Ghibli Museum Full Guide & Review (Is it Really Worth Visiting?)

Studio Ghibli is one of the most influential animation studios in the world. It has enthralled audiences young and old for over 30 years. This is due to the love, care, and attention to detail Hayao Miyazaki has placed into each of his films.

The Ghibli Museum, likewise, has received that same level of love, care, and attention. And visiting it is one of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve had throughout my travels in Japan.

Learn How to Buy Studio Ghibli Museum Tickets in this article.

The Creator, The Museum, and His Works

Known for works such as My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away and the most recent, Ponyo, Hayao Miyazaki and the rest of Studio Ghibli have created whimsical worlds for us to explore and experience. And Ghibli Museum takes some of that magic and brings it to the real world.

The museum exhibits not only the films produced by the studio itself but also gives a look into the life of the animators, how processes have changed over the years, and even gives a glimpse into how much work goes into animating even mundane segments of a cartoon.

This is why the museum has gained popularity and often recommended as a must-visit when visiting Tokyo by Japan guidebooks or blogs.

However, getting the entrance ticket to the museum requires perfect timing and must be booked in advance.

In this article, we’ll tell you why visiting Ghibli Museum is an experience that shouldn’t be missed.

Studio Ghibli Museum Admission Times

Be aware that entrance to the museum is time controlled. Meaning that you need to pick a specific time to enter the museum during the booking process.

  • 10 a.m.
  • 12 p.m.
  • 2 p.m.
  • 4 p.m.

As per Ghibli Museum guideline, you can enter the museum up to 30 minutes past the specified time of your ticket. (I.e., 10 a.m. tickets, you can enter the museum until 10:30 a.m.).

They are very strict on this rule. So if you’ve missed your time slot, you’re not allowed to get in and tickets cannot be refunded. The good news is that, as long as you make it inside on time, you can enjoy the museum for as long as you want up until closing time.

Hours of Operation

Opening hours are 10 am – 6 pm.

It’s worth mentioning that the museum is closed every Tuesday except on these Tuesdays (for 2018):

  • May 1
  • July 24
  • August 14
  • December 25

The Museum is also closed from December 28 through January 2, and is closed for two periodic maintenance periods:

  • May 15, 2018, through May 25, 2018; and
  • November 5, 2018, through November 16, 2018

You don’t have to worry about these though. The booking system will block these dates during the booking process. This just serves as your guide when planning your Tokyo trip overall.

Studio Ghibli Museum Rules

There are a few strict rules while visiting the museum.

First and foremost, absolutely no photography inside the museum.

This is a pretty basic rule at most Japanese museums/exhibits. But at the Ghibli Museum, they state that this is because they want you to “Experience the Museum space with your own eyes and senses, instead of through a camera’s viewfinder.” Which is actually a reasoning I can get behind.

When you actually stop and watch how much of life is experienced by people looking through a phone nowadays, it’s pretty sad. Though this is also a problem when you want photos for a blog!

If you are sensitive to light or epileptic you should stay out of the permanent exhibition room. There is an amazing exhibit within which utilizes stroboscopic lights.

Eating and drinking are prohibited inside the museum. There is an outdoor cafe (details below) attached to the museum. You can either buy food there or eat what you’ve brought with you.

Admission to the Saturn Theater is limited to one screening per person.

No smoking on the premise.

No re-entry to the museum.

These are the most notable rules, though there are a few more.

Museum Exhibit Highlights Review and Experience

There isn’t a recommended path in exploring the museum.

You do it self-paced which also correlates to Ghibli Museum motto, “Let’s Lose Our Way, Together.”

What we did was just started from the right side of the Central Hall’s 1st floor, going up to the 3rd.

The aim of Miyazaki was to make the building itself an exhibit; for the whole museum to be a relaxing and fun experience to explore.

The museum is built to resemble much of the architecture of his movies.

There are spiral staircases both inside and out, long balconies, and archways which lead to exhibits. But occasionally, a few dead ends. And that’s part of the charm because it gives you a feeling of exploration.

Miyazaki’s vision for his movies has always been to immerse his audience in the worlds he creates, and that vision has clearly been recreated in the museum.

First Floor: Permanent Exhibit Room

The first floor was where the Permanent Exhibit Room is with the theme “The Beginning of Movement.”

The room exhibits the science and history of animation and works not just by Hayao Miyazaki’s but also of other animators.

One thing that can be improved in this room though is that the English language should be made available to discuss everything.

The “Bouncing Totoro” 3D zoetrope in this exhibit is without a doubt the highlight of this room. It was the first time we’ve seen such motion display where a sequence of 347 still figures of My Neighbor Totoro characters creates an illusion of motion along with the rapid flashing LED lights when rotated.

I was particularly impressed by Mei and Satsuki’s character where the movements were really smooth. It seemed to be crafted perfectly frame by frame.

No wonder why the creators of this 3D zoetrope took them almost a year to finish.

We kept coming back in this many times and could stare at it for hours which is Miyazaki’s main goal on why he personally requested this zoetrope created. To have every visitor stop and be mesmerized.

Second Floor: Where a Film is Born and Special Exhibit Room

The second floor has two exhibit rooms. One of which is the permanent exhibit room with the theme “Where a Film is Born.”

This room looked like it belonged to an artist’s room that had just left the room to take a break.

The room was filled with several books, unfinished sketches, and freshly sharpened pencils.

Visitors are free to touch everything in this room. In fact, you are encouraged, to feel the artist’s vibe with the goal to inspire you to be the next Hayao Miyazaki.

The other side of the second floor is where the Special Exhibit Room with theme changes annually. When we went, the theme was “Scene of Food” where it showcased all the eating and food scenes from Miyazaki’s film, and how there were drawn and created.

Clearly, you would realize how difficult really is to create just a set frame of eating food in animation already renders about 50-100 frames.

Third Floor: Cat Bus Room, Bookstore, and Gift Shop

The 3rd floor is where the Cat Bus from My Neighbor Totoro is.

Elementary children age 12 and under can bounce and play in this room.

Adults are of course free to touch the Cat Bus fur that you’ve been dreaming of touching as you see it from the movie.

This is not the exact size of the Cat Bus as they wanted it in the film. They shrink it just to fit the room.

I wouldn’t recommend making your smaller babies from 0-24 months here simply because your little one is too small and can be crushed by bigger children. Plus, the place can be pretty packed considering the size of the room is really small.

If you need a little time alone for yourself, this is your chance to talk down to your kids if they can stay and play in this room while you explore the rest of the museum.

Next to the Cat Bus room is the Tri-Hawks Bookstore where you can browse children’s books and picture books personally hand-picked by Hayao Miyazaki. It was named Tri-Hawks as Mitaka, where the Ghibli Museum is located, Mi-Taka translates to “three hawks” in English. Mothers or fathers are free to read books here to their little ones. The books are mainly in Japanese though.

The same floor is where you can also find the souvenir and gift shop called Mamma Auito, which was inspired by the comedy-adventure animation Porco Rosso where Mamma Auito was a name of an air pirate gang.

Deck Area: Straw Hat Cafe

From the 3rd floor, we found our way out to the Straw Hat Cafe. A bright-orange and red cafe and restaurant with inside and outside seatings that offers an outdoor atmosphere and the views of Inokashira Park.

The restaurant is located outside or deck area of the museum, you are free to take photos in this area.

Rooftop Garden: Life-size Robot Soldier from Laputa Castle in the Sky

On the roof of the museum, looking down over Inokashira Park is a life-sized iconic character from the first film created and released by Studio Ghibli; the Laputa Robot Soldier.

Made from hammered copper plates, the statue took around 2 years to create, but the detail makes it seem ready to spring to life at any moment.

The soldier is from the movie Laputa: Castle in the Sky and actually debuted in the final episode of Lupin the III Part II, although there would be some small changes to its appearance in the movie.

Lastly, the museum shows 15-minute short films inside the Saturn Theater, located on the main floor of the museum. The films rotate throughout the year and all are original creations for the theater.

During our visit, the theater was showing Kujiratori (The Whale Hunt), which was a cute movie about children’s imagination.

Starting on March 21st this will be replaced with Boro the Caterpillar. Honestly, even though the movies shown are very much meant for small children, this is a highlight of the museum and a must-see during your visit.

Ghibli Museum Frequently Asked Questions

1. How early should I arrive at the museum?
Arrive at the museum at least 15-30 minutes before the designated entrance time as the line is long.

2. What is the best time to visit?
As much as possible, visit the museum on a weekday and avoid non-working Japanese holidays. It can become really packed especially during a holiday weekend and exploring the entire museum with that much people also slows everything down. In addition, choose the time slot with the least number of people booking which are 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

3. Is photo taking really not allowed inside?
Yes. Since photo taking is not allowed inside, take as many photos as you can from outside the museum, as the building itself is interesting and was inspired by European architecture.

4. How do I get to Ghibli Museum?
If you are a JR Pass holder, your pass covers the train line (JR Chuo) that goes to Mitaka Station and the museum is a 15-minute walk from there. Follow all the signs towards Ghibli Museum.

For those without JR Pass, I personally recommend that you arrive at Kichijoji Station. Kichijoji has a more interesting vibe and is a pleasant walk as you’ll also pass by one of the most important parks in Tokyo, the Inokashira Park, which is especially beautiful during the cherry blossom season. From Kichijoji Station to Ghibli Museum is also a 15-minute walk.

I do not really recommend taking the bus, as taking the right bus pose many difficulties such as finding the right bus stop and the right bus number that goes to the museum. All bus signs are all in Japanese as well. Also, come on. You’re in Japan, a country of walkers.

5. Can I bring a car?
Forget about your car. There’s no parking available at the museum!

6. Is the museum baby-friendly? Stroller-friendly?
For families with infants or small children, make sure to bring your baby carrier as strollers are not allowed. You need to leave your strollers at the designated storage area of the museum. All floors have restrooms equipped with diaper table. The first floor, however, is the only one with baby room and breastfeeding facilities.

7. Are there coin lockers?
Coin lockers are available but only for small luggage. If you have large suitcases, proceed to the Information Center and ask the staff for assistance.

8. How long can I stay inside in the museum?
There isn’t really a limited time. Stay as long as you want!

9. Tickets are all SOLD out. Help! How do I get tickets?
Your best bet would the package tour through JTB (JAPANiCAN) and Viator. Last time I saw it, they have available tickets within the month of your booking. Have a look at each website and check the earliest dates you can get. However, if you think that the price is overkill, your second option is getting the last-minute ticket from Voyagin.

10. Is Voyagin legit for booking Ghibli Museum ticket?
Yes, they are. Voyagin is a subsidiary of Rakuten Inc., the same company who now owns Viber. You can also read reviews of their Last-Minute Ghibli Museum Tickets.

11. Do you recommend the food at the Straw Hat Cafe?
I tend to be judgmental when it comes to museum restaurants. Most of them are not only pricey but also below average. But looking at reviews from Google Maps, Star Hat Cafe seems to be pretty loved and has 4 out of 5-star ratings. Some stated that the food is cooked fresh and all come from an organic farm which is guaranteed healthy.

Unfortunately for us, we didn’t really get to dine at the Straw Hat Cafe because the restaurant was packed and has a long waiting line despite our off-season visit.

Based on their menu, the variety is limited like breaded pork, steak, sandwich, soup, and omurice (omelet rice) which are typical and same as the ones you can find in many restaurants and cafes scattered in Japan.

The food served are not gimmicky or Ghibli-themed except for one coffee latte that has a coffee foam art of a straw hat, and a soda drink. That’s it. (Sorry Instagrammers.)

With these in mind, arrive at the museum with a full stomach like we did (we ate in Ichiran Ramen near Kichijoji Station). But if you really feel that your Ghibli experience won’t be complete without eating at the Straw Hat Cafe, I recommend that you eat outside lunch hours before 11 a.m. or after 2 p.m., hopefully, the line has died down.

Conclusion

Ghibli Museum is always mentioned as a must-visit in Tokyo. After visiting, I wanted to kick myself for not going sooner.

Perhaps it was my fond memories of watching My Neighbor Totoro and Spirited Away growing up. But after seeing the exhibits here, it made me feel like a kid again.

The main takeaway for me is that unlike other art museums, Ghibli Museum always encourages you to touch things in it in hopes of igniting your curiosity in concept and creation of animation and more.

I can’t wait to share it with my own daughter when she’s old enough to appreciate it. I just hope that she won’t be too scared of many odd-looking characters like I was with the Cat Bus when I was young.

The experience is worth more than the original ticket price and is best bought through Lawson’s Website and its Loppi Machine for 1,000 yen only.

However, if you have obtained it through other methods which are more expensive, it all depends subjectively if you really consider yourself both an anime and Ghibli fan.

If neither of these things really have any meaning to you, then I would still suggest giving the museum a chance. Who knows, you may come out of the museum wanting to see more.

Published by Eric W.

Eric has been living in Japan for over 7 years and yet disappointed with himself for not learning the language. He likes to write about food adventures but not really open to trying out exotic foods! So, help her wife make him try. View more posts