Along with attending Comic-con and E3, visiting the Studio Ghibli Museum in Japan completes the Holy Trinity of Geek Pilgrimages. The interactive museum, only nine years old, is a testament to Studio Ghibli’s popularity in Japan and around the world. The museum, designed by Ghibli head Hayao Miyazaki, is a bit on the small side—only two hours to fully explore—but since it is such a popular attraction tickets are often sold out for as much as a month in advance. After waiting said month I was finally able to go to Inokashira Park in Tokyo and experience it for myself. Hit the jump for more.
The Studio Ghibli museum is just as vibrant and colorful as the movies upon which it is based. Half playground, half historical record the museum has a little something for everyone. From the main entrance visitors are directed down a flight of stairs to the main floor. Stain-glass pictures of the most notable Ghibli characters frame the walk—just a tantalizing hint of what is in store. Ghibli movies in Japan are just like Disney films in America, everyone, young and old alike, has seen them and has a favorite movie or character. It is not uncommon to see families wandering the museum with parents just as excited to be there as their children. And boy, are there a lot of children. Their excited voices rang out from every corner and they whirled around haphazardly like the susuwatari from My Neighbor Totoro. I think the only way I would have tripped over more kids would be if the Jonas Brothers had been playing a charity concert in the garden.
The construction of the three-story museum is like that of a fantastical house. Tightly-spiraled staircases, secret passage-ways and an outdoor garden with a giant stone robot can are all to be found. The first floor is the most traditional in its design. There is a small screening room where a rotation of short animated films can be seen as well as a large room depicting the nuances of cel-shaded animation through displays on light, miniatures and hand-drawings.
The main feature on the second floor is a life-size recreation of the animation workshop at Studio Ghibli. A sprawling mess of artwork, figurines and pencils, the workshop looks as if it might spring to life at any moment a la Merlin’s room from The Sword in the Stone. An especially ingenious knick-knack was a miniature of the animation workshop found within the regular sized one. Some parts were closed off but others invited a walkthrough and even contained the original storyboards and concept art from some of the films. The main display changes depending on what film has just been released. This means that The Borrower Arrietty took center stage (click here for my review). The second and third floors also have large playrooms that, sadly, are strictly for kids.
The outside area is also split into three levels though it has a bit less to offer in the way of sights. Exiting from the top floor will bring you face to impassive face with Lune from The Cat Returns. The bottom level has a functional well which can be used for pumping water…and that’s about it. In the middle is the Ghibli themed cafe which has decent snacks and treats if you are willing to wait in line for a bit. The special feature of the second floor takes a sharp eye to find—a staircase just about hidden by leaves that leads to a rooftop garden where a giant robot statue from Castle in the Sky waits patiently to have its picture taken.
Tickets to Ghibli museum can be bought overseas, more information on that can be found here. During the summer tickets are often sold out weeks in After spending a fun couple of hours exploring the house (and finishing off with a giant slice of strawberry shortcake complete with a Totoro flag) all I can is if you are ever around Tokyo and have a little extra time make sure to check out the Ghibli museum—you will not be disappointed. Or in the vernacular, Zehi, mite kudasai ne!
Finally, here’s a bunch of photos I took: