A quick note: this is from the blog I kept when I was in Asia during 2014 and 2015. You can read old posts here.
Although anime and manga still aren’t quite “mainstream” in the US, if you haven’t heard of Studio Ghibli, you must have been living under a rock. You’re also probably new to this blog, because I’ve posted about Ghibli films twice: here, in a general post, and here, in a post about the studio’s Academy Award-Winning Spirited Away.
Anyway, I’ve been a fan of Studio Ghibli and the works of Hayao Miyazaki for years now, so when I planned my trip to Japan, a stop at the Studio Ghibli Museum was at the top of my “to do” list. The museum, also known (for some reason) as the Museo d’Arte Ghibli, is in the town of Mitaka on the outskirts of Tokyo. It’s inaccessible by car, and visitors are strongly encouraged to take public transit all the way or walk part of the way.
No pictures are allowed inside the museum, so you can fully experience it without the distraction of the camera. I appreciated the rule for a different reason: since I had no idea what the inside looked like, everything was interesting and surprising and worth exploring.
The museum was designed by Miyazaki himself, and his fingerprint is on everything. I’ve been to plenty of theme parks before, ones that look nice but are a little too shiny, or where you find that what you thought was wood is painted on or the cast iron is hollow in the middle. At the Ghibli museum, everything feels real. The museum treats children like individuals, and everything is child safe. Exhibits have steps in front of them, so that children can see the exhibits without their parents’ help. I actually had to bend down quite a bit to see some things, as they were set up at a six year old’s eye level.
When you enter the museum, you get a ticket to see a short film. There are nine films on rotation, each one only available at the Ghibli museum. Each guest can only see one film. Everyone understood how special this was, because as soon as the movie started, everything was completely silent. The movies are completely in Japanese, but that hardly mattered. That’s the beauty of cinema, after all–it’s a heavily visual medium. I saw The Day I Harvested a Planet, which was magical.
It’s hard to do the museum justice in a short blog post, and I think that’s intentional on Miyazaki’s part. It’s designed to be an experience, so writers are left in a catch-22 because if we do it justice in words, we take away from an potential experience.
This, then, is where I end my post. Hopefully, you too can one day take a trip to the Ghibli museum and experience it the way it’s meant to be experienced.