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  So why this Ghibli Museum Special? Well, to encourage everybody to go and visit it, even if you live at the other side of the world! Perhaps some people will lack the money to visit it, but truly: start saving, because this special will show this it's really worth visiting. The exclusive Ghibli-Museum-Only-Shorts alone are already worth it! Unfortunately, due to what ever the reason some people will never be able to visit it, so hopefully this special will make the museum a little bit accessable for those people as well and at least allow to visit it in their imagination. Anyway, purchasing the official (English subbed) Ghibli Museum DVD is highly recommended to give an additional look.

Before reading on below, please remember that various of the used pictures are official Studio Ghibli pictures, so please do not put these online anywhere else or distribute them in any other ways! They are posted here only for the purpose of encouraging you to visit it and encourage interest in, and discussion about the works of Studio Ghibli.

The 1st of October 2001 Studio Ghibli opened it’s own museum: the Ghibli Museum. It is located within the West Section of Mitaka Inokashira Park, Japan. With this Studio Ghibli finally got a place where fans and admirers can wonder through the world of Ghibli. The idea for such a place was already founded by Miyazaki in 1997. He came up with idea to start a museum that would be “Something interesting that would put visitors at ease. A museum where various things can be discovered. A museum based on a clear and consistent philosophy.”

To make such a museum, Miyazaki had a clear vision in mind "The building must be put together as it were a film. Not an overbearing flamboyant, gaudy or suffocating building, but a place where people can make themselves at home, especially when it’s not crowded. Something to make people want to touch the things in it. A building through which air and light can freely flow.” These are only some of the many things Miyazaki thought of when he got the idea for making a museum. With such a specific vision, who better to design the museum than Miyazaki himself? Therefore Miyazaki decided to design the museum on his own, ending up to be a mixture of his endless fantasy, the things he saw on his journeys around the world and his love for architecture with influences like “the Site of Reversible Destiny”, which was built by Shusaku Arakawa in Yoro Park (Gifu Prefecture, Japan), and the Hundertwasser Haus, which was built by Joseph Krawina (Vienna, Austria).

With Miyazaki finishing the design, the construction of “Ghibli World” started in March 1999 resulting in a building consisting of 2 stories above ground,1 story below and a total floor area of approximately 3,500 meters. A building on a ground area of approximately 4,000 square meters, with a maximum height of 11.98 meters, an entrance hall, central hall, exhibition rooms, theatre, shop, café, office, archive room, equipment room and others.

So how to get at the museum? First of all purchase a ticket coupon at one of the 8,000 Lawson stores or just pay a visit to the English “How to buy tickets outside Japan” guide of the Ghibli Museum. One used to need to reserve or purchase tickets way ahead, but that’s not such a big problem anymore (though it is certainly recommended!). To Mitaka station, take the JR Chuo Line. Approx. 20 min. from Shinjuku station. From the Mitaka South Exit, approx. 15 min. walk along the Tamagawa Josui "Waterworks" to the museum. A Community Bus is in operation from Mitaka Station to the Museum (fare: one-way 200 yen / round trip 300 yen - 1/2 price for children under 12 years old). The museum does not have parking space for cars.

When walking along Kichijoji Avanue, in the shade of the tall green trees of Mitaka’s Inokashira Park, you come upon a colourful building. Standing in front of a sign that says “Ghibli Museum, Mitaka”, a very large Totoro welcomes you at the entrance. When looking through the portholes, soot black dust bunnies are there as well. But that’s not the real entrance… Totoro is only standing there to show you where the real entrance is.

Finally arriving at the entrance of the Museum you enter the entrance room. Here you’ll receive your ticket in exchange for reservation coupons. These tickets are made of pieces of the actual 35mm film prints that were used in theatres. Look up at the ceiling, and you will find it covered in fresco painting. In the centre of a blue sky, there is a shining, smiling sun. Trees stretching up towards the sky are filled with grapes, melons, deliciously ripe fruits, and blossoms which you may never have seen before. If you look carefully, you may see Kiki on her broom, Nausicaa on her glider, or other characters flying through the air.

This gorgeous ceiling was made by Misao Ohno and the members of Hekiga LABO. Miyazaki’s vision behind this fresco is that he wanted children to feel “Ah, this is a place different from my everyday life.” When Misao Ohno saw the original design on what Miyazaki imagined of a bean stalk stretching out full of dreams and hope with the bright sky in the background, she thought the design was well-suited to fresco. Colors were directly painted onto half-dried plaster walls mixed with sand and lime. In the short period while the wall dries, the lime breathes in carbon dioxide in the air during crystallization and “captures” the colors itself. It’s very time-consuming, but it lasts for thousands of years.

Taking the staircase downstairs you’ll notice the lovely stained glass windows which are to be found through the entire museum. These were made by Takaaki and Yuriko Yatsuda who run the Kiyosato Stained Glass Studio "Bottega Vesta" and have been great fans of Studio Ghibli films for a long time. Though based on traditional techniques from Europe, they experimented with many failures on the mixture of paint, way of painting, baking methods, and other things in order to try something new. From all of the Museum's stained glass, the one of "Kiki's Delivery Service" has exerted far beyond what Takaaki and Yuriko Yatsuda expected: its colored shadows that are reflected in the basement of Centrall Hall give a really unique effect.

After going down the staircase you’ll enter the Central Hall where the wind whistles and the light shines through. Here is a towering open space extending up through the entire height of the museum. In the glass dome at its center, a yellow whale swims in the ocean and the blades of a giant fan rotate overhead. Shining marbles of colored glass are fitted into the ironwork of the stairs and the handrails. Taking in the whole room from bottom to top, you will discover a maze of spiral stairways, bridged passages, and overhanging terraces. This marvellous space transports you into the world of Ghibli and the strange buildings which often appear in its films. Here you can see and feel them for yourself. Please pause before entering the exhibition rooms, and find your own secret favourite spots.

This is one of the five rooms on the first floor called “Where a film is born”. The room seems to belong to someone who has sketching at the desk just a few minutes ago. The room is filled with books and toys. The walls are covered with illustrations and sketches. Hanging from the ceiling are a model of an airplane and a model of a Pteranodon. It’s a place where the owner of the room has stored his favourite things. This room provides lots of inspiration of what will go on to the blank piece of paper on the desk to become the origin of an actual film. After walking through the five rooms, you will get an idea how an animated film is made. With a little bit of an idea and flash of inspiration, a filmmaker struggles with his work and ultimately completes the film.

The “Bouncing Totoro” zoetrope is a 3D project consisting out of 347 figures which took nearly a year to finish. It was made by HAL with Yuzo Nishitani as head of the group. Production was started with the vague goal of creating something “fantastic” that would make anyone stop and gaze in awe for at least a few minutes. Following Miyazaki’s wishes, the movement of the figures was initially to be based on the scene at the bus stop from “My Neigbor Totoro” where the Totoro jumps up holding an umbrella, and comes down hard making Mei and Satsuki bounce up in reaction. However, some people thought that more kinds of movement would be needed to have people stop for a few minutes, and the scale of the idea continued to escalate. The repeating movements – Bouncing Totoro, running Cat Bus, flapping bat wings – were decided immediately, but as ideas continued to expand, the numbers of figures expanded as well. Katsuya Kondo was in charge of the key animation and media artist Toshio Iwai helped a great deal in conceiving a LED device to be used instead of powerful strobe lights which hurt the eye, and in making a layout plan using a computer for the positioning of the figures. To allow the viewers to see how the rows of figures appear to be moving, they decided not to have the display in full rotation all times., but to start with the platform stopped, then make it gradually start rotating, and then after a while to have it stop again. Miyazaki himself decided the timing with his stopwatch.

One of the other exhibitions at the museum is “Rising Sea Stream”. For this project media artist Toshio Iwai advised the Ghibli Museum from the design stage, and the Robot Soldier was made by Kunio Shachimaru (more about him further ahead). Makiko Futaki was asked to do the key animation for the flying birds. She is a veteran animator who Miyazaki trusted most as the person who could best animate birds. She was in charge of the scene in “Laputa: Castle in the Sky” where the pigeons flock to Sheeta when she feeds them.

In this device, pictures in the foreground of the cylinder look strechted sideways, while pictures in the background seem to be squeezed. This occurs because of the view through the rotating slits, and according to Toshio Iwai, it is why a copy machine produces a squashed/stretched image when the object being copied is moved when the scanning lights are in motion. The picture in the foreground is moving in the same direction as the slits, thus it seems to stretch sideways, while the picture in the background, which is on the other side of the rotation axis, is moving the opposite direction from the slits, thus making the image seem to contract. To rectify this, width of the pictures of the acrylic cylinder was reduced. One hundred seventy-three bird drawings drawn in normal perspective were scanned (165 large birds for the outer cylinder, 8 smaller birds for the inner cylinder), and the width of the larger birds was shrunk to a half, digitally. Then, the birds were aligned in the computer in a spiral to look as if they were flying up, and then silk-screened onto a sheet of transparent film. Each bird was cut out, one by one by hand, and pasted onto the acrylic cylinder. Since the printed birds were semi-transparent, there was a concern that they would disappear when rotating at high speed. But once the cylinder rotated the degree of transparency was just exquisite, giving the illusion of birds flying through the Robot Soldier’s arms. They were all relieved to see this unexpected visual effect. Miyazaki-san is always asserting that “all things must have a name”. He says that with this name, a thing is properly recognized by the viewer, and can be discussed easily later on. After struggling to give this display a name, he named it “Rising Sea Stream”, because it looks like it is under the sea.

The Cat Bus is waiting for you in a room on the second floor. It must be everyone’s dream to touch and ride the Cat Bus. In order to make that dream come true, they made a room with an actual Cat Bus. If you remember the Cat Bus from “My Neighbor Totoro”, you have probable dreamed of touching it’s fluffy fur. Now you can do it… or not, because it’s only allowed for kids. Next to the Cat Bus, a bunch of soot-black dust bunnies are waiting for the kids to be played with. They wanted to make the Cat Bus as big as it is in the film, but because it wouldn’t fit, they ended up downsizing him a little bit.

A cozy patio is located between the museum and the café. Surrounded by tiled roofs and colourful flowers, the space is full of sunshine. Looking up from here, you see the vivid orange walls of the café. In the central gazebo, just like in My Neighbor Totoro, there is a hand-pumped well. If you pump it hard, you will be rewarded with fresh, cool water. The well is set in an area full of specially handcrafted ornaments and designs, including a metal hatch cover that looks like a shining face. Just nearby, stacks of firewood can be winched up to the floor above and used to fire the wood-burning stove in the café.

Going up the spiral stairs to the rooftop, you find a open grassy place. The Robot Soldier from “Laputa: Castle in the Sky” stands on the rooftop with the pine trees of Inkashira Park as a backdrop. The artist Kunio Shachimaru made it, hammering it out of bronze over a period of one year. “By no means did I tell him that I wanted to have the Robot Soldier made exactly like the character in the film. I asked him to make the Robot Soldier as if it was his own work. Since I entrusted the project to him, I did not visit him even once during its production. In the end, we were presented with a truly great work!” (Hayao Miyazaki). Sculptor Kunio Shachimaru also made for the Ghibli Museum the tortoiseshell-shaped bathtub, the Robot Soldier for “Rising Sea Stream”, and the cover for the Patio drain.

Of course the museum also has its own place to lunch or buy a snack. Straw Hat Café serves home-style cooking that is made with quality ingredients and prepared form start to finish at the café kitchen. This is a symbolic place for the Ghibli Museum, it can be said to be another exhibit all at its own. Surrounded by some of Mitaka’s rare red pines and set off against the bright orange wall and red window frames of the building that houses it, the deck of the Straw Hat Café provides you with an open outdoors atmosphere where you can relax and enjoy the natural setting of Inokashira Park. Just to the side of the café deck there is a washstand, decorated with colourful tiles and a Kiki’s Delivery Service Jiji faucet handle, so you can wash your hands before mealtime.

The café serves both cold and hot meals, snacks and desserts. The menu is simple and the variety is limited, but almost everything comes from organic farms, is very fresh and nutritious and cooked with loving care and patience. As Miyazaki puts it ”A visit to the café makes a visit to the Museum complete. We don’t want to neglect “eating”, which is most vital for sustaining the human soul and body, so using ingredients we have confidence in, we are trying to cook everything with our own hands. Our approach to the café and our approach to our exhibit making are the same. We would like to make them both a part of one comprehensive space that conveys this impression to visitors, so we get can comments that they didn’t quite understand the Museum’s exhibits but the café was excellent, or they thought the exhibits and the café shared a similar ambience.”

The museum shop “Mamma Aiuto!” was named after the sky pirates in “Porco Rosso. It means “Mama, help me!” in Italian. Here at this shop, you will find you favourite Studio Ghibli character products along with original Museum gift items. At the reading room “Tri Hawks”, you will find picture books and children’s books which are recommended reading selected by the Ghibli Museum and its executive director Hayao Miyazaki. The reading room was opened with the wish that it would be a place to give children the opportunity to read. “Mamma Aiuto!” and “Tri Hawks”, two places and their window displays filled with things that are pretty, unexpected and completely out of the ordinary.

One of the highlights of the museum are the exclusive shorts which are made especially for the Ghibli Museum and can't be seen anywhere else! Most of them are shown in the Ghibli Museum's own theater: The Saturn Theater. There are several different shorts but info about these are posted seperately in their own specials at the news page. The Saturn Theater is a small theater with only about eigthy seats in the basement of the museum. Before you enter the theater itself, you enter the lobby where visitors wait for the next showing. The undulating floor is covered with stone tiles. When the doors open you may enter the Saturn Theater itself, designed by the master Hayao Miyazaki himself. A blue sky and lot of colorful flowers are drawn on the ceiling and walls made by Sachi Takaha. When the film ends, the windows open and the sunshine comes in. You can sit on a little red bench or the back of a seat to see the big screen without being blocked. Miyazaki’s idea was that most of the visitors probably don’t know how a movie is projected. But here the projectionist’s room, which looks like a tiny train car, is transpartent, so you can see how film moves through a projector > see Miyazaki’s sketch below.

The accoustic design for the theater was done by Harayuki Kato (graduated at Musashino Art university and worked as an industrial designer at Sony and Italdesign) who was instructed by Hayao Miyazaki to establish a “natural, relaxing sound of Kato-san’s speakers for the Saturn Theater”. With DTS sound and 35 speaker units on each wall the sound system of the theater lets you hear every single detail.

FINAL NOTE: The Museum has much more nice things to offer, so hopefully this special inspired to go and visit it to see it all. It's simply the best place a Ghibli fan can visit! Unfortunately, as already stated above some people will never be able to visit it and hopefully this special has made the Ghibli Museum at least a little bit "accesable" for those as well. The pictures in this special are mostly owned by Studio Ghibli. Please do not put these online anywhere else or distribute it in any other ways! They are posted here only for the purpose of encouraging to visit it and encourage interest in, and discussion about the works of Studio Ghibli!