Director Hayao Miyazaki's "Castle in the Sky" Robot
A great trip with the kids or adult fans of Miyazaki's films. We bought tickets at our local JTB office in NYC as it's necessary to reserve in advance. Only a 40 minute train ride from Shinjuku, the museum is located in Inokashira Park which is beautiful and hosts many other seasonal attractions.
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A Hidden Japanese Gem: Studio Ghibli Museum
Hop aboard the Cat Bus express, Ghibli fans! Some may state that the Ghibli Museum is geared toward children, but if you are a Miyazaki fan this museum is a must-see. Splurge a bit and book a tour with your hotel, or purchase tickets at the local convenience store. If I remember correctly, Lawson convenience stores should sell the tickets.
The Ghibli museum is located in the suburbs of Tokyo in Inokashira Park, Mitaka. It might appear to be slightly difficult to get to if you're not familiar with the public transportation, which is why I suggest the tour. The museum is full of Ghibli gems and rooms dedicated to movies and characters; Hayao Miyazaki hand painted the walls himself. There are many perfect photo opportunities with icons from several different movies. Your ticket into the museum also includes a movie ticket to a tiny home theater in the museum, which plays a short that can be seen only in the museum. (It changes every few months, so you're likely to never see the same one twice.) Of course, the museum has a fantastic gift shop with many items that can only be purchased there. Depending if you opt to take the tour, your tour guide might also take you to a small Japanese store that is slightly cheaper and also has Studio Ghibli memorabilia.
Since its founding in 1985, Studio Ghibli has become one of the world's preeminent masters of film animation. The Ghibli Museum, opened in 2001, is nested within one of Tokyo's most beloved parks, Inokashira Park—just 20 minutes by train from Shinjuku to either Mitaka or Kichijōji. Take time before or after your museum visit to stroll through the park or to rent a paddle boat.
Included with the price of admission is one viewing in the Saturn Theater, where Ghibli's short films—made exclusively for the museum—are screened. The tickets themselves are precious as well—each one is made of original 35mm film print.
On the second floor, the permanent exhibits are set up as an animator's workshop and display the many steps of the animation process. Tubes of paint, pencils, and figurines sit scattered across a desk alongside paint palettes and works in progress. A stack of books about World War II aircraft sits in the corner, while model airplanes dangle from the rafters.
Visitors can see original concept sketches, storyboards, background matte paintings, and animation cels—a rare treat for fans.
Other exhibits demonstrate the science of animation, including the "Bouncing Totoro" zoetrope. When illuminated by strobe lights, the figurines on the turntables spring to life.
Admission is by advance purchase only. While it is possible to buy tickets in Japan at most Lawson locations, visitors outside Japan can buy tickets through an authorized travel agency.
Photo: Grace Lingad