I'm a HUGE Ghibli fan. Ghibli is the Japanese animation studio that made most of Japan's most famous and most successful movies including Japan's most successful movie ever, Spirited Away (Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi). I own all of them, some of them in several formats (VHS, Laserdisc, DVD) and have watched them all multiple times. I have all the manga both original and movie based and several art books.
And so, when I heard a Ghibli Museum was opening I was all totally excited. It opened in Mitaka which is right outside Tokyo, 15 minutes from Shinjuku and another schoolmate of mine really wanted to go so he got tickets and we went. Getting your tickets before you go is required and entrance is limited because the place is not that big and they couldn't handle the crowds.
Well, we got there and to be honest it was pretty much a total disappointment. Everything about it seemed commercial and cheap and almost none of it was new. The building is pretty bland. In fact being someone that grew up near Disneyland and seeing the detail Disney puts into their buildings it was especially disappointing to see a big bland building with almost no details.
There is a round ticket like room in the front with a lifesize Totoro behind the window but I was like "ahh, so what, it's not even moving nor interactive". I've seen the same doll in several large toy stores around Japan.
Inside the building is only slightly better. There's a picture of the main room on their website. You can see that it's 3 stories and open but there isn't much there. And to be honest I think that's the problem.
From the main room on the first floor there are 2 rooms. One is a theatre showing small animated shorts. The other room is full of random gadgets with Ghibli characters drawn or stamped on them like a Zoetrope and Phenakistoscope with Ghibli characters. What the hell that has to do with Ghibli I have no idea. Lame.
The 2nd floor has 2 rooms on one side that are full of production art for whatever their latest movie is. If you've never seen Ghibli production art maybe you would find this interesting. Unfortunately, they sell images of all this art at nearly every book store in Japan and every comic store in America so for me it was as though all they did was take some of their books I'd seen before, rip the pages out and paste them on the wall.
On the other side of the 2nd floor is a room that is supposed to be a replica of Mr. Miyazaki's office. Unfortunately it looked totally fake. I didn't believe for one second that's what his real office looks like. So that was disappointing.
The 3rd floor has a 1/4 size plush cat bus (from the movie My Neighbor Totoro). That's kind of cool but it's for kids only. At 1/4 size only a kid could fit inside and the thing was so filthy I'd be afraid to let my kids touch it. I guess that's the problem with it being furry. There's also a small private room not for public entrance where Mr Miyazaki sometimes works. He happened to be their the day I was there and people outside the room were going crazy, "OMG! It's Miyazaki−san", Sorry but I think most westerners grew out of star mania long ago. Sure he's done some cool stuff but I'm not going to gawk at him.
The other side of the 3rd floor is a store selling all the normal Ghibli merchandise you can get all over Japan. There may have been a few things you can't get anywhere else but they were things like pins that say "Ghibli Museum" and the generic cookies and snacks with an image of a Ghibli character and "Ghibli Museum" stamped on them that every Japanese place must have for the omiyage tradition of bringing something back for all your friends.
It was in fact in the store I saw the only things that I actually found interesting and those were small detailed models of some of the characters and creatures from Nausicaa.
Finally there is the roof. On the roof is a small garden and a lifesize robot from the movie Laputa. That's pretty cool but hardly worth the price of admission.
There are a few basic things that I think made it disappointing. I think one is it's called a museum but as Ghibli has only been around since the early 80s (or late 70s) there just isn't that much history and everything there is is still available in bookstores all over so there really was nothing to see in terms of history which I guess is what one might expect at a museum. In that same vein their was nothing which you couldn't see somewhere else.
Another is just how cheap the building was. Maybe if it was full of interesting stuff I could over look that. Plenty of museum buildings are not cool. But, the thing is they tried to theme it. They just failed completely. What the building has to do with Ghibli I couldn't tell. The closest thing it looked like is the one of the castles in Laputa but it's so cheaply done with so little detail that it just looks almost like a temporary mall exhibit or some of those really poorly made minature golf structures you find back in America.
So, my recommendation, don't waste your time at the Ghibli museum. Now, if that disappoints you, well, check out the Tatemono-Hakubutsukan (The Building Museum) instead