Visiting The Magical Studio Ghibli Museum



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You don't have to be an anime fan to have heard of Japanese animation house Studio Ghibli. 

Even if the name doesn't ring a bell then one of their films probably will. Their ghostly fantasy Spirited Away won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature in 2001. 

Ghibli Museum titlecard The Real Japan Rob Dyer

Visiting The Magical Studio Ghibli Museum

by Rob Dyer

If you are an anime fan then the Studio Ghibli Museum is a must-see stop in Tokyo if you ever get the chance. If you're not then it is still worth a trip – not least for the collection of incredible draughtsmanship and original artwork that is on display.

Studio Ghibli Museum The Real Japan Rob Dyer

VIDEO: Welcome To Ghibli Museum, Mitaka

Becoming children together

Those expecting a Disneyland or Universal Studios scale site should be forewarned, as it isn't huge; in fact, it's pretty small, but what it lacks in size it more than makes up for with charm and, yes, magic.

What it has captured perfectly is the ethos of Studio Ghibli's films. Bigger and louder is not better.

Studio Ghibli Museum The Real Japan Rob Dyer

The setting helps; it's on the edge of a woodland (Mitaka Forest) and the architectural design, by Studio Ghibli founder (and director of many of their classic films) Hayao Miyazaki, creating a colourful fantasy village.

(There's almost a Portmerion feel to it - Portmerion is the surreal Italian style village in Wales where the cult 1960s series The Prisoner was filmed.)

Both setting and design ensuring that even the most tired parent (or child!) should perk up immediately upon first glimpsing it.

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VIDEO: Ghibli Museum Video Diary: Fresh Green

The museum's motto is "Let's become lost children together", and only the stoniest of heart could fail to feel a child-like sense of adventure, exploration, fascination or even excitement at times when travelling through the place.


History of Evolution

The first room accessible from the entrance is also worthy of special mention. It's a fine example of the entire museum's genuine love of the magical potential for film and indeed of the mechanics of the art form itself.

In a darkened gallery you can see (among other exhibits) zeotropes, a stroboscope and 35mm film running through a clear projector showing film clips and History of Evolution - a short animation by the studio.

Studio Ghibli Museum The Real Japan Rob Dyer

Even very young children seemed captivated by the exhibits in this room. Only the volume of visitors at the time we visited in such a small space was a detraction from lingering longer than we did.

The Great Glass Elevator

The Studio Ghibli Museum prides itself on there being no set route to seeing the exhibits (something even more exceptional here in Japan than it would be elsewhere). As you step over the threshold, you enter what looks like a wealthy eccentric's quirky mansion.

Studio Ghibli Museum The Real Japan Rob Dyer

There is a large main reception room with several doors and tunnels leading from it, a spiral staircase and a Victorian-style glass elevator (a nod to Roald Dhal's Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator?) all tempting you to explore.

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The cat bus from My Neighbor Totoro

Permanent and changing exhibitions celebrate all things Ghibli. When we visited one of the temporary ones were the Cat Bus rooms, featuring a full-sized version of the memorable cat bus from their 1988 classic My Neighbor Totoro, were a joy.

In one room, young children were allowed to climb inside, and on top of the bus should they wish; whilst in the other room their parents can sit, in slightly a more refined, dare one say 'adult' manner, inside a sectional mock up of the furry orange vehicle.

There's a cute, small cinema showing short films that are apparently exclusively shown here. We caught Chuzumo (or Mouse Sumo!) which was perfect having only just seen the real thing (sumo that is) for the first time the day before. A funny film that sumo fans will appreciate for its attention to detail on the trappings of the ceremony that surrounds the sport.

Life sized robot from Laputa: Castle In The Sky

Personal highlight for me though was a life-sized statue of one of the robots from Laputa: Castle In The Sky - probably my favourite Miyazaki-directed film (and studio Ghibli's first in 1986).

Studio Ghibli Museum The Real Japan Rob Dyer

This stands guard atop a garden on the roof of the museum, which is accessible through another of those spiral metal staircases. Fortunately, the weather on the day we visited was perfect Japanese winter weather - that is bright sunshine, blue skies and chilly.

VIDEO: Robot From Laputa - Rooftop Garden of Green

I couldn't resist having my photo taken below the protective giant. Even my often reluctant wife posed for a commemorative snapshot. It also looks imposingly majestic from the exit gates of the museum where it can be viewed as perhaps intended (and as in the film) - like a sentinel watching over all those below.

Demand for tickets is high

If you're thinking of going its necessary to plan in advance due to the massive demand for tickets. To the museum's credit, they ration tickets each day. Like the extremely popular exhibitions at more conventional big-city art galleries, tickets only permit access during a fixed time window.

So, don't be late - or you'll be politely advised, as only the Japanese can do, that you have most unfortunately missed your opportunity. Disaster!

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The best way to buy tickets

Curiously, buying tickets to the Studio Ghibli Museum from outside Japan is actually easier than inside the country. Outside you should be able to get them through travel agents on request (you'll have to specify your preferred date and time).

Alternatively, if you live in Japan, or know someone who does, you can do as we did and ask willing relatives/friends to assist you. You'll need to book and then arrange for your relative/friend to collect your tickets from a Lawson convenience store. (I know – random!)

Studio Ghibli Museum The Real Japan Rob Dyer

Your helpful Japanese contact can then also post you the tickets in advance of leaving your home country so that you have them with you on arrival in Tokyo if your relatives/friends don't live in the city. 😉

VIDEO: Hayao Miyazaki Visits Ghibli Museum And Designs New Cafe Sign

How to buy tickets in advance online

Tickets can be purchased from several vendors online, each offering a slightly different twist on the options. These include providing plenty of flexibility, last minute tickets, tickets with transfer from central Tokyo etc.

Here's direct links to the best offers (each link will open in a new window):

Pre-order with ticket delivery via Viator

Ghibli Film Appreciation Tour with lunch via Viator

Ghibli Museum and Inokashira Park Walking Trip via Klook

Ghibli Museum, Hotel Gajoen Tokyo and Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum Tour via Klook

Studio Ghibli Virtual Tour

Best virtual Studio Ghibli spots tour The Real Japan

A virtual Studio Ghibli tour is another option if you cannot get to the museum

If you cannot visit the museum in person or cannot get tickets for when you need them, consider taking a virtual Studio Ghibli tour. This online experience will take you to the places throughout Japan which are the inspiration for some of Studio Ghibli's most famous films.

The tour (via Zoom) includes Ghibli related spots (including the Ghibli Museum) throughout Japan from Hokkaido in the north,  to Kagoshima in the south.

Learn more about this virtual tour in our guide 10 Top-Rated Virtual Japan Tours.

No photography inside the museum

The Ghibli Museum has a policy of no photography inside the museum itself. In part, I imagine, to sustain a sense of surprise and wonder when people visit for the first time. That's why you'll rarely see many photos of the interior exhibits.

However, photography in the grounds and gardens outside the museum, including on the roof which you can walk on, and the main entrance is authorised and fine.

VIDEO: Magical Nighttime Lights At Studio Ghibli Museum

Location Map

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Leave A Comment / Ask A Question

  • Hi Rob,

    I love the design of this museum. From its colors to overall feel it looks incredibly neat. Fabulous post laying out what to expect on a visit.


    • If you’re in touch with your inner child Ryan then it’s worth a visit even if you’re not familiar with Studio Ghibli’s movies.

  • Thank you so much for this. Visiting the Studio Ghibli museum is on my bucket list of things to do before I die.

    • You’re welcome Segaman! So glad you liked it. Try to get there if you can – it’s a bit magical.

  • Regina Rianelli says:

    Dear #RobDyer,

    #greatArticle that makes us want to join every Suggestion of Yours!

    We’re so much in fond of active physical activities as we practice Aikido.

    As a suggestion, we want to share an awesome workshop with KAMUI @kamuitetsuro, Tetsuro Shimaguchi, the Samurai Sword Artist that does Kengido dojo worldwide…
    The Samurai Sword Master is a very likable person.
    Tetsuro has a great Group: some girls playing the Samurai Sword kata with their beautiful long hairs and little people playing with Samurai Bokken…. they accept everyone, even disabled people with wheel chairs are invited to join the workshop!
    It’s not #RocketScience and Tetsuro makes us all feel we belong !

    This Samurai Sword Workshop will also make great photos for your Travel Memories.
    They are at Kenmoji Shijiki Road every Sunday morning and also at 2:30 p.m. and at 4 p.m., not far from the train station!
    2016 fares: Kids Y$1.500
    Adults Y$2.000



    During the week days Tetsuro holds Samurai Sword Kengido Dojos at Shibuya in Tokyo, whenever he and his group are not touring the world teaching the Art of the ancient Samurai Sword to new audiences.


    Sayonara !
    Regina Rianelli

    P.S.: Photo Credits via Creative Commons, YouTube and Master Tetsuro Shimaguchi’s personal archives

    • Thanks for the suggestion Regina!

      You will have seen I have written about Sumo and Baseball already on the site. I was thinking of visiting a Kendo dojo but wasn’t aware of Tetsuro Shimaguchi and his samurai sword skills.

      I think your suggestion to visit his dojo is a great idea. I’m posting a link here to his website of people want to explore further:

      • Regina Rianelli says:

        Dear #RobDyer #san,

        #DomoArigatôGuzaimasu for your #precious #time and #replies !

        They are very much appreciated!

        Yes, I have visited and spent quite a long time here at #The_Real_Japan reading #all your stories and visiting the sites You have suggested: they #Rock ! #Congratulations !

        Yes, #TetsuroShimaguchi is really #worldwideFamous and has a #wonderful Personality !

        #Tetsuro has his #Artistic formation in the #Kabuki’s #Theater, has a #Master degree in #Nanaougi-ryu classical Japanese dance and also choreographed the #SwordFight #LightSaber in a #StarWars film, if I’m not mistaken:

        #MasterTetsuro also worked along #QuentinTarantino’s #KillBill #movie in #Sword choreograph… there are awesome #on_lineVideos about his knowledgeable and historical #SamuraiSword #Dojo #worldwide.

        I post here some of these #SamuraiSword #Kengido #Dojo and #Quentin_Tarantino’s #Kill_Bill #photograps: #Shimaguchi’s #contribuition to the Movie Industry.

        #ThankYOU for hearing us at all times, sir!

        many #Blessings your way + Sayonara!,

        Regina Rianelli

        P.S.: Photo Credits via Creative Commons and Master Tetsuro Shimaguchi’s personal archives

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