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The Studio Ghibli Museum

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Since releasing Castle in the Sky in 1986, the magicians of Studio Ghibli have come to dominate the world of Japanese animation. Spirited Away, Porco Rosso, Howl’s Moving Castle, and The Wind Rises are just some of the studio’s feature films, nearly all of which have been hailed by critics and beloved by audiences the world over. We’ve been Ghibli fans for years, and made it a point to visit the studio’s museum in Inokashira Park.

Studio Ghibli

The museum is exactly what you’d expect from Studio Ghibli. It’s as though one of the eccentric buildings in their films has come to life. A hybrid between theme park, science museum and behind-the-scenes studio tour, the museum is beautiful, with every detail thoughtfully designed, from the tickets to the faucet taps. Fans are going to be in heaven.

Unfortunately, there’s a strict “no photos” policy inside the museum, so we weren’t able to photograph any of the interior rooms, but believe me: they’re all stunning. We were impressed right off the bat; in the very first room, there’s a three-dimensional zoetrope featuring the characters of My Neighbor Totoro. As a strobe light flashes, the stage spins backwards and hundreds of miniature sculptures jump into life.

As you wind your way through the museum, characters from the world of Ghibli walk you through the creation process of the studio’s movies, starting with conception and design, before moving on to the first watercolor sketches and detailed story boards. Hands-on exhibits allow you to page through entire animated screenplays, or spin film through a reel to project an image against the wall.

Studio Ghibli

During our visit, the museum was excruciatingly crowded, which is no real surprise considering Ghibli’s popularity in Japan and around the world. But you can escape the crowds inside by going to the rooftop garden, where a life-sized Laputa robot from Castle in the Sky is stationed. Or you can take a break and enjoy home-cooking at the Straw Hat Café… if you manage to get a seat. You probably won’t.

The best part of the museum might be the Saturn Theater on the ground floor, where you have the chance to see a short animated feature created exclusively for the museum. There are about ten different films in total, but you only get to see one. Ours was called The Day I Bought a Star. It was all in Japanese with no subtitles, but still understandable and just as enchanting as everything produced by Ghibli.

Gaining admission to the Ghibli Museum isn’t as simple as showing up and approaching the gates. You have to buy tickets at least a week in advance. If you’re in Japan, you can only do this at a Lawson convenience store. The machines are all in Japanese, but with luck (or persistence) you can get one of the staff to help. If you’re overseas, there are other methods of advance purchasing; check the Ghibli Museum’s guide for details.

So should you make the effort to visit the museum? Buying tickets is tricky, and it’s not all that easy to reach. But if you’re already a fan of Studio Ghibli’s films, this might turn out to be one of your favorite memories from Tokyo.

Location on our Map

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July 5, 2014 at 6:12 am Comments (4)

Shiodome

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Shiodome, the onetime railway center of Tokyo, has blossomed into one of the city’s most modern and important financial districts. We spent a day wandering around its skyscrapers, like ants in the presence of giants.

Just like Ginza, the neighborhood immediately to its north, Shiodome was originally swamp land, filled on the orders of Lord Tokugawa in the early seventeenth century. In 1872, during the Meiji Era, Shiodome became the terminal of Japan’s first railway line. With the closure of the train station in 1986 and the dismantling of its yards, a prime piece of real estate opened up, and Tokyo decided to build what Tokyo builds best: skyscrapers. Today, Shiodome is home to the headquarters of some of Japan’s biggest firms, including Fujitsu, All Nippon Air, Bandai, Dentsu and Softbank.

We were visiting on a Sunday, when Shiodome was taking a breather from the standard corporate hustle, so we didn’t really experience its true spirit. But that was fine. While in Tokyo, we wouldn’t exactly be suffering from a lack of “crushing crowds of businessmen,” and it was fun to have this ultra-modern skyscraper park largely to ourselves.

For lunch, we went to the top of the sleek Dentsu building, one of the tallest skyscrapers in Tokyo. Though we had expected outrageous prices, we found an excellent and extremely reasonable meal at a restaurant dedicated to the cuisine of Hokkaido. The view from here was perhaps even better than that of the SkyTree; not nearly as high, but closer to the city and far less crowded.

In the bottom levels of the nearby Caretta Building we came across the Advertising Museum of Tokyo (ADMT). With engaging exhibitions that take visitors on a chronological journey through the history of Japanese advertising from the 1700s into the present day, the museum is a lot of fun. I especially enjoyed the interactive booths where you could view television ads from throughout the years. Did you know that Orson Welles did an ad for Japanese whiskey? He did, and it’s as awesome as you’d expect. The ADMT is sponsored by Dentsu, Japan’s leading advertising firm, and is free to visit. Fair enough, considering that, while inside, you’ll be watching advertisements.

Before leaving Shiodome, we made sure to watch the hour strike at a giant copper clock outside the Nippon Television Building. Presented by Studio Ghibli, this clock marks the hour with a clanking, noisy show of copper robots, puffing engines and and tinpail percussion… like something straight out of a steampunk anime flick.

Location of the ADMT on our Map
Advertising Museum of Tokyo – Website

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March 17, 2014 at 2:41 am Comments (3)
The Studio Ghibli Museum Since releasing Castle in the Sky in 1986, the magicians of Studio Ghibli have come to dominate the world of Japanese animation. Spirited Away, Porco Rosso, Howl's Moving Castle, and The Wind Rises are just some of the studio's feature films, nearly all of which have been hailed by critics and beloved by audiences the world over. We've been Ghibli fans for years, and made it a point to visit the studio's museum in Inokashira Park.
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