The Mitaka Forest Ghibli Museum is located in Inokashira park, in Mitaka city, a suburb of Tokyo. It is a commercially operated museum dedicated to showcasing the work of Studio Ghibli.
When I first started studying Japanese, my sensei always had mugs and plates featuring the characters from となりのトトロ. She also had a small collection of porcelain Tottoro figurines, too. I was curious about this big grey character that she loved so much, so she let me borrow her DVD of the famous Ghibli film, mostly because it would be good Japanese practice for me, since most of the dialogue in the film is fairly simple speech. Needless to say I soon became just as big of a Tottoro fan as my sensei. Some of my other favorite Ghibli films (in no particular order) are: もののけ姫 (Princess Mononoke), Spirited Away (I forgot the Japanese title), ほたるの墓 (Grave of the Fireflies), 崖の上のポンョ (Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea), and 魔女の宅急便(Kiki's Delivery Service). I really super enjoyed going to see this museum.
The museum's motto is 迷子になろうよ、いっしょに, or, Let's become lost children together. This sense of being lost and finding new worlds to wonder and marvel at is a constant theme throughout the Ghibli films, which is one reason I enjoy them so much. It is like traveling through fantasy worlds, each complete with their own small details to be savored and characters to befriend.
In the museum, you do feel a little lost, but in a good way. It's not big enough to actually get lost in, but the compartmentalized design can make it easy to become slightly disoriented, as is the case with many Japanese buildings (like Kyoto Station, for example).
The building itself is very organic-looking, as though it is growing out of a small hill. Inside there are a number of different chambers. Inside the museum, one feels as though you are actually inside the world of a Ghibli film. The rooms are intricately decorated down to the very last detail. There is custom-made wrought-iron work on railings and banisters, the gorgeous hand-made murals and stained glass windows featuring Ghibli characters like Tottoro and Kiki cannot go unmentioned. Unfortunately, photography is totally prohibited inside the museum. I got some sweet outdoor shots with the robot on the roof garden, though!!
There is a small movie theater that shows short films that change throughout the year. We were able to watch やどさがし (Looking for a Home). Which was just too cute for words. I learned a lot of Japanese Onomatopoeia from it, too!!
I'd say the trip to the museum was most definitely a success. I'd recommend it to any Ghibli fan. It's very difficult to get tickets though, as the museum is very popular. They are available at any Lawson for 1000 yen, if you can get your hands on them. You can only enter the museum at your scheduled time, too. Like I said, the museum isn't very big, but it is very popular, and it does attract crowds. They have to set entry times for crowd control purposes. It's so worth it, though :D
The weekend started for me on Friday evening with the Ashikaga Internatonal Association's Exchange Night. Ashikaga's sister city is Springfield, Illinois. Thier student delegation (15 or so students) and thier chaperones were at the event. There was good music, food, and of course lots of English/Japanese conversations. I got to meet the new mayor of Ashikaga. His son goes to one of the schools I teach at. Nice guy! He speaks really good English and can belt out a few Elvis tunes, too! Hehe. Thumbs up for the new mayor!
Later on, there was drinking and more good times to be had. I was at the museum on Saturday, and despite a travel mishap that evening, managed to get home in one very tired piece on Sunday. I'd say it was still a very good weekend, let's hope this coming one will be awesome as well. That's all for now. Stay cool!