Coming to Japan, one of the top 10 things to do is go to the Studio Ghibli Museum! But if you can’t get tickets, here are some awesome Studio Ghibli Museum alternatives that you can go to!
The Ghibli aesthetic is synonymous with Japan, if you look in the right places you can find the inspiration for Ghibli, or at least find places that have popped up because of Studio Ghibli. Do as your favorite Ghibli characters do, and take a free spirit whimsy approach and explore the world of the Ghibli without ticketed walls!
First and foremost when you imagine the worlds of Ghibli, whether that includes My Neighbor Totoro’s sprawling countryside or Princess Mononoke’s enchanted forest, the worlds are truly immersive.
You can become lost in these wondrous landscapes while enjoying them their beauty. Luckily, areas like this are actual places to visit in Japan, and you get to experience the touch of nature infused with the magic of Ghibli!
Meiji Jingu is a sprawling sacred forest in the heart of central Harajuku, Tokyo. When you first enter the Meiji Jingu Shrine area, you’ll see by a towering torii gate. This ethereal experience is another one of many Studio Ghibli Museum alternatives.
Torii gates are sacred entrances into Shintō shrines in Japan. Once you’re beyond the huge torii gate you are then encompassed by over 100,000 trees that silence the city’s noises. Allowing you to get fully submerged into the wondrous woods!
As your way through the trees with the cooling breeze you’ll eventually stumble upon the Shinto shrine that houses the divine spirit of Emperor Meiji.
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Meiji-Jingu Shrine is a spot often visited by locals who come to give respects and say a prayer, this makes the area have a special air of reverence to it. To get the full Ghibli experience, make sure you have time to wander amongst the trees and soft sounds of the whispering winds.
Tucked away in a quiet and peaceful residential area of Shimokitazawa, a western suburb of Tokyo is Shirohige’s Cream Puff Factory! This cafe is the best place to experience the mystical Totoro atmosphere, whilst enjoying delicious sweet treats!
The two-storied cafe houses many Ghibli figurines and sketches by Studio Ghibli creator and animator/director Hayao Miyazaki. After you’ve finished looking around the charming store, make sure to order a Totoro cream puff or two!
The cream puffs hold true to the Ghibli standard by being absolutely kawaii and extremely tasty! You can expect to see the custard cream and chocolate cream flavors all year round, but much like Japanese products there are exclusive seasonal flavors.
Flavors like peach, strawberry, matcha, and chestnut cream are limited time only! Beyond the cream puffs there are a few other sweet and savory choices to eat like pasta, cookies and cakes! So make sure you come hungry! If you’re in the mood to continue the kawaii cafe hunt and want to pay tribute to your favorite characters check out the article, “Six Cute Character Cafes in Tokyo You Must Visit“!
The Shiodome area is a redeveloped city district in Southern Tokyo and has spectacular skyscrapers, towering offices and is the headquarters of Nippon Television (Japan’s local broadcasting TV service).
To honor the location of Nippon TV, Hayao Miyazaki collaborated with them and lent his creative thoughts and ideas to a truly unique project. Designing a huge, gigantic 59 foot x 39 foot working mechanical clock that looks like a creature that stepped straight out of one of his animated films Castle in the Sky!
The location of this magnificent clock is slightly hidden within the high rise business district, so take it as a Ghibli-themed scavenger hunt! With no major defining signs, just make sure to keep your eyes out on both your maps, and the horizon! Otherwise, if that fails you can listen out for the chiming clock. Five times a day, this solar-powered clock comes to life for 3 entire minutes!
The event starts off slow, but suddenly the clock is spinning backwards, the mechanical figures are bobbing up and down, steam is shooting out, the doors are swinging wide open!! All of the hidden features that are within the clock all come to life! It’s an experience that will keep you enthralled, and you’ll find yourself completely lost in this fascinating little Ghibli world!
Now for something a little bit different, the Hotel Gajoen! Located in central Tokyo, this stunning oasis is one of the most exquisite, yet underrated hotels in the prefecture. The building was originally designed in 1928 as a wedding venue before it was upgraded to the current hotel.
Although there isn’t much left of the original building, the hotel is still charming! So how exactly does this fit within the Ghibli verse? Well, rumor has it that Miyazaki used the breathtaking red entrance as inspiration in Spirited Away!
In addtion to the wonderful entrance, there’s also the lavish restaurants and a Japanese garden that features a koi-filled pond. Whether you come here as a quick visit to breathe in Ghibli love, or spend a night in the luscious hotel, you’ll feel the magic!
After enjoying your time at the hotel, why not pick up some Ghibli souvenirs? There’s no better way to scratch that buying itch than visiting a Donguri store! A Donguri store is the Japanese name of Studio Ghibli’s official merchandise stores which are mainly located in Japan. There are around 40 Donguri stores scattered around Japan, with the main locations being in Tokyo.
Stores like Kiddy Land in Omotesando (central Tokyo) have a small selection of Ghibli goods where you can browse through and find your favorite items! But, not all stores are made the same! One of the best stores to visit is the Donguri at Tokyo Skytree in Oshiage!
What sets this store apart is that it separates sections of the store by different Ghibli movies. So whether you’re after something from films like Princess Mononoke or more specific character merch like Cat Bus, this store has it here for you!
There’s even a giant almost life size Totoro patiently waiting to take photos with you. The Donguri store really has it all for your Studio Ghibli fairy tale dreams and serves as another one of many Studio Ghibli Museum alternatives!
Now, if you are lucky to visit Studio Ghibli Museum, going to the recommended places on this list is still worthwhile! The Studio Ghibli Museum is a place you can visit anytime of the year and experience the Ghibli whimsical energy.
The museum is easily accessible from Tokyo’s Mitaka station and Kichijoji station. This includes a short, yet lovely stroll through the beautiful local Inokashira park! Just make sure to stop by the local convenience store to see special Ghibli themed items and food.
Once you’ve arrived at the museum, you’ll be able to step into the magical world of beautiful cinematic art and kawaii characters!
In the interactive space you can expect to see both permanent and temporary exhibitions that bring the museum to life. If you need a little breather afterwards, you can get some fresh air on the rooftop garden. While you’re up there, you can spend some time with the rusting robot statue from Castle in the Sky!
Afterwards, you can watch a Ghibli Japanese animated film that is playing at the museum! The film changes every few months, and it switches between feature-length and short films. Keep in mind however, that all of the films will be in Japanese!
The Ghibli Museum is a worthwhile experience, and if you have the opportunity to visit, it comes with high recommendations! If you need anything else to convince you… the gift shop is phenomenal!
Feeling the whimsy of Japan is something you can easily do, especially through Ghibli eyes! Every street corner is an adventure, and every step is a step closer to the possibility of seeing Totoro.
Share your favorite spot below whether it’s in the Studio Ghibli Museum or one of its alternatives!
Tokyo based writer that's enthusiastic about all things kawaii and cute!
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