Studio Ghibli is a part of my childhood in the same way that Disney and Universal were before they started rolling out direct-to-video bastardized sing-a-longs of all my childhood memories. I have probably seen Pom Poko about as many times as I have seen Star Wars—and believe me, I have seen Star Wars a lot. If you have not seen Pom Poko, but, like me, hold a deep appreciation for heartwarming stories about raccoons waging war on humanity, you owe yourself the courtesy of seeing it. For all the other Ghibli and Miyazaki superfans, your next step is to visit the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka.
Buying tickets for the Ghibli Museum
The Ghibli Museum is a great experience for young and old alike, and for ¥1,000 a pop you can’t go wrong. However, the Ghibli Museum is also one of the most popular attractions in Tokyo, and you need to buy tickets in advance. We recommend avoiding stress and sorting them out online (update still not available as of Feb 2022) ; it costs a bit extra, but is way easier if you’re traveling from overseas.
If you’re here for a month or so, you can also stop by a Lawson convenience store and use their Loppi automatic ticket vending machine to buy your entry pass. Tickets for the next month go on sale from 10am on the 10th of each month. What this means is that you might not be able to secure tickets through Lawson unless you buy them pretty far in advance, like on the day they come out.
Note: Under no circumstances should you just show up at the museum and try get tickets on the day—it will be a wasted trip. However you decide to buy them, be sure to get your tickets ahead of time.
Get lost in the magic
If I had seen the giant Totoro (below) as a kid, my head would have exploded from the sheer whimsical power emitting from him. I mean just look at his huge fuzzy face. For all we know, the cat bus is about to pull up at any moment.
The Ghibli Museum has no set path and was designed by Hayao Miyazaki himself. It is obviously aimed at children, but adults should have no trouble becoming lost in Miyazaki’s world. Indeed, the museum’s motto is “Let’s lose our way together.”
Inside the Ghibli Museum
The inside of the museum is a bit like a maze. It looks like Bruce Wayne’s manor built in an alternate universe, in which he grew up spoiled and happy without the memory of his dead parents to sully his mood 24/7. There are a couple of permanent attractions, such as the bottom floor’s history of animation showing off an impressive assortment of zoetropes, stroboscopes and other cool things I had to Google to figure out what to call them.
There is also an exhibit dedicated to the life and work of Hayao Miyazaki. It gives an intimate tour into his journals and drawings; while it is impressively detailed, the most memorable aspect that it left with me is that the life of an animator really sucks. That and Hayao Miyazaki has smoked more cigarettes than Joe Camel.
There are often special temporary exhibitions too. Recently, one of these involved a cat bus for adults to clamber around—sadly, that’s gone now and only kids under 12 can get close to the version of the cat bus on display.
The robot on the roof
At the top of the museum is a full-scale replica of the robot from Castle in the Sky ,and it’s one of the only spots where you’re permitted to take photos. Clamber up to see it and check out the architecture of the museum at the same time.
Exclusive films at the Ghibli Museum
Another cool thing you’ll find at the Ghibli Museum is that the ticket for a secret Studio Ghibli film is included with the price. These short films have never and will never be released outside of the museum, so this is a really good opportunity to gain something that you can hold over an annoying anime fan that likes to name-drop obscure films no one has ever seen.
Tea and gifts
The Ghibli Museum has a cozy little tearoom where you can take a break from the crowds and enjoy a cute cappuccino and light meal. There’s also a gift shop where you can pick up memorabilia and maybe a souvenir or two. But be warned, it ain’t all that cheap!
Getting to the Ghibli Museum
The museum is within the bounds of Inokashira Park in Mitaka, on the west side of Tokyo. To get there, take the JR Chuo Line from Shinjuku Station (you’re looking at about 20 minutes). From Mitaka Station, you can either walk to the museum (just follow the signs—it’s a 15-minute stroll), or catch a shuttle bus (¥320 return, ¥210 one way). There’s about one bus every 10 minutes. Sadly it’s not a cat bus. Though it does have a picture of the cat bus on it. Meta!
Can’t get enough of the Miyazaki magic? Find Ghibli fun all over the capital with our special Tokyo for Ghibli lovers guide.
This post was last updated in December 2017.