Date of Travel: 05/03/2012
Studio Ghibli is one of the most recognizable animation studios from Japan. They were behind many classics such as My Neighbour Totoro, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, and Howl’s Moving Castle. The movies that they produce helped raise the popularity of Japanese animation outside of Japan. All three of us are all fans of the studio. Because of this, there was no way we would leave Mitaka without visiting the Ghibli Museum, which showcases many of the work which they have done over the years. Advance reservations is required for the museum to ensure that it does not get overly crowded at any time, so we were lucky to have my friend book us tickets well in advance.
We started the morning by chatting with my friend as it would be the last time we see him during this trip, before saying our goodbyes and parting ways. We then went to Mitaka station to get breakfast, then went to locate the bus terminal for the Ghibli Museum bus. It was only a short 10-15 minute bus ride to reach the museum. The buildings were very uniquely coloured, and stepping foot past the front gate felt like we were stepping into a fantasy land. Some of you may also notice the giant robot from “Castle in the Sky” standing in the far distance. Many of the staff were greeting us as we entered, which was nice of them as it was raining at the time!
On our way to the Ghibli Museum!
The museum has many interesting displays and exhibitions, but unfortunately we were not allowed to take photos inside. It would spoil the fun for those thinking of visiting anyway. We dumped some of our belongings in a locker, and followed the crowd to the main lobby. There, we had a choice of stopping by a few exhibitions, or watching the short film in the Saturn Theater. As the queue for the film was full, we decided to look around the exhibits first. The most impressive exhibit for me was a zoetrope featuring characters from Totoro. A warning though that this zoetrope featured a lot of flashing lines to create the sense of movement, but could easily cause a seizure to those with epilepsy! There were also a few other displays showcasing various animation techniques. We returned to the main lobby and waited in line for the short film. The film of the day was called “Koro no Daisanpo” (Koro’s Big Day Out). It was a cute heart-warming film about a puppy who escapes from its house and has a massive adventure around town trying to get back home. Oh the warm fuzziness. It was only about 15-20 minutes long too, and it was amazing just how much emotion Studio Ghibli’s movies can bring out in such a short time.
Afterwards, we headed up to the upper floors. There was another display, this time some rooms were setup as it they were actual animation studios. There were a few other displays around targeted mainly at young kids. I must stay that I was a bit disappointed as I was expecting more, but the atmosphere of the place really does feel like a fantasy land. There were very small touches to the architecture too, most notably stain glass windows featuring Ghibli characters. We were able to get up to the roof, where we could take some photos together with the robot. It was raining at the time so it was not too pleasant up there though. We ate lunch at the café in the museum, then overspent at the souvenir shop buying plenty of artbooks, plushies, and gifts.
Around the Ghibli Museum
Once we had finished exploring and buying souvenirs, we headed back towards Mitaka station by bus and walked back to my friend’s house. We packed our souvenirs into our bags, left the house key behind, and headed back to Mitaka station to catch a train to Tokyo. Once at Tokyo station, we were considering taking a train to Uguisudani station which was the closest to our next accommodation at Toco Tokyo Heritage Hostel. However, the train was extremely crowded, and we knew we were going to have a hard time fitting in with our luggage. Instead, we headed out of Tokyo station to the taxi stand and took a cab instead. Luckily I had printed off the address of the accommodation, else it would have been quite tricky to find as it was in a quiet area. We checked into our rooms, rested for a bit, then went out to find some dinner. We settled for a Japanese style Family Restaurant near the station, which was the first time we had ate at one the whole trip!
There was quite a lot of time left after dinner, so we headed out to Shibuya. Shibuya is famous for having one of the busiest road crossing in the world, as often seen in many movies or documentaries set in Japan. And it was not hard to see why. There must have been at least a couple of hundred people crossing it at once. There was also the famous Hachiko statue nearby, which is a tribute to one of the most loyal dogs in history who continued to wait for his owner at Shibuya station long after his owner had died.
Many people online would recommend going to Starbucks on the second floor of the Q-Front building to have a look at the crossing. That’s what we did, but unfortunately there wasn’t much seats available. Brownie and Jay-C did not want to wait, so they went off and explored the adjoining music store, while I took a seat next to the window and filmed people crossing the street while having a nice warm cup of Mocha. Afterwards, I also looked around the music store, but found most things there too expensive for me. Once we had enough, we got back down to street level and walked around the block. I found that it was not as fun or vibrant as Dotonbori was in Osaka, but it was still refreshing to mingle around with nightlife once in a while. We headed back to the accommodation shortly after for a good night’s sleep.
Bus from Mitaka station to Ghibli Museum (return) – 300 yen
Train from Mitaka to Tokyo – 380 yen
Taxi from Tokyo to accommodation – 843 yen
Train from Uguisudani station to Shibuya station – 190 yen
Train from Shibuya station to Uguisudani station – 190 yen
Toco Tokyo Heritage Hostel – 2,800 yen
Lunch at Ghibli Museum – 1,050 yen [hotdog and motsu soup]
Dinner at Gusto @ Uguisudani – 890 yen [curry and hamburg topping]
Starbucks @ Shibuya – 440 yen [hot mocha]
Ghibli Museum entrance fee – 1,000 yen
Souvenir from Ghibli Museum – 15,664 yen [artbooks and soft toys]
TOTAL (cost for whole trip in brackets)
23,747 yen (565,210 yen total)