibli movies? You must have heard or watched some of it but never realized it’s a “Ghibli” (pronounced, “jiburi” in Japanese) – Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away or My Neighbor Totoro. The delightful animated films of Studio Ghibli are full of magic and fairytales.  They can be very simple, dark, fantastical, melancholy, ecstatic, endearing, and wondrous.  My then boyfriend (now husband) first introduced me to the Ghibli universe while we were in college and gave me a DVD of his favorite Ghibli movie, telling me, “watch it, I promise you will like it.”

I instantly became a Ghibli fan and from then, I set about absorbing every other Ghibli film I came across.

I first visited the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka in 2013 and was delighted. I know I had to go back!

The museum is relatively small and you can finish your “tour” in just a couple of hours and not miss anything. It’s more like a day theme park than a “museum” per se. We really enjoyed the interactive displays and the fun artwork as well as the sections in the museum that showcase how the artwork goes from concept to screen. The amount of work involved is tremendous. However, the important part is how magical Hayao Miyazaki has made it. It shows the development process of animation and the the thought process of Miyazaki and his team. The displays of original artwork from the films are truly stunning!

The park is really child friendly, and there are lots of nooks and crannies that children can explore.

HOW TO REACH THE MUSEUM

Mitaka eki

ticket machine

There are two options to reach the museum from Mitaka station via JR East (20-30 minutes from Shinjuku station, depending on whether you get on a local or express train): on foot and by public transport (bus).

If you choose to go on foot, take the south exit of Mitaka station and turn left and walk along Tamagawa Josui. The museum can be reached in about 15 minutes.

I think the more popular option is to take the bus. The bus service is offered between the south exit of Mitaka Station and the museum. The ride takes about ten minutes. You should take either a loop bus which departs Mitaka Station, travels to the Ghibli museum and back to Mitaka station (yellow bus in the above pic) or a bus towards Myojogakuen via the Ghibli museum.

A one-way fare is 210 yen for adults and 110 yen for children. You can buy a round ticket with a ticket machine located near the bus terminal or at a bus information center; these cost 320 yen for adults and 160 yen for children.

** It is very important to come before your designated entrance time printed on the ticket. If you are late for more than 30 minutes, your tickets will be forfeited and you will not be admitted to the museum.

INSIDE THE GHIBLI MUSEUM

As much as the topmost photo looks like the main entrance, with a giant fluffy Totoro in the box, this is not the main entrance. This is the main entrance.

ghibli 1

ghibli 2

The kids are so happy to be here. I actually didn’t tell them we’d be going because I almost didn’t get the tickets, not for the reason that they’re expensive (they’re not!) but the tickets sell really fast. There’s a sale period and it is a challenge to buy the tickets from overseas, firstly, because of the time zone (Japan is 5 hours ahead).

Example, tickets for the month of June are sold from May 10 onwards only and they sell like hotcakes! I actually almost forgot it was already May 10th until a friend reminded me while I was at work! It was already May 10, 11 am in Dubai so it is already 4 pm in Japan! The sale link had been opened for 16 hours already. Result – most of the dates and times for June are already sold out, including our first preferred date and time. Thankfully, we have another day in Tokyo available but at the entrance time available is only for 4 pm, instead of the 10 am morning schedule we wanted.

Anyways, I got the tickets. The next two days when I checked again just out of curiousity, all the dates and times were sold out so if you are planning to go, do plan ahead and set your alarm!

NO CAMERAS ALLOWED INSIDE

The museum is a must visit for Ghibli fans but unfortunately, I can’t show you any photos of the inside of the museum, since it has a strict no-photos allowed policy. It’s sad as I would really like to have had a record of how it looked.  There are winding staircases, little nooks that only children can fit through, comfy wing-backed chairs and plenty of small touches here and there that make the museum a beautiful work of art.

Their reasoning for this is written in Japanese that translates,

The Ghibli Museum is a portal to a storybook world. As the main character in a story, we ask that you experience the Museum space with your own eyes and senses, instead of through a camera’s viewfinder. We ask that you make what you experienced in the Museum the special memory that you take home with you.

I have photos however, taken outside the building, in the gardens. Do you recognize this character from the movie, A Castle in the Sky?
robot 2

robot 3
robot 1

(It’s such a pity we have a very blurred picture taken by a stranger…)

There is a small cafe and ice cream shop outside of the main building. From the robot area, we went to the cafe. It was allowed to take photos there so here’s some.

p and b 2
p 1

p and b 1

The kids are overwhelmed by the abundance of nature around – the museum is located within a park, after all.

pristine 1

ghibli 6

ghibli 4
ghibli 7

Another area where you can take photos…this square from one of the scenes in the anime.

ghibli 8

TRAVEL TIPS BEFORE YOU GO

  1. Tickets MUST be purchased in advance. >How to buy tickets outside Japan >How to buy tickets in Japan (CAUTION: I’ve read that some sites sell tickets with a ridiculous “service fee”, beware of them. It’s pretty straightforward to buy the tickets even if you’re outside of Japan – just follow the links from the main website and remember, on the 10th of the month before you go! Example, you want to go in June, buy on 10th May.)
  2. You must not come later than the designated time printed in the ticket.
  3. No cameras allowed inside.
  4. There are no English translations (but don’t worry, the pictures are still worth seeing)
  5. Bring a print out of the confirmation plus your passport in order to enter the museum.

GENERAL INFORMATION

p and b 3

Website: Ghibli Museum in Mitaka
Address:  Tokyo, Mitaka, Shimorenjaku 1-1-83 (located at the west garden of Inokashira Park)
Hours: Museum 10:00 – 18:00, Café Mugiwaraboshi 11:00 – 19:00 (last entry: 18:00)
Closed: Tuesday and may be closed for periodic maintenance work
Wi-Fi: Unavailable
Nearest Station: Mitaka Station of the JR Chuo Line
Access: 15 minute walk from the South Exit of Mitaka Station; Community bus service from the Mitaka station (charged)
Ticket Prices: Adults/university students 1000 yen, Middle/high school students 700 yen, Children aged 4 and up 100 yen *Tickets must be obtained in advance

Should I go?

Is the Ghibli Museum worth a visit? If you are a Ghibli fan, absolutely! Though I think even if you’re not specifically a Ghibli fan, the creative process of animation will amaze and entertain you. If you have children, I think this museum is a must too. Our visit to Ghibli Museum was definitely one of the highlights of our trip to Tokyo.

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