Five seconds of listening to this nostalgic melody easily brings me back to a much simpler time. It goes without saying but a big part of my childhood came from enjoying cartoons! One of my absolute favorites growing up (apart from The Nightmare Before Christmas and any Disney movie) was My Neighbor Totoro. That VHS was on constant replay at my house. It is a film encompassing the joys of playtime in the summer, making new friends, exploring the unknown, and getting into a little bit of mischief.
Hayao Miyazaki is a genius movie maker that captures the imaginations of kids. His movies certainly made a mark on myself and the dozens of other adults gawking at the amazing exhibits presented at Ghibli Museum. WHAT?! You didn’t know there was a museum dedicated to Ghibli films?! Oh yes there is! It was top of my list of “Must Dos” for my Japan trip.
TOP 3 THINGS I LOVE ABOUT GHIBLI MOVIES
- Original story lines
- Accuracy of the characters and setting to real Japan
- How delicious they made food look
Ghibli Museum is located in quiet Mitaka’s Inokashira Park, which is about 40 minutes outside of Tokyo’s center. It is another 15 minute walk from Mitaka station, but I promise it is a pleasant one! It seems to be a very residential area, as I passed by many apartments. Along the way, you will be greeted by Totoro-themed bus stops. I didn’t see any but I heard there are some cute decorated shuttles that can take you to the museum. Check the bus schedule if you don’t want to walk 🙂
One warning before you go, though: BUY YOUR TICKETS AHEAD OF TIME! This is not any ordinary museum! Remember how I said Miyazaki has captured the hearts of many? Yes, so much so that you have to order tickets at least 3 months ahead of time. I heard that you can buy them at select Lawson convenience stores, but it is all in Japanese. So it just a bit more difficult buying them in Japan. (Maybe ask your host or hotel receptionist to help you out?) Click here to see where I ordered mine! You submit 3 choices of days that might work for you to visit. There is a detailed calendar on the site that shows sold out and available dates. They are very quick to respond and customer service is very friendly.
The nice thing about going through this company is you do not have a designated time to arrive (some tickets have entrance availability only at a certain time). You need to bring your passport and the confirmation that they send you through the physical mail. Even though you can come anytime you like, I suggest going as early as you can! You want time to enjoy this amazing place! Plus, the line is bit long!
Although my pictures might fool you, this museum does not just center around Totoro. In fact, it is not even just about the popular films! A lot of the exhibits are educational (and even interactive) as they show the process of old-school film making and cartoon drawings. Even if you are just tagging along with your Ghibli-obsessed girlfriend, as long as you like movies you will enjoy this place! They even have designated times to see an unreleased short film in a tiny theater. The piece of film they give you at the entrance of the museum serves as your ticket to see the movie! I heard they show different ones each day. So that is super fun! It is in Japanese, but it is very easy to follow along!
Keep in mind you are not allowed to take pictures inside of the museum! You ever see those YouTube videos where they have literal walkthroughs of attractions? While it is convenient to have that available, especially if you’re excited, it completely spoils it for you. No spoilers here though! Zero photography is allowed inside. They even have staff constantly on the lookout and they’re not just there for show – they will tell you to put your camera away. Of course, if you really wanted to, you could probably take your phone out to snap a pic of something. But … why would you want to? It’s so nice to not have your camera or phone out as a distraction! You can simply enjoy what is right in front of you. Honestly, I think it is meant to keep the magic alive. Just respect their rules and ENJOY the museum when you get there! 🙂
What I CAN tell you about (and where you CAN take pictures):
If you take the beautiful winding staircase up, you will find yourself on the roof of the Ghibli Museum. You’ll be greeted, not by Totoro, but his robotic cousin from Castle in the Sky. There really isn’t much to see up there. But you get a great view of the museum from up high and you can walk among the miniature garden. People go up there for great photo ops with Robot Soldier though! Have someone snap a picture of you!
My constant mantra before going to the museum was: “Only one thing, Tiffany. Just ONE THING from the gift shop. You spent way too much money yesterday at Puroland. Limit yourself. You can do this.” I decided that my one thing was going to be a Totoro pin. But then I saw the Mei pin…and then I saw the Ghibli-themed stationery…then some cute washi tape..and oh look they have cookies! Yeah, you can see where I am going with this. Mama Aiuto’s Gift Shop is a Ghibli-fan’s playground. You won’t find some of these things anywhere else in the world! CDs, stickers, pins, clothing, and even dishware – it is all here. My prized possession (and probably most favorite buy on my whole trip) is from the bookstore close by: a book of the movie art from Totoro. Great quality! It is on my coffee table right now!
A day of reliving your childhood certainly makes the belly hungry! And hungry kids deserve some good eats, right? That’s where the Straw Hat Cafe comes in. The wait is long-ish (I had to wait about 30 minutes for a bar seat), but I was too busy deciding what I wanted from the menu to be bothered by it. I wasn’t super hungry, so I ended up getting the red beet and vegetable soup with a side of real bread made from straw (straw hat cafe, oooohhhhh). But the highlight of my meal? The parfait! A great perk of sitting at the bar was I got to see the kitchen staff make it. Layers of deliciousness were piled into this glass cup and was topped with a chocolate-drawn flower, sweet pink rock candy, and a Totoro flag (how did they know it was my favorite?!). As only the Japanese can, it came out looking almost too pretty to eat! Oh, who am I kidding? Damn straight I ate every bit. ITADAKIMASU! Before I left, I personally thanked the guy who made it. He returned my over exaggerated “mmmm that was yummy” by patting my belly, satisfied face, and okay sign with a simple polite bow.
If you’re hungry, get the Straw Hat Omelette. It is HUGE! If you’re in a hurry, you can go upstairs and they have a limited menu of to-go items.
Did I mention that this museum is magic? It was designed by Miyazaki himself, so you know that every nook and cranny has a special detail. The designs on the stained glass windows, a familiar character hiding in the walls, small crevices that only someone at a child’s height could see, interactive props and exhibits…they’re everywhere! This is why I suggest going early, so you have time to discover all of this museum’s secrets.
When will you be going to uncover them?