Immerse Yourself in the Works of Studio Ghibli at the Ghibli Museum, Mitaka

The Ghibli Museum, Mitaka offers Japanese and international fans a glimpse into the one-of-a-kind world of Studio Ghibli, whose works have captivated audiences across the globe.
Past the gates of the Ghibli Museum, Mitaka is a pretend reception desk manned by Totoro. Soot sprites peek out from the round porthole window.

The Worldwide Appeal of Studio Ghibli

In September 2021, the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, the largest-scale film museum in the U.S., opened in Los Angeles. Commemorating the opening of the museum was the Miyazaki Hayao exhibition, which was held until June 2022. During this period, the exhibition was visited by many Ghibli fans. My Neighbor Totoro (1988) was adapted into a play for the first time in its history by the prestigious U.K. theater company the Royal Shakespeare Company. The play run from October 2022 to January 2023 at the Barbican Theatre in London.

Since 2020, Studio Ghibli's animated feature films have also been offered on streaming services in countries throughout the world (excluding Japan and China). Available on platforms such as Netflix and HBO Max, this service is expected to bring in even more international fans.

Interest in Ghibli works has reached an all-time high in Japan as well, with the first-phase opening of Ghibli Park on November 1, 2022. The park, which is meant to embody the Ghibli "world" and atmosphere, is a part of Expo 2005 Aichi Commemorative Park (Moricoro Park) in Nagakute City, Aichi Prefecture. The other popular Studio Ghibli facility is the Ghibli Museum, Mitaka, located in Mitaka City, Tokyo. The museum has been welcoming adoring fans, both children and adults alike, since it opened.

Designed to Blend into the Greenery of Inokashira Park

The Ghibli Museum, Mitaka, located in the West section of Inokashira Park, opened in 2001—the same year that Spirited Away was released. The idea for the museum was proposed by director Miyazaki Hayao, the co-founder of Studio Ghibli.

Studio Ghibli had been looking for a place rich in nature—a place that would "fit" the atmosphere of its works—to build the museum. In the meantime, Mitaka City had come to an agreement with the Tokyo Metropolitan Government to build a cultural facility in Inokashira Park. The timing was perfect, and it was decided that the museum would be built within the park.

The museum seems to blend into the greenery of Inokashira Park. Designed by director Miyazaki Hayao himself, the museum took about three years to build. © Museo d'Arte Ghibli
Visitors present the tickets they purchased in advance at the entrance, and exchange them for an admission ticket that comes with a 35mm film strip from a Ghibli work. This also serves as the ticket into the screening room, Saturn Theater.

Visitors as the Main Characters in a Story

The museum has been designed to make visitors feel like the main characters in a story. There is no detailed map of or predetermined route through the museum. The idea is that visitors should move freely within the space, mulling over their own thoughts and feelings in the process. Once past the entrance, visitors find themselves in the Central Hall, which evokes the atmosphere of the Bathhouse from Spirited Away. From that point onwards, they can let their curiosity guide the way, taking them to the spots they are most interested in, and allowing them to explore different ways to enjoy the museum.

There is a large fresco painting on the ceiling near the entrance. The painting includes Kiki from Kiki's Delivery Service (1989), Nausicaä from Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984), and more. © Museo d'Arte Ghibli
The Central Hall located on the first basement floor. The hall feels almost like a maze, with a spiral staircase, an aerial walkway, and a terrace jutting out into the space.
The museum is adorned throughout with stained glass. The stained glass on this door features Kiki and other characters from Kiki's Delivery Service.
The Saturn Theater screening room is a small movie theater that runs monthly screenings of Studio Ghibli animated shorts. © Museo d'Arte Ghibli

Learn How Animated Works Are Made

The permanent exhibition on the first floor, "Where a Film Is Born," is made up of five small rooms. By walking through the rooms in order, visitors can learn about the process of producing an animated film, as well as the joy and struggle that this entails. The exhibition is designed to be enjoyed visually, with numerous displays that evoke Ghibli works, including character sketches, model planes, a violin, and more.

The backstory of "Where a Film Is Born" is of an anime-loving boy inheriting the room from his grandfather. The room expresses how this boy develops his ideas for a film and turns them into something more concrete, while surrounded by the things that he loves.
On the wall opposite the room are imageboards and sketches drawn by director Miyazaki Hayao and other artists.
"A Girl's Room," also called "A Place Where the World Is Made." The room is decorated with background arts from Studio Ghibli works. Director Miyazaki Hayao once said, "The background arts determine the quality of a film," and indeed, the background art of a Ghibli work plays a major role in establishing the atmosphere.
"A Place Where Stories are Created" is meant to be a room where storyboards—the blueprints of an animation—are produced. Adjacent to the room is a booth where visitors can view storyboards of animated Ghibli works.
The "Ink and Paint" corner, where pictures drawn in the animation room are colored. Nowadays, the coloring process is carried out on a computer. In the past, however, the drawings were traced onto transparent celluloid sheets, and filled in with the colors specified on the back side of each sheet.
The colored celluloid sheets are layered on top of the background paintings. These are then placed on a stand and filmed. Editors then check the film using an editing machine and cut any unnecessary scenes.

Encounter Ghibli's Cat Bus, Robot Soldier, and More

A particularly popular area is the rooftop, which features the robot soldier from Castle in the Sky(1986), and a room where visitors under the age of 12 can play with the Cat bus from My Neighbor Totoro. Photography is permitted in the rooftop, and many visitors take photos next to the robot soldier to commemorate their visit. The spot is particularly popular with foreign tourists. Further into the rooftop garden is the keystone that Muska from Castle in the Sky controlled using the volucite crystal.

The rooftop is based on the floating garden in Castle in the Sky. Dropped into the grass is the coat-of-arms of the Laputa royal family, which was inscribed on the robot soldiers' chests.
The Cat bus room is very popular with children, many of whom apparently head directly to this room after entering the museum. The room is only open to those in the sixth grade of elementary school and younger. © Museo d'Arte Ghibli

The short film shown in the screening room, Saturn Theater, changes monthly. The storyboards, sketches, and other exhibits on display also change regularly, which means there is always something new and interesting to see. While overseas ticket sales are currently suspended, the love that international fans have for Studio Ghibli will undoubtedly remain strong. In fact, many of the donations that were made in the period from July 15, 2021 to January 31, 2022, when the Ghibli Museum, Mitaka had requested donations to support their operations, came from overseas. When international ticket sales resume, it is all but guaranteed that Ghibli fans from all over the world will again visit the Ghibli Museum, Mitaka.

Ghibli Museum, Mitaka

Address: Inside Inokashira Park, 1-1-83 Shimorenjaku, Mitaka-shi, Tokyo
TEL: 0570-055777
Hours: 10:00 A.M. - 5:00 P.M. / Closes at 7:00 P.M. on weekends and holidays, and 6:00 P.M. in major holiday periods (entry permitted until two hours before the closing time for that day).
Closed: Tuesdays, with other additional temporary closures, long-term closures, etc.
Price: General admission fee 1,000 yen
*By advanced booking only, for designated dates/times. In Japan, tickets can be purchased through the Lawson Ticket website (tickets for the following month are made available for purchase on the 10th of every month, at 10:00 A.M.).
*Photography is not permitted in the museum in any area outside of the rooftop.
*Information on the content, prices, etc., of the facility is current as of October 19, 2022.
Interview and writing by Abe Kimiko
Photos by Tonomura Seiji
Translation by Amitt