Exploring the Magic: A Guide to the Ghibli Museum in Japan

by Nana Young

Introduction to the Ghibli Museum: A Haven for Animation Enthusiasts

The Ghibli Museum is a museum showcasing Ghibli oriented exhibitions

Nestled in the heart of Mitaka, Tokyo, lies a whimsical haven that transports visitors in the enchanting world of Studio Ghibli. The Ghibli Museum stands as a testament to the artistry, imagination, and timeless storytelling that have captivated audiences worldwide. Featuring the beloved characters from "My Neighbor Totoro", "Kiki's Delivery Service", and "Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind," alongside the enchanting landscapes depicted in "Howl's Moving Castle" and "Princess Mononoke," this art museum celebrates Hayao Miyazaki's visionary brilliance. It pays homage to Studio Ghibli's films and delves into the technical and creative process behind the studio's mesmerizing animation.

History of the Ghibli Museum: Tracing its Origins and Evolution

Cast iron panel leading to the Mitaka Ghibli Museum in Tokyo

The Ghibli Museum in Mitaka traces its origins to the visionary spirit of Hayao Miyazaki. Along with fellow animator Isao Takahata and producer Toshio Suzuku, they established Studio Ghibli in 1985 with the ambition of creating animated films that transcended age and cultural barriers, aiming to "blow a new wind through the anime industry" in Japan. As Studio Ghibli garnered acclaim for timeless works like "Spirited Away" and "Ponyo on the Cliff," Hayao Miyazaki envisioned a haven where fans could fully immerse themselves in the enchanting realms he had brought to life. Thus, the concept of the Ghibli Museum was born—a sanctuary inviting visitors to experience the magic of its animation firsthand.

The planning for the museum began in 1998 and its construction started in March 2000. Upon its completion, the museum officially opened its doors on October 1, 2001, quickly winning the hearts of visitors worldwide. From the rooftop garden, where the towering robot from "Castle in the Sky" overlooks the Tokyo skyline, to the whimsical Cat Bus room inspired by "My Neighbor Totoro," every nook and cranny of the museum beckons visitors to enter the magical world of Studio Ghibli and uncover the secrets behind the studio's masterpieces.

Location of the Ghibli Museum: Finding this Hidden Gem in Tokyo

Aerial vision of Ghibli Museum Mitaka

Located within the tranquil setting of Inokashira Park in Mitaka, this hidden gem can be reached by taking the JR Chuo Line from Shinjuku Station to JR Mitaka Station. Upon arrival, visitors can choose between a direct bus service from Mitaka Station to the museum or a scenic 15-20 minute stroll. The community bus operates every 10 to 20 minutes, and bus tickets are conveniently available for purchase at the bus stop's vending machine.

Architectural Marvels: Design and Layout of the Ghibli Museum

Ghibli Museum in Mitaka tokyo

Director Hayao Miyazaki personally designed the Ghibli Museum, employing storyboards similar to those he creates for his beloved films. As guests approach the museum's entrance, they are greeted by a giant Totoro statue, playfully signaling the actual entrance. Unlike other museums, the Ghibli Museum intentionally lacks a set path, encouraging both children and adults to wander through Miyazaki's captivating world—a concept embodied in the museum's motto of "Let's lose our way together."

Inspired by European architecture, the museum's exterior radiates a sense of playfulness and charm, featuring spiral iron staircases, unexpected alcoves, and colorful ceilings. These architectural elements craft an inviting ambiance that transports visitors into the magical realms depicted in Studio Ghibli's beloved films.

Exhibits and Attractions: Discovering the Wonders Within

An effigy of Totoro at Ghibli Museum in Mitaka

Within the museum's confines, the design meticulously immerses visitors in the artistic and innovative aspects of the studio's animation process. The layout of the museum is divided into several themed areas, each providing a unique perspective on Studio Ghibli's cinematic magic.

Central Hall
Upon stepping into the Ghibl Museum, the Central Hall entices with its lively atmosphere and captivating displays, serving as the entrance to the exhibition rooms that provide a peek into the artistic journey behind Studio Ghibli's enduring masterpieces like "Spirited Away" and "Prince Mononoke".

Permanent Exhibition Room
The first floor houses the permanent exhibit room showing the history and techniques of animation. This space includes a mock-up of an animation studio called "Where a Film is Born", designed to resemble an animation filmmaker's workspace filled with books and walls adorned with illustrations and sketches. Additionally, this area showcases paintings and stills showcasing iconic characters and scenes from Ghibli films, while also highlighting the evolution of technology and the intricate processes involved in bringing Ghibli's cinematic wonders to life.

Special Temporary Exhibitions
On the second floor, visitors can explore special temporary exhibitions that change periodically and typically remain on display for less than a year. Presently, the exhibition showcases Studio Ghibli's latest film, "The Boy and the Heron," acclaimed as one of the best animated films ever created. The Ghibli Museum will rotate exhibits related to the film across three consecutive phases, spanning from the present moment until May 2025.

Saturn Theater
A standout feature of the Ghibli Museum is that with your admission ticket, you receive an entry pass for a secret Studio Ghibli short film. The Saturn Theater, located in the museum's basement and accommodating approximately 80 seats, plays exclusive animated Ghibli short films that are never shown elsewhere and remain exclusive to the museum's audience. You can check the screening schedules in advance on the Ghibli Museum's website.

Cat Bus Room
The Cat Bus Room, a tribute to the movie "My Neighbor Totoro," offers a realm of imagination and fascination for both younger guests and those young at heart. This engaging display allows children to climb aboard and discover its enchanting interior. However, adult visitors can only admire and touch the fluffy iconic cat bus.

Reading Room "TRI HAWKS"
The reading room aims to convey the museum's desire for children to encounter and engage with intriguing concepts through books. In this space, guests can browse through books handpicked and recommended by Hayao Miyazaki himself.

The museum's gift shop, named after the sky pirates in "Porco Rosso," features products showcasing your beloved Studio Ghibli characters alongside unique museum-exclusive items.

Rooftop Garden
As you conclude your journey though the museum's captivating displays, a visit to the rooftop garden offers a serene escape. Here, you'll find the towering five-meter-tall Robot Soldier from "Castle in the Sky," surrounded by panoramic vistas of Inokashira Park.

The Miyazaki Touch: Honoring the Legacy of Hayao Miyazaki

The Robot statue on an open garden space at Ghibli museum from the Studio Ghibli film 'Laputa: Castle in the Sky' on the rooftop at Ghibli museum.

The Ghibli Museum's design pays whimsical tribute to Miyazaki's artistic vision and his passion for fantastical architecture, bringing to life iconic characters and reimagined settings from his cherished films. From the full-scale replica of the Castle in the Sky robot in the museum's roof garden to the giant cat bus from My Neighbor Totoro and exhibit areas showcasing the interiors of the incredible flying ships of “Laputa", the museum offers a chance for guests to immerse themselves in the enchanting world of their favorite Studio Ghibli films.

Artistic Inspirations: Exploring the Creative Process at Studio Ghibli

Kiki's Delivery Service

One of the highlights of the Ghibli Museum is its array of special installations, providing an exclusive peek into Miyazaki's artistic journey. Showcasing hand-drawn storyboards, intricate concept art, miniature sets, and advanced animation techniques, these exhibits unveil the dedication, passion, and meticulous craftsmanship that define Miyazaki's artistic endeavors. Each installation is thoughtfully designed, offering visitors a captivating insight into the artist's creative process, his keen eye for detail, and his knack for imbuing every frame with profound emotion and depth. Exploring these exhibits provides a comprehensive understanding of the intricate process behind creating an animated film.

Ticket Information: How to Secure Entry to the Ghibli Museum

Tourists were waiting to go inside Ghibli Museum that showcasing the work of Japanese Animation Studio Ghibli.

For fans of Studio Ghibli, a visit to the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka, is a dream come true. However, to guarantee a seamless and magical experience, it's important to understand the ticketing process, reservation procedures, and admission requirements for this beloved cultural landmark.

The Ghibli Museum uses a timed-entry system, offering specific entry slots throughout the day to regulate visitor numbers and optimize the experience. It's crucial to purchase tickets in advance as they're not available for sale at the museum. Securing tickets can be challenging, especially for international visitors, as the museum sells a limited daily quota. Tickets can be acquired through various channels, such as:

  • JTB
    JTB, Japan's largest travel agency with global offices, provides a limited number of museum tickets that become available for purchase about three months before your preferred visit date. These tickets are released for sale on the 1st of each month for visits scheduled three months later.

  • Lawson Convenience Store
    You can obtain Ghibli Museum tickets through Lawson's online ticketing platform or at their kiosks. Typically, tickets for the following month become available for purchase starting at 10 a.m. on the 10th day of each month.

After securing your tickets, ensure you have a government-issued ID or appropriate identification ready for verification during your visit to the Ghibli Museum. Additionally, remember to bring either your reservation confirmation email or e-ticket as proof of purchase.

It is also important to note that Ghibli Museum often closes during the New Year's holidays and sporadically throughout the year for exhibit changes. Additionally, the museum is usually closed on Tuesdays and operates from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm on other days.

Dining Options: Dining Amidst the Magic of Studio Ghibli

People at the Ghibli Museum Cafe

A visit to the Ghibli Museum, is not just a journey through the enchanting realms of Studio Ghibli's films—it's also an opportunity to indulge in delightful culinary experiences that complement the magic and charm of the museum. The Straw Hat Cafe, the museum's only sit-down restaurant, provides a tranquil open-air ambiance for guests to unwind and enjoy homemade-style meals amidst the serene backdrop of Inokashira Park.

At the Cafe, visitors can indulge in homemade delights such as breaded pork cutlets, hot dogs, sweet desserts, and a variety of beverages, all ideal for relaxing after a day of museum exploration. Furthermore, visitors have the opportunity to sample the unique alcoholic beverage known as "Valley of the Wind" beer, crafted through a special collaboration with Dairy Kingdom Oratche, a microbrewery located in Tanna Basin. This exclusive drink is available for purchase at the takeout section.

Tips for Visitors: Making the Most of Your Ghibli Museum Experience


Ghibli museum

To make the most of your visit, here are some helpful tips and suggestions to consider—from effective planning to seamlessly navigating the exhibits and fully enjoying all that the museum has in store.

Because of its immense popularity, tickets to the Ghibli Museum frequently sell out quickly, particularly during peak seasons and holidays. To ensure you don't miss out, it's highly recommended to plan ahead and book tickets well in advance. Be sure to visit the museum's official website or authorized ticket vendors for information on availability, reservation processes, and any noteworthy announcements or upcoming events.

For a truly immersive experience at the Ghibli Museum, it's beneficial to arrive early to beat the crowds and maximize your time exploring the exhibits, themed cafes, and outdoor areas. Allocate at least a few hours for your visit to leisurely appreciate everything the museum has to offer without feeling hurried or rushed.

Once inside the building, note that photography is strictly prohibited. Therefore, be sure to capture as many photos as you can outside. The exterior of the building showcases a unique architectural style that reflects Miyazaki's vision and has gradually been embraced by nature since the museum opened.

Don't just observe—immerse yourself in the interactive exhibits and installations that bring Studio Ghibli's worlds to life. From the Cat Bus Room's playful exploration to the hands-on activities in the Central Hall, engage your senses and embrace the magic of animation artistry. Don't miss the opportunity to attend exclusive screenings of short films at the Saturn Theater. These cinematic delights, created by Studio Ghibli exclusively for the museum, provide fans with a rare opportunity to experience Miyazaki's storytelling genius in a way that cannot be found elsewhere.

Lastly, as you navigate through the museum, be mindful of fellow visitors and follow museum etiquette and guidelines. Show respect for designated areas, refrain from touching exhibits unless explicitly allowed, and adhere to any instructions given by museum staff. These measures contribute to a harmonious and considerate experience for all visitors.

Fond Farewells: Reflecting on the Ghibli Museum Experience

Fall foliage at Ghibli Museum in Mitaka, Japan.

Ghibli Museum's ability to transport guests into Hayao Miyazaki's imaginative universe, coupled with its interactive exhibits and cinematic delights, creates an experience that transcends mere entertainment—it becomes a cherished memory, a treasure trove of inspiration, and a testament to the enduring power of storytelling. Whether you're a dedicated fan or a curious explorer, the museum's legacy lingers far beyond your visit, sparking curiosity, nurturing a passion for animation, and nurturing a belief in the enchantment of dreams.

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