Our fourth day in Japan was a special one because it was the day we visited the Studio Ghibli Museum!
Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli probably doesn’t need a full introduction as being one the most influential animation studios in the world, enchanting many worldwide through their vivid and imaginative worlds expressed in their portfolio of films. Studio Ghibli of course has been a part of my life from a young age when I didn’t even know that Ghibli was a thing. Whisper of the Heart and Kiki’s Delivery Service will always be my all-time Ghibli favourites. Even though I’m not that much of a die-hard Ghibli fan as other outspoken people tend to be I do appreciate the immaculate attention to detail and craft Studio Ghibli puts into its films for it to gain moderate mainstream appeal.
Booking tickets to the museum was one of the first things I did after greenlighting the trip after hearing from people getting tickets was going to be laborious; exactly three months in advance because the Ghibli Museum has a pretty specific procedure for foreigners.
Due to the museum’s popularity, there’s a strict amount of tickets available between Japanese citizens and foreigners. There isn’t a lot of tickets for foreigners meaning you’d have to be hot on the draw and claim your tickets when they become available through your respective country’s official vendor, which is normally three months before the actual date you want to visit. There’s quite a bit of paperwork involved but it’ll all definitely be worth it because visiting the museum is one of my highlighting moments out of the whole trip!
Walking into the Studio Ghibli Museum really does feel like you’re entering into a Ghibli film world. Gone are the street and traffic noises from reality and in you enter one of Miyazaki’s many fantasy-like constructs. For a place regarded as a museum it never felt like one. It had a homely atmosphere – like you’d just entered your friend’s grandmother’s house and she had all of this amazing pieces of paraphernalia and artwork on display.
The food at the museum’s Straw Hat Cafe was amazing. The gift shop was expensive, but even so I did grab a few Ghibli badges and keychain toys anyway as something to take away. I did notice a lot of Chinese tourists to their audible Mandarin speaking. Later in the day we noticed some sort of European tour group covering ground at the museum as they were a pretty big group. We also watched the kids play in the Catbus playpen which was sadly restricted for only children. It was really cool at the same time to see a foreign couple watch their son play amongst the rest of the Japanese kids.
One enticing reason to visit the Studio Ghibli Museum is that the museum screens a selection of Ghibli shorts on rotation you can’t find online. While we were there the museum was screening Mei and the Kittenbus; short sequel to Miyazaki’s My Neighbor Totoro. At the screening, there were a lot of people being crammed in so we had to sit on the steps in the centre of the respectfully sized theatre (they even have the red stage curtains opening with a buzzing noise before the movie started!).
The museum follows a strict no photos policy, because the grand master Miyazaki himself wants every visitor to
Photos are allowed nevertheless to be taken in the outdoor areas of the museum and the food you order in the museum’s cafe. But that didn’t stop me from trying though; until an elderly staff member approached me to slap my wrist as I tried to take a sneak shot of the lifesize Catbus and forced me to put my phone in my bag…
While I did manage to take some shots of the museum I feel it would be an insult to publish the sensitive ones online depicting concepts, storyboards and early paintings. There are far better framed and lighted photographs of these things out there on the web through a quick search engine query but just to compromise I’ll only share the inoffensive ones that won’t do any harm in this post. I decided to leave my DSLR camera at our Airbnb because of this rule so all of the photos in this post were captured through my Nexus 6 smartphone.
We spent most of the entire day at the Studio Ghibli Museum while spending the rest of the evening in Akihabara before heading back to our Airbnb for an early night in to prepare for what was coming to us the next day – Comiket!
Anyhow on with the photos!
Obligatory photo of walking to the train station in the early hours on a rather cloudy day.
On our way to Mitaka which from Sumida was around a hour-long train ride! Notice the Tokyo Skytree tower in the background.
Arrived in Mitaka! You can take a bus from the station which will take you directly to the museum but it was more fitting to take the 15-minute walk and breath in the new surroundings.
On our way we took a brief detour and walked through the Inokashira Park and Pond, a beautiful park to chill if it weren’t for the screaming cicadas everywhere crippling your eardrums…
760 metres to go…
Edging closer! Cool to see Ghibli signs around the area.
We arrived around 09:30 am which was 30 mins before the museum opened at 10 am. There were already a couple of us standing outside the gates.
You have to stand to pledge your allegiance to a lifeless Totoro at the front entrance and proclaim anime was a mistake before you can enter Miyazaki’s lair.
Once we entered the Ghibli Museum we made a quick dash to the Straw Hat Cafe first! The name being based off Miyazaki’s fetish for straw hats on his characters in his films, it’s the main “food court” to eat at the museum while having another small outdoor cafe on the upper floor. I followed the advice I found on the internet that it’s better to eat first than waiting in line for hours later on in the day.
I decided to go for the full shabang and got the “Looking up at a Clear Blue Sky in the Field Cream Soda”, “Breaded Pork Cutlet Sandwich for the Hungry Stomach” and “Straw Hat’s Parfait”.
Very long names so I just pointed at what I wanted to the waitress before she spoke to me in English.
The food was absolutely lovely thanks to the organic ingredients the cafe uses on all their foods! The service was fantastic, the food came in no time (probably cause the day had just started) and overall it was a positive atmosphere!
A good thing to do is to order a dessert of any kind to nab a free Ghibli mini flag once you’re done, alternatively you can get a set of four in the gift shop for an exorbitant price.
You also get a Ghibli film strip as a ticket once you step inside the museum! The film stip I got looks like from Ponyo.
I got a delicious lemon sorbet from the outdoor cafe later on in the day after admiring the thousands of storyboard drawings and paintings.
After wandering around the Ghibli Museum for a good chunk of the day we left around 4pm to cover ground around the Mitaka area. Saw Japanese baseball people for the first time in the flesh!
Walked back to Kichijoji but decided to walk around the bustling area for a bit!
Perhaps an insult to Miyazaki after spending the day at his museum one lengthy train ride later we’re back in Akiba! Ran a few small errands and things to do on my checklist here before calling it a day.
In the Gamers store picking up a Comiket catalog for Otamega who I was going to meet up with at Comiket the next day The catalogue came with a cool little leaflet from Kenjirou Hata to visit his booth!
We spent quite a bit of our evening traversing through the rabbit hole (or tower) that is Mandarake…
Was staring at these lit signs and realise this was sign to pop life department m’s; a sex shop just the street down once you exited the south exit to Akihabara station.
At pop life department m’s customers can get a 20% discount to cosplays or 30% to lingerie if they agree to have photos taken of them in-store…
Advert for Ayakashi Ko! My favourite thing to do in Akiba was noting down names of anime/manga so that I can check it out at the end of the trip.
Next door to the Gundam Cafe is the infamous AKB48 Cafe and Shop! We walked in for roughly 2 minutes and then quickly walked back out. Idol fans are scary.
We went back to our Airbnb around 10pm for an early night of sleep to prepare for what is about to befall on us for the next three days; to be continued in my next post – Comiket!!!