I was a Ghibli fan long before I heard of Hayao Miyazaki or even realized that Disney and Ghibli were two separate things. Back when Japan was just a funny word and my backyard was the most similar thing to a foreign country I had ever explored, I sat glued in front of the Disney channel watching Kiki’s Delivery Service and My Neighbor Totoro (or My Friend Totoro as Disney called it).
I distinctly remember my mother renting Princess Mononoke from Blockbuster when I was 12 or 13 years old. It was the first time I realized that this kind of animation was from Japan (I will never forget the shock when I learned that Speed Racer, Sailor Moon, Pokémon and Dragon Ball Z were also *GASP* Japanese!) My mind was suddenly opened to a whole new world of creativity and imagination.
As an adult, I have continued to enjoy Ghibli films and I remain a huge sucker for Ghibli merchandise. Even now, my small stuffed Totoro sits next to my computer at work staring at me and blocking my view of my desk calendar (Yes, I am typing this at work.) Luckily, in Japan, the presence of character goods at work is fairly common and pretty much expected. I use my little Totoro as a prop in English class and my familiarity with Ghibli has always opened doors to conversations with even the most unlikely of people, such as the Deputy Chief of Mission at the Embassy of Japan in Washington, even though he is by his own admission more of a Lupin the III fan.
Imagine my delight when I learned that there was a Ghibli Museum! It is located in Mitaka, Tokyo about a 15 min walk from Mitaka Station. You can also catch a bus cleverly painted like the infamous Cat Bus to the museum from the station. You must purchase the tickets to the museum in advance. In Japan, the only place you can purchase the ticket is the Lawson’s Convenience store. Directions on how to purchase it are available here at the Ghibli Museum official website. You can purchase the ticket up to three months in advance starting the first of every month. They are 1000 yen each for people over 19 years of age. For a more detailed breakdown of admission prices go here. If you want to purchase the ticket outside of Japan, it is a bit trickier because they are only available at select travel agencies.
I had the pleasure of going to the museum last August. I must say it is a truly magical and adorable experience. The whimsical design of the museum itself immediately sets the mood for a Ghilbi-esk adventure. There is a map of the museum but it is intentionally vague, encouraging you to explore the floors as a child would: one imaginative room at a time. There are twisty staircases, small walkways and tunnels, a room that is completely lined with fur and even hidden walkways on the roof through dense foliage. Any Ghilbi fan would be delighted. I certainly enjoyed myself.
In addition to the wondrous rooms, there is also a short original movie that changes periodically. There is a café located next to the museum and of course there is a gift shop filled to the brim with Ghibli merchandise. I highly recommend the museum as a must for those of you who, like me, grew up on the fantastical works of Hayao Miyazaki. You won’t be disappointed!