Ghibli Museum, Mitaka
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Laputa Robot on the roof of the museum (Photo by dballred)

The Ghibli Museum in Mitaka pays tribute to the art of animation through examples taken from Ghibli films. It shows how animation works, what skills animators need to have, and what research and work goes into animation. For the devotees of Hayao Miyazaki and Ghibli, this is "holy ground." Within the museum are several exhibits involving animation techniques, a bookstore, a merchandise store, a cafe, a play area for young children, and a mini-theater playing a selected short animated film you can't see anywhere else.

How to obtain tickets:
 
In Japan, the only way to get tickets to the museum is at any Lawson Station convenience store at one of their Loppi machines. During the summer months, it is nearly impossible to get tickets for the weekends. Adult ticket prices are 1000 Yen.
 
There are four time slots for customers: 10 AM, 12 PM, 2 PM, and 4 PM. The museum closes at 6 PM. The following link might be helpful:
 

After you choose your time (and if that time slot is not sold out) the Loppi machine will print out a tentative reservation slip. Your position in that time slot is reserved and guaranteed for thirty minutes. Take that reservation slip to the counter and pay the required admission fee before the thirty minute time limit is up and you will receive a computer printout paper ticket.

How to get there
 
Throughout the Tokyo and Yokohama metropolitan areas, it is a simple matter to ride the Japan Railways (JR) trains from any given JR station to any other JR station by paying the proper fare and changing trains at the correct stations. Be sure you leave in time in order to get to the museum by the appointed time on your ticket. It's best to get there about 15-30 minutes before, but you can't get in if you are more than 30 minutes past your time.
 
The Ghibli Museum is near Mitaka station on the Chuo line. This train runs between Tokyo Station and far western Tokyo. After passing through the turnstiles, leave the South Exit of the station.
 
The map below shows the location of the Ghibli Museum and two other attractions where Ghibli-related materials that were on temporary display until the end of August, 2003. The inset at the lower left corner shows the area around the Ghibli Museum.

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The Bus Stop seen from Mitaka Station (Photo by dballred)

As you are stepping out of the station from the South exit, if you look down and to your left you will see a bus stop.  This is the stop specifically for the Ghibli Museum. Purchase the tickets from the machine (adults 300 yen both ways - 200 yen one way). Take the bus to the museum stop. It will let you out right at the museum entrance. Don't worry about getting off at the wrong stop. The bus will be full and everybody will get off at the museum--the last stop. (why there are intermediate stops is beyond me)

Depending on the crowd level remaining from the previous group, the museum will let people in up to thirty minutes before the time slot. Usually, they open it up about 15 minutes before. 

What to Expect
 
Getting in: When the line opens, your ticket will be examined for the proper date and time. Once past the people checking the tickets, you will proceed into the building where you will take your ticket at the reception counter. The person behind the counter will give you a different ticket in exchange for the stub. It is a keeper. It's a small cardboard carrier, which holds a short strip of film from a random Ghibli film. That carrier gets you into the mini-theater one time, so don't lose it.
 
Photography: Photography is prohibited within the museum. The only place within the facility where cameras are allowed is on the roof of the museum, where the Laputa Robot stands. (see photo above)
 
Language: The Ghibli Museum was intended for Japanese visitors, though there are increasing numbers of foreigners making the "pilgrimage." Other than a guide pamphlet in English, no accommodation has been made for foreign guests.
 
Smoking: Except for a small outside patio area off the first floor, smoking is not permitted inside or outside the museum.

A Tour of the Museum
 
First Floor: The first floor is the first stop on any tour of the museum. It contains two main attractions: the introductory area and the mini-theater.
 
The introductory area provides a glimpse of all Ghibli products and demonstrates the key to animation: stroboscopy. Even though this is plainly the first exhibit on the tour, I'd advise you pass by this exhibit if it's crowded and visit it toward the end of your visit.  It's fascinating and best seen at a leisurely pace.
 
The Saturn Theater plays short animated films written specifically for that theater. Recent films have included Hoshi wo Katta Hi (The Day I Bought a Star), Mizugumo Mon Mon (Mon Mon the Water Spider), and Yado Sagashi (Looking for an Inn). The films are in Japanese with Japanese subtitles for the hearing impaired. You needn't worry about understanding the dialog, but it would be a plus if you understood basic written Japanese when watching Yado Sagashi. These are visual experiences and the stories can easily be understood.  When you enter the theater, the attendant will stamp your filmstrip ticket.
 
Second Floor: The second floor contains studio information and technical details. There is some attempt made on this floor to recreate the atmosphere of a working animation studio, showing the working materials, desks, books, concept boards, and research materials. As Hayao Miyazaki is intensely interested in aviation, there are many exhibits of aviation and how he came to design many of the mechanical scenes.
 
Third Floor: This is the playground and merchandising floor. There is the Manma Aiuto shop, a store selling Ghibli merchandise in all price ranges. You can get cel art for around $300, Nausicaa mounted "bugs" for around $2000, detailed models for several thousand dollars, down to keychain charms for a couple of dollars.  The bookstore sells the storyboards, Ghibli-related literature, and several other books on related non-Ghibli topics. The play area has a large cat bus from Totoro.
 
The cafe: The cafe is outside the museum building. You can get a variety of things for a reasonable price at the restaurant, but be prepared to wait a while to be seated. There is also an outside fountain with a limited fare of snacks and soft drinks.
 
The roof: A full-scale model of the robot from Laputa adorns the roof. It is the only place in the museum where photography is permitted.