If you like Japanese animation then you must meet Miyazaki Hayao, something like a Japanese Walt Disney. This old man has been producing movies and animated series since the 60s and all his works shine for one reason or another.
He is the creator of Princess Mononoke, My Neighbor Totoro, The Wind Rises, The Incredible Howl's Castle or Chihiro's Journey but it also has older works that are wonderful and many others that are not so well known in the West. A trip to Japan for a manga / anime fan is not at all complete without a visit the Ghibli Museum so take note of these tips because there are details to take into account.
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Buy the Ghibli Museum tickets
If you want to go, I advise you to be the second thing you buy after the plane ticket. The thing is it is not easy to get tickets Well, there are limited places and hours. They are bought online and you must enter your data and choose the day and time to visit. The problem is when you live in South America because there is no credit card that you can use and it is frustrating to try again and again. I have friends who have become very frustrated.
The solution is to have someone in another country who can get the tickets for you. If it is Japanese, better. My friends did just that and then, in the queue at the entrance, they rushed to speak with the staff to clarify the situation as the tickets were named after their friend. And in Japanese! Luckily there were no problems.
What is the other option if you don't have a Japanese friend? Well once in Japan you go to one of the Lawson convenience stores (They are white and blue with a milk jar as a sign), and there inside you will find a automatic vending machine.
It is best to ask for help because you can get confused using it, although it is not very complicated. If there are no tickets for the day you want, you keep looking in the calendar until you find another day free of visits. But let me tell you, that can also be frustrating because Miyazaki is so well known and there are always visitors. For some time now, Japan has been receiving a lot of Asian tourism, especially Chinese, so they eat everything.
That is buying tickets directly in Japan runs the risk of running out of them. It happened to me in 2016 and it was very sad. To be so close and at the same time so far. Even so, if you have no other option and you want to visit the museum, go to a Lawson as soon as you can. The faster the better. How much are tickets to the Ghibli Museum? 1000 yen nothing more, about $ 10.
How to get to the Ghibli Museum
The museum is not far from central Tokyo and you arrive easily by local train. If you have the Japan Rail Pass the trip is covered, but it is not expensive either. You approach Shinjuku station, one of the most populous in Tokyo, and look for the platforms of the Chuo Line bound for Mitaka. You have to be careful with Japanese trains because they are punctual and circulate many so it is advisable to ask someone about the platform: Mitaka iku? Or pay attention to the fact that the train, in the front car, says it on a luminous sign.
From Shinjuku it's a 15 to 20 minute drive. Without the Japan Rail Pass you barely pay 320 yen round trip. And at the Mitaka station all you have to do is follow the signs ... and people! If the weather is good, the walk is better than the bus, but since the bus is so nice you can go by bus and walk back to the station. The bus is small, yellow, and decorated with Miyazaki characters. That's why no one misses it!
The bus and the people who choose to walk to the museum follow almost the same route. They leave the station and skirt a peaceful tree-lined canal. Then they turn onto an avenue that immediately borders a park, Inokashira Park. Inside the park, just a few meters from the street, is the museum. You arrive after about 20 or less minutes of walking.
The Ghibli Museum
It is a typical construction of the architectural designs that we see in Miyazaki's films. From the outside it looks like a house in the Valley of the Wind, from the movie Nauusica. Light colors, rounded shapes, a tower on which you can see a robot of those that appear in Laputa, Castillo en el Cielo, which seems to watch us.
If it is high season, summer, spring or Chinese New Year, there are people so there is a long line. Luckily the Japanese efficiency makes it flow very fast. There are staff checking the entrances and you advance to the door, a wooden door with a colorful stained glass window decorated with well-known characters. If on the outside it is just another house from Hayao Miyazaki's films, on the inside we can say the same thing, but the style totally changes.
Inside the museum is a XNUMXth century English mansion one of those that draws so well in many of his films. Kiki's, The Moving Castle, Porco Rosso. And let me tell you, you are not at Disney here. There is no plastic, there is nothing tacky but quality and more quality: wooden floors in a very spacious living room, stairs with elegant and well-polished handrails, an antique iron elevator with resin buttons, a twisted staircase that connects two floors and the children love it ...
With the ticket you are given a pamphlet in several languages, English included, with a sketch of the house and its different environments. You are advised to take a tour and then you can stay inside as long as you want. What are the spaces that make up this route? There is the Permanent Exhibition Hall «Where a movie is born», where you see frames in action and, for example, a giant wheel that has different levels with Totoro, Satsuki and Mei dolls, dozens of them in different positions that when it starts to rotate creates a wonderful scene of continuous movement.
As well there is a theater-cinema. With the entrance they give you a special ticket and you can attend the screening of a short film made especially for the museum. You'll never see him out of here. The theater is beautiful, in wood, and the short lasts only a few minutes. There's others rooms that recreate Miyazaki's study with books, drawings, brushes, clothes, his favorite candies, the books that inspire him for his drawings ...
Of course there is also a store, the Mamma Aiuto Store!, with a lot of merchandise to buy. Although there are Ghibli stores all over Japan, here you will find some special things: the shiny pendant of Laputa Castle in the Sky, for example, Totoro thermos, slippers, sweatshirts ... It is worth shopping even when there are many people shopping.
On the upper floor there is a special area for children that adults are very envious of: there is a nekkobasu or catbus huge, stuffed, for children to play with. Marvelous! There is also a small terrace and from there an iron ladder goes up to the tower where the robot receives visitors. It is magnificent.
I have forgotten to say that photographs are not allowed inside the museum nor the videos and they are quite strict about that, although I have seen many getting smart with their phones. The only place where you can take photos is outside So up here with the robot is where everyone starts shooting.
And to finish your visit, my advice is to rest in the cafeteria. Contrary to what we might think, that here for a coffee they take your head out, luckily it is like in all Japan. The prices are respected, they are never excessive, regardless of the category of the place where you are. And before heading back to the station, take a tour of the bathrooms. Wonderful! They are huge, with upholstered walls, wooden doors, and old faucets. Of an elegance!