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I hate to throw around phrases like “the Walt Disney of Japan”…but that’s the easiest way to describe Studio Ghibli for those not familiar with the Japanese cartoon studio. Ghibli has impacted not only the anime scene of Japan (a commonly held belief is that the name means that the studio was blowing a new wind into the Japanese anime industry) but also most modern cartoons and the work of Pixar.Studio Ghibli is headed by Hayao Miyazaki, an amazingly talented writer, artist, and generally imaginative mind. Compared to the bland backdrops of Disney films, (another forest, really?

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) the settings of Ghibli films are fantastical and surreal. The gadgets, vehicles, characters are inventive and familiar at the same time if that makes sense.

So it was no surprise to me that the museum was built with the same sense of wonder and whimsy. Unfortunately they don’t allow photography inside the museum (but I snuck off a couple shots from my dangling camera – so apologies for the quality)… my brief explanations will have to whet your appetite for a visit.

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It’s almost like Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory for animation. The main lobby features tiny spiral staircases leading up to tiny doorways you have to squat to walk through (unless you’re a kid). There’s a room with a giant plush kitten bus…but sadly only for elementary aged kids. There’s a fixed exhibit that shows how animation works that must be seen to be fully appreciated as pictures and descriptions aren’t as magical as the actual presentation…unless you are an epileptic (lots of strobing lights).

The recreated work spaces for the artist and rooms is exactly what you’d imagine from a highly creative mind…books everywhere, toys, models, drawings…perfectly disheveled and mismatched.

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The museum also features changing exhibits from other artists and films. On my visit they were featuring the new Studio Ghibli film and a small feature on Wallace and Grommit.

The gardens and park around the building are beautiful and worth the trip even if you’re not into the animations themselves (or are dragged there by a nerdy significant other).

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And no trip is complete without venturing to the roof to have a picture with a robot from Laputa

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Sorry for the rain drops on the camera lens…not the best day to be up on a rooftop snapping away.

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If you have time to slowly make your way through the museum your patience is rewarded…there are stain glass panels depicting scenes from movies.

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Little hidden bits of humor like this window outside chock full of stuffed creatures

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And lots of subtle insider info for those up on their Ghibli films:

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Getting to the museum is easy, but does take some time. Get to the Shinjuku station and take the JR Chuo line to the Mitaka Station. Take the South Exit at the station and you’ll see signs for the Ghibli museum bus service. Purchase a round trip ticket at this stop for 300 Yen and they’ll take you right there and back. Probably one of the easiest experiences I’ve had in Japan.

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DO BUY TICKETS IN ADVANCE!!! I can’t emphasize this enough. The museum doesn’t let loads of people in (well they do, but not as much as they could). So to avoid heartache buy before you go. Go to a Lawson store…there’s like a zillion of them in Tokyo and find a Japanese person to input the info for you. I just pointed at Ghibli merchandise till someone new what I was talking about. Cost for entry is 1,000 Yen and includes a viewing of one short film shown only in the museum.

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