True I had been super excited to visit the Ghibli museum.
True I had expected it to be amazing (unsuccessfully trying not to get my hopes too high).
True I had been waiting for the originality and beauty of all those movies to flood my brain again.
But I was still unprepared. I had still undermined how perfect it could be.
With breathtaking manuscripts of stop motion animation, oil paintings that looked like windows to other worlds that I know all too well, little unexpected animated features and reels and reels of film, they flaunted their skills unabashedly. And I could only stand and watch, trying not to gape.
- I would suggest taking the JR Chuo line to Kichijoji Station and then walking to the museum through Inokashira Park. It’s not too far and the park is beautiful enough to make you forget about the distance.
- Alternatively, take the JR Chuo line to Mitaka Station and the bus to Ghibli Museum
Tips before going
- Tickets! Ghibli museum requires tickets to be booked one month in advance, so this needs to be planned. You can get them here.
- If you get the 4 pm slot, keep in mind that the museum closes exactly at 6, and you might not be able to see the remaining parts of the museum after that. You might also want to get to the Laputa robot before it gets dark, as there is not much lighting around it, so put that first.
- Brace yourself for the feels.
First, is the way to the museum itself. I had a 4 pm entry pass, but I left at 2 from Shinjuku station so that I would have a one hour margin. Though I had taken the ticket to Mikata, I got off one station before at Kichijoji, just because I could see a huge park in the maps on the walk from Kichijoji to Ghibli Museum. Retrospectively, this has been one of my best decisions of the trip. The Inokashira pond and the park enclosing it is a feast for the eyes. And as I was going to the Ghibli museum, the park and the autumn splendor really set the mood for it. It was a relatively peaceful place blanketed by shed leaves and dotted with numerous park benches. Here and there, you could spot students trying to capture the beautiful scenes in their drawing pads (I gave it a shot too, but the results weren’t exactly flattering). I spent an hour in the place, sitting and drawing and looking around, and almost got late to the museum. If I had any inkling about how pretty it could have been, I would have went with more time to spare.
You could imagine my excitement as I rushed to the museum. This could be the highlight of my trip to Japan. It was the first thing I had marked on the map when it was finally decided that I was going to Japan. Ghibli, and specially Miyazaki’s, movies have meant so much to me through all these years. They have been my inspiration, my solace, my musical haven and my friends during the shittiest moments of my life.
Inside the museum, I rushed to the Laputa robot at the rooftop as it was getting dark. The only way to access the rooftop is a spiral staircase which was a nice touch. Inside the museum, there are many rooms dedicated to the creation of Ghibli movies. The animation studio has wonderful live stop motion features that look magical even in real life. Then there is a catbus room where you can look through different models and sit in a life sized model of the bus from My Neighbour Totoro. My personal favourite was a room where original paintings and drafts by ghibli artists were pasted all over the walls. I was mesmerized by the level of detail that goes into each panel. The watercolors looked beautiful but the oil paintings were on another level completely. At first, I was sure they were photos and not real paintings. I could not imagine the skills, devotion, love and respect that went into each of them. And for the first time I felt as if the movies did not do enough justice to the quality of the artwork of Ghibli.
In addition, there is a shop, a cafe and many other rooms in the museum. They also showed a cute little motion picture about a dog, Koro, in the museum which was around a 15 minute short story. There were no Engllish subtitles when I saw it, but there was not much being said in the movie and the story was pretty simple to follow. I could not get any pictures in the museum as it was not allowed >.< But take my word for it, it feels like an escapade into the Ghibli world, the most beautiful there can be.
The museum closes exactly at 6, so I did not have much time. Leaving was much harder than I had expected, and I felt a little jealous of the people working there (though I guess dealing with ghibli crazed fans who did not want to understand that 6 is the closing time no matter what could be a pain). Even if I had not been a fan of ghibli movies before coming to the museum (in some impossible parallel world), I would become one yet again after a visit here. I believe that it is a must for all those who’ve been grateful to studio ghibli ever in their lives.
PS – While I loved the experience completely, I do wish there was something about ghibli music too at the museum. They covered just the animation part. For me the music, especially by Joe Hisaishi, is as wonderful as the animation and story in the movies.
More on travelling in Japan