Ah yes, Ghibii Museum! This place is so busy you'll have to book 3 months in advance if you want a chance of getting in. Especially during the holiday seasons.
It was either a JR train to Mitaka Station or a Keio train to Kichijoji. We chose Keio even though we had a JR Pass because it was faster by a 5 minutes or so.
I read the route from Mitaka Station has more Ghibli designs to admire along the way though.
We booked online with JTB back in the UK who sent us a slip to exchange at the museum. Otherwise you would probably need someone to get you the tickets in advance at a Lawsons store.
Sakura blossoms were starting to bloom at Shibuya Station.
From Kichijoji Station, it was a nice quiet walk along the roads towards Inokashira Park. It was pretty much one straight path. You could see signs pointing you in the right direction and see tourists making their way there.
Or you could just take the Ghibli themed bus from the station but, I wanted to see what the local area was like too.
Now what they don't tell you is there are 4 different entry time periods - 10:00, 12:00, 14:00, 16:00. You only have 30 mins to go in after each of these times but you can stay as long as you like afterwards. So if you had a 10:00 ticket, you had between 10:00 - 10:30 to get in. Crowd control I guess.
It's a good idea to get there early because even at 9:30am the line was already very long.
Everyone trying to snap a photo with Totoro inside the entrance while we queued. I tried too but didn't get a chance by the time the queue started moving.
Not to mention the glass made it really hard to take photos thanks to all the reflections.
So, I snapped the dust bunnies below Totoro instead. Could come back later when everyone was inside (actually easier if you just wait until you're leaving and next group has already made their way in).
So, museum was established in 2001. Been 15 years huh?
Can't remember how long we queued for but it didn't feel very long. Probably because I was too busy admiring all the architecture and surrounding environment. The museum looked really amazing outside. Can't imagine how much time they spend maintaining the place keeping all those bushes trimmed neat and tidy.
It was mostly Asians like myself who were queueing, few Westerners. I suppose Anime is still more of an Eastern art and still very much a novelty in the West.
Where are you Glaswegians? =P
The official rule is no photos allowed inside I'm afraid. That's why if you search for Ghibli Museum there's mostly just photos of the outside even on YouTube... With the odd rule breakers of course.
So I will have to just describe the place to you while showing the exterior of the building.
The English message is that Ghibli wants you to remember the museum through your own eyes instead of your lens. Japanese message on the other hand is more interesting... You are the star in a story as you enter Ghibli Museum. The star doesn't look at the story through camera lens.
Quite the discrepancy eh? Maybe it's just glorified and they just want more people visiting the place but, the place really is beautifully designed.
Once inside you're given a leaflet and get your ticket exchanged for a film souvenir. I think the one I got is from Howl's Moving Castle. Wasn't a very beautiful scenic picture ^^;
The museum was made up of three floors not counting the roof.
Inside on the first floor, the first thing we saw was the Haunted Tower, an original attraction which was basically a huge clock with Manga surrounding it.
Then next to it was a room full of traditional animation but instead of spinning a film reel or flipping paper, there were actual figures, each slightly different from the other. Once they started spinning, you could see them animated. Quite impressive.
Similar to the Kitaro Tea House, you could open the doors on toy houses to peer inside and see all the Ghibli characters.
People were already queuing for the original short film so we decided to join too. When we visited there were 3 short films scheduled:
- March 2nd ~ 31st, Yado Sagashi [Finding Shelter].
- April 1st ~ May 8th, Chuuzumou [Sumo Mice]
- July 16th ~ August 31st, Mei to Koneko Bus [Mei and the Kitten Bus]
You can check the website to see what's on before booking.
The 12 minute short we saw was "Yado Sagashi" featuring Ursula from Kiki's Delivery Service. It was like a cross-over of all the Ghibli titles but featuring Ursula in it. She was wandering around as usual trying to find shelter and she comes across these strangers similar to those from Princess Mononoke or Spirited Away.
The fun thing about the short was that it had no music or voice acting. Instead, it was just a bunch of sounds made by people and it was so much fun.
Both adults and children enjoyed it as with most Ghibli titles!
Theatre room itself was clean and comfy to sit in with a huge carving of a sun on the ceiling.
All the walls were decorated with mosaic paintings while the windows had stained art of famous Ghibli works. Overhead was a glass roof with Totoro's Mei painted on it. When the sun eventually reached the right angle in the sky you could see it projected onto the floor or wall.
You could go upstairs either by regular stairs or, the clock tower I mentioned earlier which had a really narrow spiralling stair case.There were some really expensive looking Gothic dolls that really didn't seem Ghibli-like so, I didn't quite get what they were for.
After passing by the children's play area where a giant Cat Bus was, you reached the entrance of the tower with more spiralling stairs. This one wasn't so narrow and had enough space for people walking up and down at the same time.
Must be a lot of upkeep to maintain the vines on the museum! So neat and tidy!
And there he was, the famous guardian robot from Laputa.
Very well detailed and naturally everyone wanted a photo with it.
In fact, it's so detailed that it's more detailed than the classic Anime movie...
I wonder what if Ghibli started remaking their movies like everyone else and added more detail to Laputa's art?
Then further at the back behind some bushes was the Command Cube.
Now we just needed the Baccarat Pendant.
Time to say bye to Mr. Robot. Wonder why he didn't have a little flower in his hand... Maybe he was one of the destructive ones!
I think I'm being watched...
Or I was just being paranoid as usual, lol.
Didn't drop into the cafe because there were other places we wanted to visit after the museum and I wanted to see everything in detail before we left.
There were plenty of people chilling out.
You could just about make the water fountain from here where you manually pumped water into Mr. Sun's mouth.
Then it was back down I went. You could see the next group of people waiting to get in now but people who were already in could stay as long as they liked.
An owl cast on a stove maybe?
There was a floor that had a mockup of the artists workshops filled with props they got inspiration from, albums full of location hunt photos, framed cels, concept art like Kiki with twin tails. Probably the best room in the building.
The gift shop was probably the busiest part of the museum. You had to walk very slowly just to avoid knocking over stuff and slip pass people all wearing backpacks. Luckily there weren't any selfish people around so all was in order.
There were all sorts of souvenirs of all prices ranging from keyrings that cost around 300JPY, clothes, snacks, toys, bookmarks featuring cuts from the movies (they were all boring ones IMO), clay ornaments, stained glass style postcards to the exclusive and more expensive ornaments such as a replica of the Laputa Baccarat Pendant costing 27,000JPY (200GBP).
You should note that some of the merchandise like the mini paper crafts and soft toys can be bought from Ghibli shops outside the museum, though.
Some of the visitors were really impressed with a sculpture of Howl's Moving Castle and were watching in awe as it was taken apart. It was very detailed and I think it was more expensive than the large Laputa robot that was available.
I ended up buying the Laputa Command Cube which was basically a heavy paper weight for 3000JPY (20GBP), a Laputa robot figure and a mini paper craft scene from Totoro.
The shop's slogan was "Mamma Aiuto" which you see on everyone's shopping bags.
Lockers where common in Japan. Cheap. I guess it means people don't have to carry stuff around as much. These were coin operated ones that cost 100JPY. Pretty much like the £1 coin lockers back in the UK at this kind of cost, really.
Not sure what this part of the museum was.
You couldn't go inside but it looked interesting anyway, lol. That cone for squirrels?
Wonder if they use these logs with that stove I spotted earlier. A fireplace burning inside the museum would make this place even more fantasy-like.
Actually, they're used inside the cafe.
By the time we were leaving at around 2pm it was quiet outside. Probably because the next queue were making their way in. I spent around 4 hours exploring the place and taking photos which was more than double the time I had set aside on our itinerary ^^;
You could probably spend a whole day here if you wanted to admire every little detail in this place.
Fujio F. Fujiko "Doraemon" Museum
Next stop was Fujiko Museum in the Kawasaki area south of Mitaka. Originally I wanted to visit Fujio's hometown of Takaoka for the playground spot but it was very far out just to see that. Since this was just a 30 minutes train ride from Ghibli Museum, I decided to visit this place instead.
Just like the Ghibli Museum, you had to buy tickets in advance. No tickets are actually sold at the place itself. I didn't find a place I could order them in the UK from so I dropped into a Lawsons shop and used one of these Loppi machines. The site also gives you instructions on how to use it.
Govoyagin.com seems to offer tickets online for the UK but I haven't used them.
Fortunately, it's not as busy as Ghibli Museum but we still had to adjust our itinerary because there weren't any tickets available on the time we wanted.
Entry times are the same as Ghibli Museum funnily enough. It also had the same number of floors too which was three.
We just made it by getting a taxi at the train station. The queue was already making its way in ^^;
It was mostly primary school kids with their parents or relatives. Felt a tad out of place but whatever... I wanted to see the museum dedicated to a character I grew up with and still like =)
There were displays that you could enjoy while queuing outside the building. Here was one of the gadgets, "Memory Bread". Basically you write down whatever you want to memorise, eat it and it'll be stuck in your memory - kind of like the way Neo "learns" martial arts in The Matrix.
Not very realistic, right? But it's a kids show and I'm sure lots of kids want an easy way to pass tests without studying like Nobita here, lol.
A peek at some of the Doraemon themed food on offer at the cafe.
And the goods available at the souvenir shop.
I was trying to grab a photo of all the displays but like I said, we barely made it in time was ushered in. Once inside you were locked into a room behind the huge gates briefly while one of the staff members explained the rules.
No photos were allowed inside apart from certain designated areas so a little more lenient than Ghibli Museum. Still, most of the interesting stuff were in no photo areas so I'm afraid I'm just going to have to describe it all to you again.
Unlike Ghibli Museum where it was just leaflets, there were multilingual audio guides here which were were given out for free. I ended up not using mine.
There were many of Fujiko's works that I've watched as a kid so a lot of artwork from those Manga were on display, not just Doraemon.
Doraemon just happens to be his more famous work that lives on even today worldwide.
Perhaps the most impressive was the prism display that gave the illusion of holographic characters coming alive from pieces of paper.
Then there was also a mockup of Fujiko-san's room and wow, it was filled with so many old retro toys. Think my parents would have enjoyed the nostalgia.
In the play area, there were a number of items on display. Mostly Doraemon at this point.
Here was the "Ten Commandments of Fujiko Museum".
It's actually a bunch of silly rules like you can walk or take the bus from the station, enjoy the detail in everything even in the toilets or, be sure to have fun even when taking a break.
Doraemon fans will recognise the reference "no mice allowed", lol.
Some pretty creative art here. Don't recognised much though other than Nobita's silhouette.
P-chan from the Nobita's Dinosaur movie where Nobita is challenged to find a dinosaur fossil. He ends up finding an egg and uses a gadget to revert it back to life. This ends up hatching to become P-chan and they go on an adventure to find his home in the past.
The remake was pretty good but I prefer the original that featured more gadgets.
Ah, yes. The wild seahorse stick, another one of Doraemon's gadgets from the future that no one could tame. Not even the bullies, lol.
The main cast from Doraemon. Designs have changed over the years since the original Manga first started.
These were all the possible tickets you could get once you hand in your pass. Too bad we didn't get a Doraemon one... Or we did but it was of Jaian, the bully ^^;
My ticket featured Mami the Psychic which I have actually never seen before.
The telephone booth that allows you to change the world in whatever way you like.
In one movie Nobita wished for a world where everyone could use magic and of course, it turned to be quite the adventure. "Magic Planet" was another one of my favourites and the remake was well done too.
This year they were remaking "Birth of Japan". Don't think I watched the original.
There was this small space you could crawl in to see Nobita's room. Cute.
My friend left early because he never grew up with Doraemon and felt really silly being around a place that was designed for 5 year old kids.
I kind of felt the same when I went in for the short movie because the Anime was really, really for little kids. It was a cross over of all Fujiko-san's works where one character goes on a shopping errand and meets them all so nothing exciting. It was more like one of those picture books used for nurseries ^^;
That said, they ended the movie in an interesting way.
Signs around the museum were interesting. They were all different, featuring characters from Fujiko's different works.
On the roof outside, there were plenty of Doraemon sculptures like this Dokodemo Door [Go Anywhere Door]. Basically you say aloud where you want to go before entering the door and you're warped there.
This might be a life-sized version of P-chan.
Then there were lots of other sculptures hidden on the hills. Little hide and seek fun.
This was the Peko statue from "Peko and the Exploration Party of Five". Another one of my favourite Doraemon movies which tells of dogs evolving to a human-like state underground and civil war is going on.
Didn't recognise this one.
This was probably the most popular sculpture. It represented the empty lot that Doraemon and the rest of the characters play in all the time.
More of Fujiko-san's characters chilling on the grass. Not sure about the name of this one but remember seeing the show before.
Reminds me of a Spectrum game called "Bomb Jack". Was good fun back then which played with a joystick. And the games loaded from tapes!
And here's Q-taro the show I never really got into. The plot was quite similar to Doraemon where a kid needed help with all sort of situations and he kind of had gadgets too but, they just didn't take off.
Doremi, Doraemon's little sister who always keeps him in check.
Just realised her name sounds like the sounds do-re-mi (fa-so)... Wonder if Fujiko came up with her name first then Doraemon's ^^;
Aaand Doraemon turned to stone in "Great Adventure into the Underworld" which was triggered from that phone box I mentioned earlier. So many sculptures from my favourite Doraemon movies.
The newer Doraemon movies and series are more character development oriented these days compared to the old where it was all about the gadgets (and protecting nature).
And that was about it. Passed by the cafe on my way out where big bully Jaian was part host... Fans of Doraemon will get the joke here, lol. Didn't stop by for food because it was rush hour soon and wanted to get back before then.
There's a nice view of Kawasaki City from the roof here. Some of the houses remind me of the ones I see in Doraemon which doesn't really surprise me.
Every train station has its own announcement tune and the one at Mukougaoka-Yuen Station (the closest station to the museum I think it was...) was the Doraemon theme song. Should listen out for it if you ever go ^^
Since I still had some time left after leaving the Fujiko museum, I decided to drop by Akihabara again while the shops were still open since I didn't have time to browse around the other night.
This time I tried to look for the Medialand store which was supposed to have the best prices for both new and second hand games but, it was gone. The building was used for a mobile phone company now I think.
So, I decided to just browse around and see if there were any interesting Anime goods.
And funnily enough, I came by Ghibli goods in Kinokuniya. Some of the stuff the museum had like the stuffed toys and most of the ornaments while others they didn't. Hard to recall from memory when there was so much stuff on sale there...
But, if that 200GBP Baccarat Pendant from Laputa was too expensive you could buy a toy one for 3GBP here.
Was getting hungry since I didn't have anything to eat since morning so I popped into the first quiet place I could find and... It was KFC. Their fries are actually more like chips... So big compared to UK's!
That said, the food was tasteless... Not yummy, not yucky either. Just... nothing. Probably why it was completely quiet inside.
So after getting "recharged", I decided to do some more trekking around before heading back to the hotel.
I wanted to look for a copy of Steins;gate Zero because I wanted to see how the story picks up after the first game. Still to play (or should I say read) any of the spin-offs like Phenogram but, should get round to it... Someday.
So far, only the first game has been released for PC (and localised) so I was expecting the rest to be console exclusives. That's why I was going to pick a copy up.
Almost made the mistake of thinking this was a store selling cosplay costumes but... If you looked closer it was a multi-floor adult sex toy store. Doki doki.
Outside Rajio Kaikan which was featured in Steins;gate. It's been renovated so not quite the same now.
Well, time to head back.
End of Day
Both Ghibli Museum and Fujiko Museum were great places to visit. For the latter, it should be enjoyable as long as you didn't feel embarrassed visiting a place full of 5 year olds.
I was more fascinated with the architecture at Ghibli Museum than the exhibits inside. Creativity and presentation wise, I think Kitaro Tea House has to take the cake because they managed to create so much variety in such a small place on a single floor compared to the much bigger (and probably bigger budget too) Ghibli Museum.
This was the bronze Laputa robot sculpture that my friend bought. It was one of the exclusive expensive museum exclusives I mentioned. Very detailed like the statue on the roof, eh? I would have got one too if it wasn't so big... Limited space in my room ^^;
He also bought the Baccarat Pendant replica. Very jelly :O
The paper weight "Keystone" Command Cube is also an exclusive and since it was small, I bought one of them.
At this point I realised I had picked up the wrong box for the Laputa robot. It turned out to be the robot shaped card holder that cost 700JPY...
One I actually wanted was more detailed and, it was half the size of the bronze one. Cost was also around half the price of the bronze statue so I was wondering why one of the items were so cheap on the receipt... The boxes looked exactly the same!
So, be careful you don't make the same mistake I did if you ever go! =(
Ah, well... At least I got the paper weight Laputa Command Cube and got to see the museum in person I guess. Scene on the ticket I got was a scene from Howl's Moving Castle I think.
And one more tip - do not buy one of the mini papercrafts if you don't have a couple of hours to set aside. They are made up of laser cut parts, some of which are really tiny so you'll need a lot of patience and the right tools to put one together!