Today’s fun was planned well in advance. I’d read about the Ghibli Museum before our last trip but tickets are scarce and not exactly easy to buy. This time, I managed to think ahead and applied for them from MyBus in London a couple of months ago. We were lucky and secured admission for our first choice date and hot footed it yesterday, passports in hand (not needed) to exchange our vouchers for tickets.
The tickets are actually bits of filmstrips and some rather more picky visitors were viewing them before accepting, presumably to acquire them from a particular film. As it was, we were simply happy to be there and already enchanted by this magical place.
The museum is situated in a leafy park, near the Tokyo Zoo, and about a kilometre walk from Mitaka Station. Though there was a bus connection, we chose to get our exercise – it was an easy, flat walk along a well signposted pavement.
It doesn’t look much from the outside and the ticket collector looks a bit fierce. Look what’s happened to a few unlucky souls in the porthole!
Totoro was one of the characters already familiar to me, so I knew he was only scary in that cute way that the Japanese animators do so well.
Fortunately, there wasn’t much of a queue so we went right inside, where, sadly, no photos were allowed.
But have a feel of the style from this poster of the “cat bus” and imagine a delightful world of charming characters created from a vivid imagination. I scribbled madly about the wonderful atmosphere – quiet with tinkly piano music and no screaming children because they, too were captivated by the exhibits. There were zoetropes featuring Totoro and the Cat Bus, bats with smily cat-type faces, huge machines with cogs and wheels which were cranking out film shows and little dioramas from the animation scenes. Everything was carefully considered, from the beautiful stained glass windows to the child-size doorways and staircases.
Even the fire extinguishers were cute!
Our tickets entitled us to a screening of a specially produced film in the theatre. “The Egg Princess and the Dough Man” was the theme of one of the exhibits, so we were already curious about the story, which featured this bird-witch (Baba-Yaga) as the baddie. Collecting eggs for her supper, she finds one which doesn’t break and pulls one of the bows from her hair to dress the egg in a small skirt and the little character which appears is the main focus of the story…yes, I know! A little weird. However…
The animation was first-class. The dough man walked like – well, dough! The bird-witch was super-evil, keeping her disguise in the form of a large hat down her ample bosom and flying around in a bucket and steering with a stick.
We loved it, as did everyone else in the theatre, children and adults alike.
We spent a couple of happy hours wandering through the various rooms upstairs which focus on the studio and how the animations are produced. Here were artists desks – there was nobody at work, for these were installations in themselves with fascinating collections of drawings, watercolour paintings and transparencies on the walls. In each room here, too, were small touches of cuteness; little models of characters, little creatures reading books, jars full of crayons and racks of paints. We browsed the storyboards from Spirited Away and Howls Moving Castle and could have spent a whole day there alone.
For once, it was no hardship to exit through the gift shop! A few small treasures and a book with photographs and stories from the museum were great souvenirs, though we left the large, furry cat bus behind.
One last place to see - up in the roof garden, we found the iron man and waited patiently as small groups of friends posed Japanese-style to have their photo taken.
We left with smiles on our faces. What a grand way to spend a morning and how lucky we were to be able to visit this terrific place.