A Visit to the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka
There are animations that become trendsetters and made breakthroughs in the animation industry; movies like ANTZ that first made the breakthrough in CGI animation; movies like Toy Story that became the first feature-length computer-based animated film; movies like Frozen that captured everyone’s heart and which became a fad and that which inspired practically all of kiddie (including some adult) merchandise.
But there are animations that capture the soul; animations that you will remember years after; animations that will haunt you for some time; animations that would make you want to watch it again and again yet not get tired of it and instead would love it even more with each viewing; animations that with each viewing will make your understanding richer; animations with depth that with each viewing you’ll discover more delightful details that sheds light to the story and makes the animation richer in detail. Such is the animations produced by Ghibli Museum and more specifically those which were directed by Hayao Miyazaki.
Personally, there are a number of animations that I loved at first viewing. But with each repetitive viewing, the novelty and love just wanes. You could even sometimes see loopholes and “points for revision” (notice how Elsa’s skirt height changes as she was building her ice castle in Frozen?), which is quite disappointing really. But with Ghibli movies, it’s quite the opposite ; you’d often find yourself seeing details you haven’t noticed in previous viewings which would make you question if you’re seeing the same movie or you’re seeing another version of the movie.
So imagine this detail coming to life in the form of a theme park. Thankfully, Ghibli gave their fans a taste of this wonderland - The Ghibli Museum, Mitaka. If you are expecting your usual theme park suffused with rides though, I’d recommend you head over to Disneyland and DisneySea; Studio Ghibli Museum is not that kind of theme park. It remained true to its feature films and short stories, detail-oriented.
Accessible from Mitaka Station (about 20 minutes by train from Shinjuku Station), a community bus will take you to the Museum. By foot, the Museum is also only a 15-minute walk from Mitaka South Exit.
Right by the entrance, you’ll see a giant Totoro, welcoming you. Dustbunnies peeking through the portholes will also welcome you.
They’re supposed to be scary but admit it, these dustbunnies are really cute, right?
As is indicated on the Ghibli website, a paid-reservation needs to be placed first before going to the museum. For those within Japan, the reservation can be made on designated machines in any Lawson Convenience Store after which the reservation will be paid at the Lawson cashier . For those in overseas who would like to make their reservations before their trip (imperative!), please check out the details on the Ghibli website. This reservation coupon will be exchanged for an admission ticket at the reception counter in the Museum in the form of 35mm film prints which were actually used in theaters. Hold it up against the light and see which Ghibli film you got as a ticket.
Here’s the thing though: it is prohibited to take photos within the Museum. But since your admission ticket is valid only for a certain period of time, the best course to take is to maximize your visit by being present and in the moment and not to take pictures for checking later.
The main hall is a two-story building with a basement; the basement holds the Saturn Theater which has a capacity of 80 people. Original short animated features are shown here, most of which you can only view in this theater.
The most remarkable for me on the first floor (well, except for their toilets which I find incredibly charming) is the room called, “Where a Film is Born”. When we went to Ghibli Museum, it was organized by a friend and I actually didn’t google anything about the Museum before our visit. So when I explored this room, I was thinking some drafter or creative artist has just left this room and will be coming back in a short while - which is actually the very image that they want to portray. Sketches are pinned on the walls, or left lying on the floor or in places; it was like somebody’s happy place; somebody who’s really passionate about giving birth to a film.
Up on the second floor, you’ll find another reason yet to envy the children for – the Neko (Cat) Bus! The fluffy cat bus in the feature film Totoro is as fluffy and cuddly in real life. Thing is, only children under the age of 12 are allowed to ride on and explore it. Sigh for us adults who dreamt of riding on this one. But it definitely is a joy for parents seeing their kids jump up and down on this bus. Remember though, camera is not allowed!
Up on the rooftop, you’ll find the giant Robot Soldier from Laputa Castle in the Sky. To be honest, I found this robot menacing. He is regarded though as the “Guardian” of the Ghibli Museum.
For instructions on how to purchase reservation tickets, visit this link: http://www.lawson.co.jp/ghibli/museum/ticket/english.html
It’s best to time your trip according to the bus schedule: http://www.ghibli-museum.jp/en/howtogo/
For opening dates, admission fees and other basic information, check here: http://www.ghibli-museum.jp/en/info/
All photos by PM Garcia