Ghibli Museum
Mitaka: Museum
Ghibli Museum: Mitaka
Mitaka / Museum
Open 10am-6pm. Closed Tuesdays.
Admission - 4-6 years old: Y100; 7-12: Y400; 13-18: Y700; 19 and over: Y1000.
Average visit time: 1-3 hours
Tickets must be purchased in advance.

When Hayao Miyazaki's spellbinding Spirited Away won the Oscar for best animated feature in 2003, it only confirmed to the world what Japan has known for decades: that the work of Miyazaki and his fellow artists at Studio Ghibli ranks alongside that of Disney and other acknowledged masters of animation. Some of the artistic alchemy that made My Neighbour Totoro and Princess Mononoke such huge hits has been sprinkled across this charmingly inventive museum at the southwest corner of leafy Inokashira Park.

Beautifully designed throughout, and with no set route, the museum gives visitors an insight not only into Ghibli's films but also the animator's art in general. A lot of thought has gone into the overall concept - from the Robot sculpture in the roof garden to the real-straw straws served with drinks in the cafe. There's also a small movie theater where they screen original short animated features that can only be seen at the museum. Kids will love it, and whether you're a fan or not, it's a guaranteed fun day out that may well have you scurrying to the video shop later.

It's part of the museum's admirable philosophy (which includes treating kids as if they're adults, and not being in any ways pretentious or phony) that only a limited number of entry tickets (2400) are available daily - each for a specified time and all by advance purchase. The idea is to keep a visit to the museum a pleasant, uncrowded experience.

Tickets in Japan can be purchased through Lawson convenience stores, of which there are some 7,600 outlets nationwide. First make a reservation by phone (0570-000403; in Japanese), then go to a Lawson store within three days to pick up your ticket. Specify the date and time (10am, noon, 2pm or 4pm) you would like to visit. If tickets are available, you'll be issued with one that you'll need to take, along with some ID, to the museum on the designated day. This will be exchanged, upon entry, for a souvenir clip of frames from a Ghibli film.

Congratulations if you've gotten this far, because given the massive popularity of Ghibli's movies the museum can be booked out for weeks at a time, particularly during school holidays and over weekends. The museum's website lists details in English of where and how to apply for tickets overseas (200 extra per day are reserved for foreign visitors).

by Simon Richmond
Mitaka-shi, Shimorenjaku 1-1-83.
The museum is a short walk or bus ride from Mitaka station on the JR Chuo line, about 20 minutes from Shinjuku Station. From the station's south exit follow the canal for about 15 minutes towards Inokashira Park (there are signs) or take the regular bus (one-way/return Y200/300).
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