For many years, I have considered myself to be a fan of Studio Ghibli. If it sounds unfamiliar to you, Studio Ghibli is an animation studio in Japan, headed by renowned animator Hayao Miyazaki. The studio has been the pioneer in animation in Japan and, as argued by some, in the world. In case you still aren't familiar, Studio Ghibli is the production behind (strange) and memorable films such as Spirited Away, Howl's Moving Castle and My Neighbor Totoro.
And it wasn't until a few years ago that I discovered that there was a full museum that could cater to my fondness for the studio. Naturally, it was one of my top places to visit when my friends and I travelled to Japan last April (side note: I cannot believe it's been so long already).
Access to the Museum is relatively easy if you know know how to get there. More details at the end of this post!
But for now, I want to talk about the experience of being there!
First off, the museum's first impression is beautiful! I seriously felt myself step into one of Studio Ghibli's films. There was just a trove of greenery, and the vines wrapping themselves around the building just gave it that Miyazaki-touch! It was very much to my delight knowing that the museum was going to be a true experience of Ghibli.
This is the main entrance to the museum after you cross the main gates. As you can see, the place is quite popular so a line is starting to form, but the reception hall has a number of attendants that help guide you through.
As soon as you step into the entrance hall, I strangely imagined myself turning into an animated character and stumbling into an ancient house of a eccentric, though wise, painter--which is exactly what happened. Unfortunately, cameras are not permitted inside the museum, but guys oh guys, if you could have seen the inside of the museum, it's high ceiling and labyrinth of passageways and rooms, you may feel yourself being in Howl's Castle, the Latin Quarter in From Up on Poppy Hill, or even the Bath House from Spirited Away (okay, maybe not a bath house).
Just look at the ivy creeping up everywhere. Like with everything Studio Ghibli does in their films, I know this is intentional. After all, Studio Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki have produced films that are very much on the side of Environmentalism, so it is not a surprise that they would just surround themselves with as much green as possible.
In fact, one of the most beautiful rooms/exhibits in the Ghibli Museum was the replica studio of Hayao Miyazaki. It is a combination of three rooms, each showcasing Concept Art & Sketches, Backgrounds & Color Scripts and Screenplays & Cell Animation. These rooms were absolutely breathtaking. The reason I bring these rooms up is that, you will see and understand why the museum is designed the way it is. Seeing the process of how characters were designed, the backdrops were beautifully done and inspired by true nature and how everything is hand drawn and painted just leaves your jaw hanging--I know mine did!
View of the spiral staircase that leads to the rooftop garden
In the background and concept art room, there are binders and clear folders full of postcards and photos of nature--trees, bushes, waterfalls, streams, rock formations, everything. Clearly, Hayao Miyazaki and his team took the inspiration from nature, studying it so thoroughly that the realism shows in their work; which is probably why although you see animated characters running through the screen, you feel a sense of "this could be real" when you watch Studio Ghibli films.
And in reference to the photo, you can't see it too much, but the flag up there completely reminds me of the flags in From Up on Poppy Hill.
Feels like an adventure waiting to happen!
The entire place is so calming and yet so filled with the possibility of adventure. It reminds me of the feeling I get when I visit my Ancestral Home. I am very familiar with the place, as I've been there so many times in my life, and yet I want to keep exploring--the house is so old that I feel like there is magic in it that makes the rooms reshuffle and everything is new again. Do you know what I mean (maybe I'm weird that way)?
The Robot Soldier from Laputa: Castle in the Sky. He guards the entire Ghibli Museum and seems to love visitors. Here he is meeting my friend Micah for the first time. IT FEELS LIKE A REAL GHIBLI FILM MOMENT OKAY?
Now for some goodies!
The Ghibli Museum have a couple of rooms that serve as gift shops. There is one room that looks like a library/bookshop where you can purchase things like stationary, art of books and booklets about the museum.
The fun thing about these postcards are (TOP): shows the museum midday. It actually comes in another two designs: one of the museum at sunset and another at night. My friends and I bought different ones so we have the whole day! (BOTTOM LEFT): this is a painted postcard of my favorite room in the entire museum: Hayao Miyazaki's studio. As I mentioned previously, it was just such an inspiring place. Seeing this will always make me feel that way. Also, spot the creepy green babies hunched over in the postcard? These are actually found in the museum and, again, makes me feel like I'm in a film being watched over by benevolent spirits. (BOTTOM RIGHT) It's a mermaid. NEED I SAY MORE???
Memorabilia booklets of the museum: one in full photo print and in hand drawn sketches. These actually came in a bundle when we were there. I actually wasn't planning to buy these at all. HOWEVER, since photos were not allowed inside the museum, this would be my only way to remember everything that I saw inside! I recommend that you get it.
Details, details, details!
Studio Ghibli is a treasure trove of details in their films--it's such a monumental task to take in everything all at once because there is so much rich detail! And the museum is no exception. If you are too busy taking in the entire, overall big picture (which I'm sure you will be) you may miss out on these lovely little details! Stained glass windows of Totoro and Ponyo on the murals--there is so much!
Just like the films, definitely one visit is not enough. I must go back each time I come to Japan!
HOW TO GET THERE:
All you need to remember is the JR Rail CHUO LINE from Tokyo Station. You can ride either the CHUO LINE (Local) or CHUO LINE (Rapid toward Otsuki). If you get on the local line, then Mitaka is its final stop and you don't have to worry. As for the Rapid line, you have to get off at Mitaka Station.
Once you're at Mitaka Station, just follow the signs that will lead you to where the bus stop is!
For museum and bus tickets, just follow this handy guide we at JapanLover.Me have made for just such an occasion!
All right, that is all for now I hope you enjoy your visit there! And if you have gone, tell me what your favorite part was!
P.S. For those of you who are interested, here is my video review of "From Up on Poppy Hill."