Many people’s introduction to Japan comes through the beautiful, evocative imagery of Studio Ghibli. These animated films are beloved all over the world—so for the Ghibli fans in Tokyo, where can you get your fix?
The most obvious first port of call for any Studio Ghibli fan is the amazing Ghibli Museum. A whimsical delight, you can wander, stroll, peek into Miyazaki’s studio, watch never-before-seen film, and feel the magic of Ghibli.
You know it’s going to be amazing—but unfortunately, so does everyone else. It requires a bit of advance planning to secure your tickets (read the Tokyo Cheapo guide for the essential details on how to buy them), but entrance is a bargain at 1,000 yen and worth every penny.
Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum
Even visitors with no particular interest in Studio Ghibli rave about the amazing Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum. But for those who can view the exhibits through a Ghibli lens, it’s even better. The museum has a wide array of preserved everyday buildings from the Edo period. Miyazaki is known to be a big fan of this museum and is rumored to attend often—he even designed the museum’s logo. He is quoted as saying “I feel nostalgic here, especially when I stand here alone in the evening… and the sun is setting”.
Be sure to watch Spirited Away before your visit, because Miyazaki visited often during his creation of the film, using the buildings as inspiration. Keep your eyes peeled specifically for the townscape beyond the tunnel, a locksmith whose interior looks very like the place where Chihiro’s parents turned into pigs, a stationery store that inspired the boiler room in the film, the iconic bathhouse, and even a train that looks just like the train they ride in the film.
The Studio Ghibli Corporate Office
Less than 3 km from the Open Air Architectural Museum, it’s a temptingly easy stroll from there to the corporate headquarters of Studio Ghibli in Koganei. Or take the JR Chuo line train from central Tokyo to Higashi-Koganei, and it’s a 600-meter walk from the station. The building is unfortunately an office, so it’s not open to the public (unless you are lucky enough to have an inside contact to arrange a tour), and lacks any specifically exciting features… But if you are a hardcore Studio Ghibli fan, it might be hard to resist a pilgrimage to the epicenter of all things Ghibli.
Address: 1-4-25 Kajino-cho, Koganei, Tokyo
When people talk about their Ghibli must-see locations in Tokyo, one sight is often missing, even though it’s free and it’s in central Tokyo. On an outside wall of the Nippon TV Tower, overlooking a concourse of deceptively dull buildings between Shiodome and Shinbashi stations, lies a little-known treat for Miyazaki fans (and all fans of clockwork things): the Nittele Giant Clock.
This 60-foot wide clock was designed by Miyazaki himself and sculpted by Shachimaru Kunio (the same sculptor who made the robot soldier for the Ghibli Museum), and it gives a nod to Howl’s Moving Castle. It looks fascinating at all times, but try to time your visit for four minutes before noon, 3pm, 6pm or 8pm, because that’s when the magic happens. The clock springs into life, with all sorts of beautiful moving parts, music, and magic. Get there early to make sure you get a good viewing spot. It looks especially fun in the dark.
Address: 1 Chome-6-1 Higashishinbashi, Minato, Tokyo
Pilgrimage to film locations
Seiseki-Sakuragaoka: Whisper of the Heart
If you are a big fan of Whisper of the Heart, you might enjoy a few hours wandering the streets of the quiet west Tokyo suburb Seiseki-Sakuragaoka where the film’s main action takes place. Just outside Seiseki-Sakuragaoka Station you can find a charming little noticeboard with a map of the key locations from the film in Japanese. The station itself is of course a key location. The steep, curving road that Shizuku climbs to find the antique shop is called Irohazaka dori. And the shrine where feelings are declared is the Konpira Shrine (address: 206 0013 丁目, 1 Chome-53-1 Sakuragaoka, Tama-shi, Tōkyō-to 206-0013).
Here is a detailed Google Map that has been made of all the Whisper of the Heart Locations.
Sayama Hills: Totoro’s forest
Miyazaki grew up around Sayama Hills, particularly Fuchi no Mori about 40 kilometers from central Tokyo, and the setting inspired the forest in My Neighbor Totoro. In fact, the area has been officially nicknamed Totoro forest. Miyazaki himself has contributed both money and hands-on conservation efforts to preserve this beautiful forest on the borders of Tokyo and Saitama. Go for a hike, and see if you can track down Kurosuke’s House, which hosts a small informational display and some fun photo opportunities. The house is open on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays only, from 10am – 3pm, but it’s free to enter. And you never know: you might even encounter Miyazaki himself.
Access: 30 minutes walk from Seibu-Kyujo station.
Kurosuke’s House address: 3 Chome-1169-1 Mikajima, Tokorozawa-shi, Saitama-ken 359-1164
Official website: http://www.totoro.or.jp/english.html
Ghibli shopping spree
Donguri Kyowakoku is a chain of shops dedicated to selling Studio Ghibli merchandise. They have almost 40 branches around Japan. There are four Tokyo branches waiting to meet all your Ghibli shopping needs. They’re not a cheapo delight, but of course there are bargains to be found.
- Ikebukuro: Sunshine City Alpa Basement Level 1, Higashi Ikebukuro 3-1, Toshima-ku,
- Marunouchi: First Avenue Tokyo Station Level B1, Marunouchi 1-9-1, Chiyoda
- Tachikawa: LUMINE Tachikawa,Level 7, Akebono-cho 2-1-1, Tachikawa-shi
- Tokyo Skytree Town: Solamachi Level 2, Oshiage 1-1-2, Sumida-ku
Another store that has plenty of Ghibli merchandise is Kotobukiya in Akihabara. The ground floor has a large corner filled with Totoro themed goods. We’re not just talking plushies here, they even stock the straw hat worn by the child character Mei.
Beyond Ghibli: another pilgrimage fans may enjoy
Central Tokyo: Your Name
Makoto Shinkai‘s film Your Name is not only a box office hit, it provides all sorts of opportunities for the intrepid anime explorer in central Tokyo, as many of the scenes from the film are easily recognizable in real-life Tokyo. Some of the key sites are:
- Yotsuya: Yotsuya Station platform is where Taki and Miki meet for their date, and the nearby stairway to Suka shrine is the iconic spot where Taki and Mitsuha pass each other at the end of the film.
- Roppongi: Brasserie Paul Bocuse Le Musée on the 3rd floor of the National Art Center, Roppongi is the date spot where Taki and Miki eat.
- Cafe La Bohéme in Shinjuku Gyoen is the restaurant where Taki works.
- Shinanomachi Station pedestrian bridge is the spot from which Taki calls Mitsuha.
Your Name Cafe address: Ikebukuro PARCO Honkan 7F, 1-28-2 Minami Ikebukuro, Toshima-ku, Tokyo