My Dream House: The Ghibli Museum in Mitaka, Tokyo

Posted on May 03, 2013 by Ee-Leng Chang | 0 Comments

Growing up, I had many ideas for my dream house. And I didn't just have one dream house, there were many. Mansions, cosy cottages, modern penthouse apartments, I had ideas for all the different types of houses I could have. My taste has changed over the years along with my ideas for a dream house. I used to hold luxurious marble floors and carpet on a pedestal, now I crave wooden floors or polished concrete. Windows with long heavy curtains have been replaced by floor to ceiling glass, with a good view of course. 

There's one dream house that existed in my imagination when I was little and when I first set eyes on it in 2007, it was still very much my dream house. Well actually it surpassed my idea of a dream house. I got the chance to visit it again in 2011 and yep, still my dream house. This house isn't just any house though, it's actually a museum, specifically the Ghibli Museum. The museum is a fine art museum dedicated to the works of Studio Ghibli, that magically amazing animation studio that has created some of the best animated movies ever like My Neighbour Totoro, Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, Grave of the Fireflies, etc. 

The Ghibli Museum is located in Inokashira Park in Mitaka, a fairly quiet residential suburb in Tokyo. On an unrelated note, I just found out that Mitaka has a population of 176k in an area of 16.5 km sq while Melbourne City has a population of 90k in an area of 36 km sq. Half the population, double the area! This is comparing a quiet residential suburb of Tokyo with a dense metropolitan city in Australia! 

Anyway, back to the museum. :) The Ghibli Museum was opened in 2001 and was designed by Hayao Miyazaki himself, the co-founder of Studio Ghibli and director/writer of many famous Ghibli works such as My Neighbour Totoro and Spirited Away, my favourite Ghibli films. The magic of the Ghibli Museum isn't just in the exhibits on show though, I love it more for the actual building itself. It is the most wonderful whimsical, cosy, magical little cottage. There's little nooks and crannies and delightful little secrets just waiting to be explored. There's tiny spiral staircases, hidey holes, little tunnels through walls, and just so much charm packed into this delightful, bright and airy cottage. 

You can get to the museum by walking for about 15 minutes from Mitaka Station (which is only about a 20 minute train ride from Shinjuku Station). There's also a bus you can take from the train station to the museum but I highly recommend the walk because it's a nice opportunity to see the quiet neighbourhood, and you can never get lost because Totoro will guide you along:

There's one of these signs every 200m along the road until you reach the museum

Guests aren't allowed to take any photos within the building, which is a great idea actually. Here's the closest thing I have to a photo of the inside of the house: A photo of a photo in my museum guide book:

 But outdoors, we could go nuts with photos. There's so many little treasures to be found everywhere and it's all in the little fine details that make this museum so very charming!

Why can't all manhole covers look like this?

There's an old school water pump in the courtyard for everyone to play with

Imagine entering the magical world of Kiki's Delivery Service just by stepping through a little iron gate in your backyard.

I'd be doing dishes and washing my hands all day long if I had Jiji taps in my home!

We're being spied on!

View of the museum from the rooftop

The Giant Robot Soldier on the rooftop stands guard over the museum

It really is GIANT!

A bit more about the indoor parts of the museum, there is a huge Catbus on the top floor of the museum. Unfortunately, it's only for kids to play with, no adults allowed. :'(. I could only watch as all the kids climbed in and out and on top of the soft, fluffy Catbus, picking up sootballs on the way. I weighed up the pros and cons of running in past the museum guide on duty and jumping into the Catbus but decided I really didn't want to be thrown out of the Ghibli Museum and not allowed back in ever. 

Another really special thing that I loved was the theatre. You can watch a short Ghibli film in the theatre that is exclusive to the museum and can't be viewed anywhere else. The short film is always changing so as we visited the museum in 2007 and 2011, we got to watch 2 different short films. And typical Ghibli, both were charming and cute and for that few minutes, dissolved all grown up cares in the world. 

I don't have too many photos of all the lovely charming things in the museum, but I found a blog post by a fellow handmade designer if you want to see more photos of the museum. 

If you get the chance to visit Tokyo, I'd definitely recommend the Ghibli Museum as a must-see. And if you're travelling from overseas, make sure to book your tickets to the museum before you travel to Japan. Save a good chunk of your day for this museum, you can easily spend hours on end here exploring and discovering all the lovely treasures this museum has to offer. 

When I grow up and build my own house, it's going to be just like this! :)

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