The visit to the Studio Ghibli Museum in Mitaka was one of the trips that I was most looking forward to in Tokyo, having never been to the museum and also being a long time Studio Ghibli fan. I was not disappointed.
Really important: You must pre-purchase a ticket and pre-determine the date if you're a tourist. Details here.
The place was definitely more educational than franchise-based and no photos were allowed inside but it was, on the whole, ridiculously inspiring.
There were special exhibitions of animation and a live exhibition dedicated to demonstrating the effects of different lenses. Miyazaki has always been a traditionalist when it comes to animation, so looking at traditional film animation techniques was quite amazing. It's hard to believe every frame was created by hand and painstakingly pieced together.
If you're a fan of the movies in any way, go for the animator studio section alone - it was filled with wall upon wall of drawings, paintings and simulations of the animators' workspaces and had books of the original storyboards for Laputa and other movies bound in almost 5 volumes of books each. Examine all the stray sketches of flyaway lines and watch the characters evolve and become their final incarnations.
Everyone has 'their' favourite Studio Ghibli movie and I would say that there is a bias towards My Neighbour Totoro and Kiki's Delivery Service when it comes to merchandise and decor.
If you're like me and Spirited Away (千と千尋の神隠し) remains your absolute favourite (having survived being rewatched in my childhood to the extent where I memorised the English dub script and extensive study of the Japanese version during Year 12 Japanese Extension), you may have found the place somewhat lacking of references, not being a movie that had a particularly marketable 'cute' mascot (Howl's Moving Castle too, which is my second favourite). But that's fine - I walked away wanting to watch The Cat Returns and some of the lesser-known films I haven't seen yet.
It was the small details that made the place: the stain glass windows of scenes from the famous Miyazaki movies, the little soot balls in the courtyard, the cats on the top of taps. While the place is definitely for all ages, you got the sense that the full delight of the experience would come from being between the ages of 5 and 13 and able to crawl through the small spaces without as much strain.
Studio Ghibli movies were always created with children in mind - some moreso than others - but, entering the museum, you're simultaneously aware of how much the place has been designed for children (especially when you hear the not-quite-clear diction of four-year-old Japanese children next to you in the Saturn Theatre) and how much of that child still exists within you.
We watched a cute short film that got me to care about a spider. I've grown to the age where the plot of Studio Ghibli films now feels ever-so-slightly too simplistic (The Borrowers Arriety was one film I did not particularly enjoy, plot-wise, which I expected to enjoy) but the charm of Ghibli films is in that innocent quality.
The museum and gift shop was very crowded but housed some wonderful items. I was most enamoured with the beautifully designed cards that replicated the stain glass windows of the museum, and I also indulged myself with some pins, a postcard and a special edition Moleskine.
We opted not to suffer the long line into the Museum Cafe, though there were some truly adorable details on the menu.
A trip out to the Studio Ghibli Museum, again, takes you away from the urban centre you associate with Tokyo and into a space reminiscent of the feeling of many Ghibli settings themselves - a small, simple and beautiful space tucked amongst tall trees and nature, quiet and unassuming.
Walking through gave rise to a weird contradiction: Part of me believes that the museum could be even more amazing if it was expanded to larger proportions to accommodate for its non-stop flow of admirers. With Japan's eye for detail, I'm sure the expansion would not be too jarring. The squeeze to get through low walkways and winding staircases and the patience required to get a clean shot of the Museum, admittedly, makes the place feel a little too crowded and bustling for its quiet serenity. Yet a stronger part feels like to expand the place would be to remove something essential and home-made from the studio and therein lies its charm and, to an extent, some of its limitations.
(☞ﾟ∀ﾟ)☞ JAPAN 2013 MASTERPOST