Ghibli Museum, Japan, with kids

totoro ghibli museum

Totoro ticket booth!

We visited Ghibli Museum in September 2016.

* Updated February 2018 with a new visit!

If you don’t know what Ghibli Studios is, you should probably stop right now and go watch My Neighbor Totoro, Ponyo on the Cliff, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Grave of the Fireflies and all the other movies. I’m serious.

If you’ve seen the movies, and you love them, like I do, you should know that there’s a Ghibli Museum in Tokyo. It’s the most adorable museum in the entire world. Unfortunately, it’s small museum and visitation is limited, so you should buy your tickets before going to the museum, as they aren’t sold there.

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ghibli bus

The inside of the bus and the single Makkuro Kurosuke at the back

 

Getting the tickets for Ghibli Museum – the first time (2016)

We’d just arrived in Japan the day before. We hadn’t even rested properly, but there was one thing we had to do: buy the tickets to visit Ghibli Museum, in Tokyo. It was early September, we had 2 weeks, the first and the last of the month, to visit the museum, the only 2 we were spending in Tokyo.

I hadn’t even warmed up my Japanese but we found a Lawson store and went for it. I asked at the counter and one of the staff came out to help me. Well, guess what? It was sold out. For the whole month. The. Whole. Month.

ghibli museum outside

Outside of the museum, even the direction signs are cute

I was devastated. He told me that the tickets for October would start selling in the following week and that I should try to buy it first thing Monday morning.

It was not the best way to start the trip, really. I was destroyed. I felt so stupid for not buying it upfront. So stupid! I thought NZ$ 40 per adult was way too expensive, that we should buy in Japan, as it cost JP¥ 1000/adult. With the price for one adult in NZ, we could buy tickets for the whole family if we bought in Japan.

ghibli museum

The museum as seen from the Laputa area

I checked for 2 months, and I saw that there was always one or 2 days available even in the last days, so I was very confident it would work perfectly fine.

When it didn’t I was desperate.

Angelo found out that there was a Ghibli Exhibition at Roppongi and we accepted our fate. It was our third Japan day when I was looking for ways to buy the ticket for the Exhibition when I saw that there were 2 spots for the Museum available. I tried for hours to buy it online and it didn’t accept my name, so Angelo headed to Lawson (alone, it was midnight) and bought the tickets. It did take him an hour, but he managed it! I was never so happy to have a few pieces of paper in my hands than then. It was the last session of the day, on our last week in Japan.

ghibli museum

This isn’t the entrance, but it’s part of the museum

 

Buying the tickets for Ghibli Museum in 2018 – and the reality of it

Here’s the thing. On the 10th day of the month, they start selling the ticket for the next month. So, for instance, on the 10th of January, they start selling the tickets for February. If you intend to go in February, you could buy your tickets from the 10th of January until the end of February.

But they do sell out sometimes, so it’s best to buy in advance.

This time, we were so much experienced that we arrived in Japan in December and bought our tickets for January when we’d be in Tokyo.

We visited a Lawson convenience store and bought it on a Loppi machine. It’s mostly in Japanese, but it’s not too difficult and the staff can try to help.

They seem to have updated the website and now they have a step by step ‘How to buy the tickets on the Lawson machines’, which would’ve saved Angelo about 40 minutes of his evening. The machines were in Japanese only and the staff doesn’t necessarily speak English, so it is a good help.

Going to the Museum!!! – the first time

 

Ghibli bus

Isn’t this the most adorable museum ever?

We woke up early in the day and were super excited! We left home at 1 pm and our time was from 16:00. Our idea was to arrive early, spend some time at the café and stay as much as we could at the museum. We had ramen near Shinjuku Station and left.

We arrived at Mitaka Station at 2:20. We didn’t know if we were walking to the museum or taking the bus, so we decided to go check the time for the next bus but we did take a while to find the bus stop. We must’ve looked very lost because a gentleman asked us what we were looking for and showed us the way. When we got there, the bus was arriving and we barely had the time to buy the tickets. The tickets sold on the machine are for return trip only: if you’re planning to take a one-way trip, pay to the driver.

But let me tell you about the bus: it was yellow and it had characters all over it. It even had Makkuro Kurosuke (Black Suits) on the inside. The driver was nice and waited until we bought our tickets. Inside the bus, there was a screen showing the next stations. It was a regular bus, but it was adorable. I just think it should be a Neko-bus (Cat bus, from My Neighbour Totoro). 😛

It’s a circular line, so you can take the same bus at the same stop to leave the Museum.

ghibli stairs

The stairs at Ghibli are just beautiful!

When we arrived at the Museum, there were people at the bus stop showing us the way in and organizing the line for the people waiting to board the bus. The museum is next to Mitaka Park and is surrounded by trees, such a beautiful sight. We got there a bit before 3 and we were told we could only enter at 4, and the café would be open until 7 pm so everyone could enjoy it. The super nice lady also said that we should come back at 3:40 because they would open up earlier. First, we went to pretend to buy some tickets from Totoro himself. Awww, so adorable! It was really great.

A pit-stop in Mitaka Park

So we had 40 minutes to spare and we decided to go to the park. It was full of mosquitos. Really full. All of us ended up full of itchy lumps. Horrible. Despite the little flying demons, Coral had fun playing at the playground and the older kids spent their time chatting at the bench. It was summer, after all.

*During winter 2018, it was all covered in ice and snow, so we decided against a stop there. It looked very slippery and dangerous. 

At 3:30 we decided to head back and there was already a line. We waited patiently and in 5 minutes or so we were guided to the counter, where we received the film strip ticket, which is just the most adorable ticket ever. Coral was called Kiki due to her clothes (I hadn’t even realized until it was pointed out), but she found it fun in the end.

Laputa robot

My kids researching the robot, it was amazing!

 

After feeling enchanted with the gorgeous tickets, we finally entered the beautiful museum and we were in awe.

The stunning Ghibli museum in all its glory

It was so perfect, so awesome, so amazing! 

(and we have no photos of the inside because photos are not permitted)

The first room was the most magical room in the entire museum, it had all the ‘tricks’ of how animations are made. It’s just amazing, full of incredible and unbelievable things. I can’t even explain nor describe, all I can say is that we spent a lot of time there.

* Visit this room after you’ve seen the rest. It’s the first room everyone enters, so it’s very crowded on the first hour, but then the crowd thins out!

OK, I’ll try to explain the thing I loved most, which was a circular rotating table with little Totoro characters. It had loads of Totoros, Meis, and other characters, each one picturing them jumping, walking and all, a bit differently from the others. It was full os consecutive scenes. There were loads of Meis, on one she was on the floor, on the next, she was preparing to jump, and then, she was jumping, and getting higher, and coming down, until she touched the ground again. Around her, Totoro was jumping over a mushroom and the Black Suits were running around, a bat was flying and all in little statues. When the table rotated fast, it looked like they were actually jumping and playing. So really awesome!

The Ghibli Museum bus stop sign is decorated, and has a Totoro on top of it. They thought of every single detail! Amazing thing!

Even the bus stop time table…

Mamma Aiuto store

The shop is just lovely, but it was so full we couldn’t see anything properly. If we stopped by something, we were pushed in a few seconds. Sad. But we bought postcards and a tin of biscuits, which was pretty good. We even shipped our tin to NZ, hope it arrives there. (IT DID!!!) Everything was beautiful but super expensive. Melissa wanted a Laputa pendant, but it cost over JP¥ 20 000 (around US$ 200) and she gave it up. I wanted a Jiji pendant and a wallet but couldn’t find it. It was super hard to choose the postcards. I wanted all of them for me.

The second visit was almost the same, but we bought different things, like a jigsaw puzzle, and some pretty decoration for the house. Super crowded and very, very hard to look at things.

The art room

Melissa loved the room that simulated the room the artists use to do the film art, full of books, pens, pencils, watercolor and all the artistic things, plus the paintings and drawings on the walls. We could’ve spent all of our time there and not even noticing. My kids found it hard to imagine someone making one painting as beautiful as those and not use them for anything.

There was also the books of strips that had the whole movie in it, comic style, handmade. That was unbelievably detailed, so pretty I wanted to keep it. We saw 5 books of one single movie, and they were all around 200 pages each.

Seasonal exhibits

The first visit, summer of 2016

 

lights by the restaurant

Just by the restaurant, this was super cute!

 

One thing we all loved a lot was an actual size Neko-bus (Cat-bus). It was fluffy all around, I loved it! It was a dream come true, to sit there and feel like Totoro.

Howl’s Castle’s replica was so cool! It even had the clothes hanging from the windows, the bathroom could be seen from outside, it was perfect!

Second visit, winter of 2018

There was no more cat bus and it was a bit disappointing but the awesome food exhibit was mouth watering and incredible! It showed details on what it takes to make a food scene (it’s just crazy), replicas of the famous food, lots of sketches, and some translations to English – which was helpful!

Can you imagine that they made lots of frames of the sizzling bubbles, dozens of them, for just one scene? Sofie (from Howl’s moving castle) was frying bacon and eggs and those bubbles took a lot of effort. Seriously. The bubbles.

Other things in Ghibli Museum

There was even a library (and a bookstore), full of great and gorgeous books! Even the toilets are stunning!

Make sure you take a close look at all the windows! They display different scenes from the movies, and they’re just adorable!

To be really honest, there were so many amazing rooms I’m sure I’m forgetting a lot of things. You can see the areas on the official website.

 

Ghibli waterpump

Manual water pump at Ghibli and my kids, it was all beautiful!

 

The neko-bus for kids

The kiddie playground was not tested by us as Coral was too scared of the other kids to try it and José and João felt a bit ashamed of playing in midst of 3-year-olds. It looked so cute, I wanted to play there, really. Such a shame I couldn’t.

Kids up to 12 years old can play in this lovely cat-bus play area for 5 minutes. It’s full of fluffy black-suits and there’s a kid-size cat-bus for the kids to climb, play inside, enter and exit through the windows and all.

I wanted to go, but they didn’t let me. Coral (5) went, but the older kids didn’t want to. Silly kids.

The theater inside Ghibli Museum

On the bottom floor, there’s a little cinema theater and everyone can watch the short animation once with the film strip ticket. When we went, the film showing was Yadosagashi (Looking for Home) and it was super fun. The films change every month, and I’m pretty sure they’re all worth it.

On our second visit, it was playing Mizu-gumo Monmon, about a water spider. Cute thing, I loved it – but the first one (above) was better.

The outside, where photos are allowed

But then, my favorite place of all was outside. The stairs that take you to the Laputa giant was pretty, but that enormous super detailed perfect giant won my heart. He is my favorite character of all, along with Totoro, and seeing it up close like that was just magical. My kids loved it also, and they had a wonderful time discovering little details. It was great. Being high up, surrounded by green, with that amazing giant just made us feel like we were really in Laputa.

The wooden floor planks are fun too! They seem like they were stapled by a giant stapler. Cool thing! And all random, something like the dudes from Laputa would do.

Mugiwara Boushi, the Ghibli Museum restaurant

straw hat café

Inside the Straw Hat Café, a beautiful thing!

Our last stop that day was the Mugiwara Boushi (Straw Hat) Café, the café inside Ghibli Museum. It had a long line, we waited for around 30 minutes (sitting down) for our table. Since it would close soon, we were given the menus and we chose our food at the line. The café was super cute, with lots of straw hats hanging by the door, a fireplace, rock chair and all. The plates have Ghibli characters on them and most foods come with Ghibli banners.

The food itself was lovely, it’s worth the money and the wait. We tried only the desserts, but all the people around us were saying their food was delicious, so I’m just passing the message. If you don’t feel like waiting in line, they also sell hot dogs, ice cream and a few other things outside. No air conditioning, though.

* Avoid lunchtime. On our second visit, the restaurant waiting time was 90 minutes!!! And we tried after 2 pm. Not fun, so we just gave up. Sad, but… we were very, very hungry.

To finish it…

ghibli museum at night

When we left, it was dark and the museum looked like this

It was totally worth all the trouble, the stress, and the money. I loved everything (except the no photo rule) from beginning to end, and so did everyone else in the family. It was one of the loveliest things we did while in Japan.

The tickets give you a time slot, and you must visit the park during the time in your ticket. You must enter within the first 30 minutes, which means that if your ticket says 14:00~16:00, you must be there until 14:30. I don’t know how strict they are, but the Japanese are very punctual, so I wouldn’t even try. I’m also not encouraging you to buy your tickets in Japan or before arriving. I’m not even sure what I’d do if I were to try it again.

* We were 35 minutes late on our 2018 visit and there was a lot of people entering with us. I think that you can enter as late as 40 minutes, but I wouldn’t try it. It was a very crowded day, and the lines were ridiculous there on that day.

There’s no limit to how long you stay inside, so you can enter at 10 am and stay until it closes. The last slot isn’t really very smart.

  • What / Where
  • Duration
  • $ ~ $$$
  • Child-friendlyness
  • Best local transport option
  • Safety
  • Do we recommend it?
  • Ghibli Museum / Tokyo, Japan
  • 2~4 hours
  • $
  • Incredibly child friendly
  • Bus from Mitaka train station to the museum!
  • Perfect!
  • YES Yes YES!!!
Kid #4 admiring the giant Laputa robot at Ghibli Museum, in Tokyo, Japan. It's a lovely family outing, perfect for any Ghibli fan! #japan #ghibli

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22 replies
  1. thetravelninjaz
    thetravelninjaz says:

    This museum sounds amazing! We are definitely planning on visiting Japan in the near future so we will make sure to add the museum to our list. Thanks for the great tips. Too bad they don’t allow photographs 🙁

    Reply
  2. familyinfarawayplaces
    familyinfarawayplaces says:

    Our son is still a bit young, so we skipped the museum when we were in Tokyo. I on the other hand want to see the cat bus!!! 😉 I didn’t know about the no photos rule. So strange. That would explain why we weren’t able to find them when we were trying to decide if the museum was appropriate for a toddler!

    Reply
  3. Fair Dinkum Traveller
    Fair Dinkum Traveller says:

    That museum looks like a lot of fun. Having two boys of myself, that looks like a must visit when I go to Japan with the clan. The scenery looks fantastic and activities look even better. I had never heard Ghibli but I have now. Thanks a heap for this article.

    Reply
  4. kallsypage
    kallsypage says:

    I’m SO glad to know that my husband and I weren’t the only ones who have been left with sheer disappointment because we didn’t buy tickets in advance (although I am very sorry it happened to you!) I am glad however that you managed to make it work and that we are able to see it through your eyes and perspective. Now that we know we must buy tickets in advance we are planning to do so before our Japan trip in 2018. I’ve always been a huge fan of Ghibli movies ever since I was a young girl so I’m dying to go. 🙂

    Reply
  5. Gareth
    Gareth says:

    Japan is just like nowhere else on the planet! It is unfortunate that you weren’t able to take any shots of inside the park but I guess this might have helped with the over all experience of the place. Lord knows, I often have to be told to put my camera away and just be in the moment. The kids must have found it all very magical

    Reply
    • Thais Saito
      Thais Saito says:

      The kids loved it! And, yes!! I found out that I lived a lot more in the moment during those 3 hours at Ghibli than the whole day we spent anywhere else!

      Reply
  6. Colleen
    Colleen says:

    I can’t wait to get to Japan! I feel like they seriously have the coolest stuff! What a great place to be able to take your kids too. I’m sure they get bored look at all the same boring churches and statues in other countries. Great post and safe travels!

    Reply
    • Thais Saito
      Thais Saito says:

      My kids are pretty big fans of museums, but they do get bored seeing them over and over (and most of the times, things aren’t very different from each other). Japan is amazing!

      Reply
  7. Ashley
    Ashley says:

    I just recently heard about this Museum and I have to admit, I didn’t know who Ghibli was, so I didn’t think much of it. However, it sounds like you guys had the best of time and many of the things you saw could have entertained anyone, even none Ghibli fans!. It was fate that you were able to snag some tickets!

    Reply
    • Thais Saito
      Thais Saito says:

      A few parts of it are worth for anyone who likes animation, movies and things like that, but I think it’ll be a lot more appretiated if you watched a movie or 2!

      Reply
  8. diytravelhq
    diytravelhq says:

    I visited the Ghibli museum 10 years ago – wow, I just got a rush of great memories! I vividly remember that awesome robot outside, that’s a great photo you got with your little girl. My memory is really hazy so this has just inspired me to visit again when I return to Tokyo next year, thanks!

    Reply

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  1. […] Japan, we want to see Tokyo (Disneyland and Sea, Ghibli Museum, and real life Tokyo), Osaka (eat, I want to eat. The kids want to see the Aquarium and Universal […]

  2. […] I know. Can’t help it. The whole Museum was amazing, but seeing the giant robot at the garden up-close, that was the highlight for me. I […]

  3. […] as Ghibli, is very popular in Japan. And abroad. Many stores sell Ghibli things, all you have to do is look […]

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