Next to Shinjuku Station is the cutest little bakery which ended up becoming our go to breakfast spot, due to us getting a train somewhere every morning. Today I couldn’t resist these super cute bear shaped rolls.
The number one thing on my Tokyo must see list was the Studio Ghibli Museum after reading up about it so much online and being a huge fan of the film studio. For visitors outside of Japan you must pre-book tickets for the museum. Tickets get released 3 months in advance and don’t take long to sell out due to only so many non-Japanese visitors a day. We actually booked our tickets before our flights and accommodation to ensure we wouldn’t miss out. An adult ticket was ¥1000*,click here for ticket sales outside of Japan.
The Museum is situated in Mitaka which is about 15 mins direct on the Chuo JR line from Shinjuku Station. The walk between the station and the museum is well signposted and a nice break from all the skyscrapers as the path runs along a river and park.
Walking through the gate to the museum you are greeted with a fake ticket office with a life size Totoro behind the glass and little windows filled with soot sprites. Given that Totoro is my favourite Ghibli character and the build up to this I’m sure I was close to tears at this point.
The building is covered in grass and plants with cute coloured windows in the wall. You can see people walking in the roof garden where a Laputa Guardian statue overlooks the museum.
Upon entry you give up your paper ticket in return for a film cell souvenir ticket… (mine is just some paper bags on a floor) which is another adorable touch given that all the 35mm cells have been used in theatres. The museum is designed by Hayao Miyazaki humself with mind blowing attention to detail. Unfortunately you aren’t allowed to take pictures inside so please click here for a look at the museum.
The first floor of the museum is dedicated to the art of animation using drawings, light and zoetropes and the Saturn Theatre which shows a different Ghibli animated short every day. I believe there’s 8 films in total but you can’t predict which you will see. As much as I was hoping for ‘Mei and the Kittenbus’ we had an adorable short called The Whale Hunt (Kujiratori). It told the story of kids in school building a boat at play time, but their imaginations take over the reality and they find themselves in the ocean hunting a whale. They befriend the gentle giant who sees they return to land safely and plays with the children on the beach, before the school reality sets back in. Sadly films aren’t subtitled but you get a rough idea of whats going on.
Climbing up the stairway in the clocktower running through the centre of the museum (part of the current The Haunted Tower exhibition) we reach the 2nd floor. This was a fascinating insight in to Miyazaki’s world. His workspaces have been recreated for you to truly get an insight as to how he works. Heading outside we discover the Straw Hat Cafe where we stop for lunch. We missed the lunch time rush but there was still a 20 minute wait to be seated inside. It was nice to be able to read an English menu though!
On the third floor of the museum we find the famous giant plush catbus with plush soot sprites the size of footballs scattered around the room, sadly you’re not allowed on the cat if you’re not a child 🙁
This floor is also home to an incredible bookshop and huge gift shop and I think we spent a good hour or so narrowing down everything we wanted to leave with. This floor also has a spiral staircase outside the building which leads onto the roof where you can explore the little garden and snap a picture with the Laputa Guardian.
Armed with numerous Ghibli shopping bags we walk back to Mitaka Station to explore Shibuya for the evening. I can’t exactly remember the reason but I think because we took the JR lines not Metro we ended up at a different station that wasn’t adjacent to the famous crossing so we ended up a bit lost and Google Mapping it (thank god for pocket wifi – if you’re visiting Japan make sure you rent one of these).
The crossing is a little bit like Times Square – bright lights and lots of people… but a lot less chaotic. Nobody in Japan jaywalks at all, everyone is crazy polite and nobody seems in a rush. Crossing the road with hundreds of other people is fairly pleasant, I imagine I’d be swearing through through the ordeal if you tried to do this in Oxford Circus. There’s a small Starbucks on one of the corners with 2nd floor window seating overlooking the crossing so we enjoy a well deserved break whilst mesmerised at the sights below. I tried one of the Japan exclusive (I think) menu items, a Fruit Berry Crush Frappe which was incredibly delicious and refreshing.
Wandering around the streets of Shibuya we do a little bit more shopping as this seemed quite the place to be for big brands. The Disney Store made you feel like you were in Disneyland itself, from the street it’s a kawaii castle front blaring disney music at you and each floor of the inside has different themes like Alice In Wonderland and Toy Story.
Realising we had an opportunity for a lie in tomorrow, we head home to ditch the shopping and get fancy. Shinjuku seemed a lot quieter on a Monday night than the previous Sunday, with a few places seeming to close a bit earlier. On a mission for the famous Japanese karaoke experience we venture into a place called Pasela. They tell us it’s ¥3800* (less than £20) for 2hrs30mins in our own private room with all inclusive cocktails. If that wasn’t good enough we asked to see what English songs were in their collection and saw a Taylor Swift and Disney catalogue. Sold. The video footage from this night will never ever see the light of day, but maybe if you’re lucky you will get to experience our rendition of Let It Go in all it’s glory in real life if you know us.
Walking home at 2am we notice a handful of people in their work clothes sleeping in doorways, it became apparent after all our other late nights that these Japanese business people let their hair down after work, and just don’t bother going home. Mental.
*At the time of this trip ¥1000 was £5.60