From the outside it looks like a quiet country cottage with vines creeping all over the house and giving a sense of humble dignity. Before entering the museum, you already feel a sense of anticipation and curiosity - like it's the start of an adventure. And when you finally step inside, you're not disappointed. This is because you're transported into the fantastical world of Ghibli where anything is possible and your dreams come true. This is the magic of the Ghibli Museum.
For those of you that don't know, Studio Ghibli is essentially Japan's very own Disney. It's an animation company that makes amazing and awe-inspiring movies, which (in my opinion) far surpass those of Disney's more commercially-driven ones.
Founded in 1985, Studio Ghibli has made some twenty feature-length movies and plenty of short films. Many of the stories are simple, straight forward and involve some form of fantastical worlds (whether they are real or imagined). But underneath these seemingly simple stories, there are plenty of down-to-earth morals and life lessons to draw from. Studio Ghibli indeed forms the basis of many childhood memories for young adults and children in Japan. It teaches such things as the importance of family, the power of imagination, and the ability to overcome any difficulty.
Probably known for its most recognizable character, Totoro, the movies have gained international acclaim all over the world. In fact, the movies are so popular that the English versions have been voiced by famous actors such as Claire Danes, Billy Bob Thornton, Christian Bale, Michael Keaton, and Billy Crystal.
The museum itself was opened in 2001 and has featured many different exhibits from the world of the Ghibli movies. So when you enter the front hall, you are immediately greeting by magical creatures and characters poking their heads out from every corner. You can easily find the clock tower from Spirited Away, the kodamas from Princess Mononoke, Porco Rosso from Porco Rosso, and of course, the well known cat-bus from My Neighbour Totoro.
But it is not only these characters that make you fall in love with this simple museum. No, what is truly amazing is the multitude of rooms featuring different exhibits and activities.
You can start in the basement where a short film plays every 20 minutes. Or you could start with the first floor with an excellently displayed history of animation (including a real-life 3D Zoetrope). Or you could enter the world of the Studio Ghibli animators where you can see rooms filled with animation designs and picture books - all of which bring a sense of nostalgia from times past. You could also visit the Straw Hat Cafe - a brilliantly classic restaurant with deliciously themed food. There is also a rooftop area with a life-size statue of the robot from Castle in the Sky. And, if you're a young-'un, you can play inside a giant cat-bus on the third floor.
Unfortunately you cannot take any pictures inside of the building, so you're just going to have to come and see the wonder of the Ghibli Museum for yourself. This museum is definitely a must-see for any animation lovers, families with young children, or just appreciators of fantasy and history. You will surely not regret it. Just remember that tickets sell out fast, so make sure that you book in advance.