Though it does have its own theme park scheduled to come to life in Aichi Prefecture in four years time, Studio Ghibli is more than just the Japanese equivalent of Disney. With anime being one of the country’s biggest pop cultural exports, many expats and travelers will already have some knowledge of Ghibli before they come to Japan. It’s a studio whose movies are beloved around the world.
Earlier this year, the passing of studio co-founder Isao Takahata at the age of 82 led to an outpouring of recognition for him and the films he directed, such as "Grave of the Fireflies" and "The Tale of Princess Kaguya." This came right as a new short film by the legendary Hayao Miyazaki — his first animated work since going into retirement five years ago — was beginning its exclusive theater run at the Ghibli Museum in Tokyo.
If you’re looking for a Ghibli-inspired travel experience in Japan before the Ghibli theme park opens in 2022, the museum is certainly a good place to start. However, there are a number of other real-life locations here with ties to Studio Ghibli that are well worth visiting. Let’s take a quick Catbus tour of some of the best spots.
1. Get lost in the Ghibli Museum
Tucked away in the green suburb of Mitaka, Tokyo, where Inokashira Park is located, there is a colorful building with vines creeping up the side of it. Outside, the mythical forest creature Totoro can be seen manning a box office window. On the roof, the long-armed steampunk robot from the movie "Castle in the Sky" can be seen standing tall.
The place is the Ghibli Museum and it’s a necessary pilgrimage for Japanophiles. Inside, you can see Ghibli’s animated worlds come to life through spinning zoetropes, hand-cranked animatics and other fascinating exhibits. Light streams into the central hall through beautiful stained glass windows as a spiral staircase extends up past a bridge from one side of the building to the other.
As you ascend the floors and duck into various rooms, you will also see kids playing on a big, fluffy version of the Catbus from "My Neighbor Totoro." From now until November 2018, the Ghibli Museum is recreating kitchens and food from its films as part of a special exhibition called “Delicious! Animating Memorable Meals.”
Getting tickets to the museum requires a bit of pre-planning, with advance tickets going on sale at Lawson on the 10th of every month. For more information, consult the GaijinPot Travel entry on the Ghibli Museum.
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