If you are a fan of the animation works of Hayao Miyazaki, famous for Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro and many other films, then a visit to the Studio Ghibli Museum outside of Tokyo is something of a pilgrimage. The museum pays homage to Miyazaki’s work and offers up all sorts of special goodies.
Outside the museum are plenty of little bits which aim to evoke images of the movies while also still having a functional building.
The inside, well, no photos allowed but it offers up displays showing all the phases of the animation process. Want to understand how animation works with a collection of images spinning at just the right speed to sync with the light? That’s available. There’s also a mock studio showing how the overall process happens, from initial research to story-boards to main character works and eventually the background and full animation results. The collection of books on the walls show just how much can go in to planning and executing on such works, covering just about everything from plants to animals people and how they all look, grow, move, thrive and survive.
And there are some more kid-focused bits, too, like the huge Catbus play room area, though we were too big to play in there.
Perhaps the most special part of a visit to Ghibli is an opportunity to watch one of the several animation shorts which are never shown outside of the museum. It was in Japanese (obviously) and I’m sure the audio added a bit to the story line. But even without understanding any of that we completely understood the story and very much enjoyed the show. Your ticket to the screening is also a souvenir from the museum. And it happens to be a piece of Miyazaki history.
It is a couple frames from a film reel of one of his movies and it is awesome.
As one who is not steeped in the history of Miyazaki’s works it was hard to tell if the museum lives up to the hype or not. Getting tickets is a challenge – limited numbers are available each day and they often sell out in advance – and getting there from central Tokyo is an hour or so on the train. Very little of the exhibits appeared to be curated, even in Japanese. And none of the explanations are translated to English which was a little bit disappointing to me. Yeah, I know, I was in Japan, but this is a museum which markets heavily to an international community. And most of the other museums we visited had at least a few exhibits with some English in them. I would have settled for French or Spanish, too, but it was lacking on that front.
More Photos from Studio Ghibli:
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