a friend of mine recently asked me if i would recommend visiting any of the museums in Tokyo. there are lots to see and do in Tokyo already, so a museum may not be on the top of anybody’s list when visiting Tokyo (think temples, parks, anime and animal cafes) – but there were a few museums that i felt, were quite memorable and worth visiting:
1. Ghibli Museum, Mitaka-shi, Tokyo
i don’t think Studio Ghibli needs any introduction. i grew up watching Studio Ghibli’s animations, the first being My Neighbour Totoro, when i was a little kid. then came Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away and Kiki’s Delivery Service and many more.
i knew way before i headed for Japan that i had to visit this museum.
the museum restricts the number of visitors each day. therefore, it is difficult even for local Japanese visitors to get a hold on the tickets. my couchsurfing host in Japan, a mum with two kids, said that it’s usually easier for foreigners to get tickets – she had tried several times but hadn’t succeeded.
there are specific instructions on how to purchase tickets and when to purchase them on the official Ghibli museum website. i got mine from the ticketing office in Hong Kong, about 2-3 months in advance. it costs a whopping 1000yen.
it’s actually good that they restrict the number of visitors in a day. when i went, it wasn’t too crowded, so i could fully enjoy my time in the museum and admire the exhibitions.
we weren’t allowed to take photos inside the museum, so i could only take photos of its beautiful exterior.
one of the main attractions is the giant metallic robot from Laputa: Caste in the Sky. a lot of people were queuing to take a photo with it.
another attraction is the fluffy cat bus from My Neighbour Totoro. it was located in the kids’ areas and only the kids were jumping around in it so all i could do was stand and stare and envy them. from afar. *insert sad music
i enjoyed looking at the sketches from the animation though. they had plenty of artwork on display. they also showed the process of how they turned their artwork into animation sequences. it was all really exciting (because i love Ghibli movies) and educational at the same time.
once you’ve completed your tour of the museum, there’s a pretty little gift shop selling Ghibli merchandise that you can, again, spend quite some time exploring. i bought a glass bottle of candy with Ghibli-themed patterns on them for my couchsurfing host’s kids.
there’s also a pretty cafe in the premise of the museum, that serves Ghibli-themed food on Ghibli-themed cutlery.
you can easily spend half a day in the museum. the rest of the day, you can spend at Inokashira Park, a beautiful local park located right next to the museum.
i was there in the beginning of spring, so the sakura were in full bloom. there were many families on picnics and many youngsters hanging out. i just sat there on a bench and contemplated on the meaning of life.
nah, just kidding. i can’t remember what i was contemplating about, but it was soothing.
2. Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum, Koganei-shi City, Tokyo
this was really a gem, and one of my favourite museums of all time.
i recalled reading an article about where Hayao Miyazaki (the brainchild behind Studio Ghibli) got his ideas when designing the buildings in his animations. it mentioned this particular museum. apparently, the Hayao Miyazaki liked spending his free time just strolling and studying the replica of old historical buildings in this museum.
so naturally, i had to visit.
this museum was a bit tricky to get to. you can learn more about how to get there from their official website.
i paid 400yen in admission fee and i got more than what my money’s worth. i, quite unexpectedly, spent the entire day here.
the museum is located in Koganei Park and is extremely big.
it boasts a massive collection of replica buildings based of actual real historical buildings that were iconic in the past. it’s an architect’s haven, i assume.
i had fun visiting building after building. there was a replica of a bath house that reminded me of the bath house in Spirited Away. perhaps, maybe, Hayao Miyazaki really did draw inspiration from that one?
i walked into a farm house replica and saw a few old men brewing sakura tea in the traditional manner. they invited me to join them for a cup of tea and we starting talking about where i was from, about Hong Kong and Malaysia and Japan. it was a lovely day to be sharing a cup of tea with several old men, also quite random.
as i continued to wander on, i also stumbled upon a pretty cafe called Musashino Chabo within a replica of De Larande House. i had a very memorable parfait there. so memorable, i have to post a photo of it here.
in short, i highly recommend this place. come hither and feel like a character from a historical Japanese movie. you won’t regret it.
3. Meguro Parasitological Museum, Meguro, Tokyo
probably one of the quirkiest and nerdiest museums i’ve ever visited, it is the only parasitological museum in the world. i visited this museum when i was fresh out of medical school. i had just finished my medical exams so my mind was still in the nerd zone.
located in the non-touristy part of Tokyo, Meguro, this two-storey exhibition space is devoted to parasites and the study of parasites.
when i was there, there were only local visitors. there was no admission fee.
they had more than 300 parasite specimens on display. this building also has space dedicated to parasitological research and they do seem to take their research very seriously. on the 2nd floor, they displayed parasites that have significant effects on humans and they also had educational info bits on the subject matter. unfortunately, most of them were in Japanese. i could only read the scientific names for those parasites, and luckily, being fresh out of exam mode, i could recall what they were and what they did.
the museum is pretty small and should take only about an hour to explore. but it’s definitely quirky.
check out their official website, to learn more about how to get there.