“Let’s lose our way together,” I read in the brochure I received at the entrance of the Ghibli Museum in Tokyo, Japan. “There aren’t any set routes that you must follow. You are the one to discover your own way. Those who can lose their way and fully enjoy this space are welcomed at the Museum.”
I decided I would have to remember back to the first time I went to Tokyo with my family, over 20 years ago as an 8-year-old, when I was overwhelmed with every new sight and sensation. I gazed up at the painting on the ceiling of a giant, tangled vine-like beanstalk featuring characters from Ghibli films with a smiling sun in the center and immediately felt the years start to melt away. A group of professional animators called Studio Ghibli created the pastel colored, magical museum in Inokashira Park, Mitaka, a suburb of Tokyo. Hayao Miyazaki, the most well known animator of Ghibli, has produced many of the popular films such as My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke, and the recent Academy Award winner Spirited Away. Studio Ghibli’s animated features, some of which have American versions, offer adult themes in a form fit for children (and childlike adults). Princess Mononoke voices the importance of nature and protecting the environment and My Neighbor Totoro introduces two young sisters whose mother is sick and are being brought up by their father.
It’s a good thing the museum didn’t exist when I was a child (it opened on October 1, 2001) or I would have begged my parents to take me every day. Children ran amok through the maze-like museum and after I got over the initial shock of being encouraged to act with no inhibitions in a museum, I joined them. My mom and I tried hard to get lost, and eventually did, leaving my father and brother behind to explore on our own, as we peeked behind every door and around every corner. Unfortunately, we couldn’t join in playing on the giant, fuzzy cat bus, one of my favorite characters from My Neighbor Totoro (little tykes only).The Ghibli Museum reveals secrets behind the films by displaying replicas of the animators’ rooms and studios complete with authentic sketches, photo albums, and books, which show works-in-progress and the animators’ inspirations.
Museum goers can see unique, original short animated features from Studio Ghibli in The Saturn Theater. Outside on the roof, accessed only by a winding metal staircase, stands a life-sized statue of a robot from Miyazaki’s futuristic film Laputa: Castle in the Sky (sorry, kids, no climbing allowed).
After running ourselves ragged, my family met at the gift shop where we picked up some souvenirs and then relaxed at the Straw Hat Café. We sat in the shade on the edge of the park and sipped our cold “Lamune,” a very sweet and fizzy drink, before we headed home, ready for a nap, with years stripped from our hearts and weight from our shoulders.