Our first day in Japan was quite a whirlwind. We landed just after eight in the morning and had planned to head straight to Kyoto where we would stay for six nights before returning for a week in Tokyo.
At least that was the plan until I read that the Ghibli Museum, a magical world devoted to the films of Hayao Miyazaki, would be closing for renovations the day after we arrived. So, a quick change of plan and we decided we would try to squeeze in a trip out to Mitaka before heading to Kyoto. After a long overnight flight it was going to be a very busy day, but a good one!
After collecting our Japan Rail passes we boarded an almost empty Narita Express train for the trip into Tokyo, stashed the suitcases in luggage lockers at Tokyo station, and then headed out to Mitaka. A tip if you do store your bags at a big station like Tokyo that has hundreds and hundreds of lockers in multiple locations: take a photo to show where you left your bags. We would never have found our bags again if we hadn’t!
Mitaka is about half an hour west of Tokyo and Shinjuku on the Chuo line and there is a community bus that you can take from the station to the museum but it was a lovely day so we decided to walk alongside the canal on the “Kaze no sanpomichi” which means something like “windy strolling path”. There are Totoro signs to guide you along the way so you don’t need to worry about getting lost!
When you get to the museum, located on the edge of Inokashira Park, the first thing you’ll see is Totoro at the ticket window! It’s not the real ticket window though because if you go you’ll need to prebook tickets and specify the date of your visit before you arrive – we got our tickets from JTB Travel in Melbourne.
Your ticket to the museum (featuring cells from Ghibli films!) is also your ticket to see a short Ghibli movie in the theatre and you can also wander around the exhibition spaces which are spread over three floors. My favourites are the Miyazaki studio, which looks like the artist has just stepped out for a moment, and the room featuring a gigantic bouncing Totoro zoetrope plus a dozen or so other interactive steampunk-style contraptions. There are also sketchbooks and story boards for the Ghibli movies, displays showing where ideas came from and how the designs evolved, and there’s usually also a special exhibition on. We saw “The lens at work in the Ghibli forest”, a fun interactive installation.
Head up to the landscaped roof to see the robot from Castle in the sky. There is also a book shop, a gift shop and the Straw Hat Cafe (not much for vegetarians though, most people order the hot dogs).