A visit to the Studio Ghibli Museum in Mitaka, Tokyo, is at the top of many people’s bucket lists when they visit Japan. The beautiful, classic Japanese films made by Studio Ghibli are world famous and so the dedicated museum in Tokyo is wildly popular. Do not make the mistake of leaving buying Studio Ghibli Museum tickets to the last minute. You won’t get them. So I’ve written this guide to help you find the best way of buying Studio Ghibli Museum tickets. Ganbatte!
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Why visit the Studio Ghibli Museum in Tokyo?
Many people love the world of Studio Ghibli and its master animator, Hayao Miyazaki. Studio Ghibli’s magical films appeal to kids and adults alike and while Miyazaki is often referred to as the Japanese Walt Disney, personally I think the Ghibli films are generally more rounded and nuanced than those of their American counterparts.
In addition to the fantastical storylines and exquisite animation, the Ghibli films often feature a strong female protagonist and many characters are drawn in shades of grey rather than the black or white of a Disney movie. This means that you’re not going to get a straightforward baddie (Muska in Castle in the Sky is the closest you’ll get to a classic villain) and several antagonists do many good deeds as evil ones (Lady Eboshi in Princess Mononoke, for example).
In several movies, you won’t even see a bad guy at all as they’re more coming of age movies (Kiki’s Delivery Service; Whisper of the Heart, etc). You’ll also get cuteness by the bucketload (My Neighbour Totoro) and an understanding of Japanese culture and beliefs (Spirited Away) from Studio Ghibli’s output.
I’ll have to stop here otherwise I’ll really get going about the films and that’s not what this post is supposed to be about! In short, there’s something for everyone in these films, and if you’ve never seen any, well, you can buy them on Amazon!
What to see at Studio Ghibli Museum
The Studio Ghibli Museum is as delightful as the films. I’m not going to write a huge post about what to see and do there as it’s best to leave it as a surprise. You’re also not allowed to take any photos inside the museum. However, I can say that the museum is a fantastic place to visit. The building is almost as interesting as the contents, as you’ll find stained glass windows with scenes and characters from the movies, hand painted murals, and lots of little details carved into the staircases, door frames and the like.
In addition to looking at the animation process, sets from the films and a special short that’s only shown at the museum, you’ll have the opportunity to raid the gift shop for Ghibli-themed toys and gifts that can only be bought in Japan (the gift shop here is among the most chaotic places in Tokyo).
Outside, Totoro is waiting to greet you as you arrive, and you can meet a robot-guardian from Castle in the Sky up on the roof. And possibly, the most exciting thing of all (if you’re under 12) is the chance to play on an actual Catbus. Dreams do come true!
So for any fan of Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli, the Ghibli Museum is going to be a must-see in Tokyo.
How to buy Studio Ghibli Museum tickets
To visit the Studio Ghibli Museum in Tokyo you need to be super organised. You can’t buy Studio Ghibli Museum tickets in Mitaka on the day; you need to have already booked before you travel to Japan.
Tickets must be booked for timed entry at 10am, 12pm, 2pm or 4pm and the museum is closed on Tuesdays. Arrivals are staggered to minimise crowds but there is no maximum time at the museum; once you’re in you can stay as long as you like.
Studio Ghibli is not the easiest museum to buy tickets for and there are lots of ticketing options so I’m going to run through the advantages and disadvantages of each option below.
Buy Studio Ghibli Museum tickets through Lawson online
Why use Lawson to book your Studio Ghibli Museum tickets
By far and away, the cheapest way to book tickets for the Ghibli Museum is through Lawson online. Lawson is a convenience store found absolutely everywhere in Japan. If you’re already on the ground in Japan then you can try buying a ticket through the Loppi machines found in Lawson stores. (On my first visit to Japan in 2008 I tried this, not realising how quickly the tickets sold out even back then, so I had no luck). You could try asking a friend or your hotel in Japan to buy tickets at Lawson for you using a Loppi machine.
For most people that’s not an option so buying online is the only way. Studio Ghibli Museum tickets at Lawson sell out like hotcakes so you need to be ready to buy them the instant they go on sale. Tickets are released promptly at 10am Japanese time on the 10th of the month before you want to visit. So I bought our tickets at 10am on 10th November for our December visit.
An adult ticket costs 1000Y, and a child aged 4-6 costs 100Y. Kids 3 and under are free. At the time of writing, 1000JPY is just under £7. So we paid about £15 for our tickets in total.
These prices are, quite frankly, peanuts. Any of the other options will see you paying up to 10x more (or even higher – ouch!).
How to book Ghibli Museum tickets through Lawson
I’m going to walk you through the booking screens so you know what to expect. You need to follow this link to the booking site, and have your payment card, address where you’ll be staying in Japan and your passport number ready to complete the booking.
Oh, and bring some patience too.
Once on the site you will need to scroll to the bottom of the page to get next month’s tickets – you’ll be able to see straight away if the tickets are on sale or sold out, as above.
Select your desired date and time from the calendar – X means sold out, Δ means low availability and O means available). You can see here that most tickets are gone. I took this screenshot a few hours after I bought our tickets.
You’ll then see a pop up; click Admission. The pop up will then ask you to select the amount of tickets you would like (a maximum of 6 per booking). You can also see the current prices for a Studio Ghibli Museum ticket; they vary quite a lot by age.
You’ll then be taken to a page to create your login, and from there to the payment page.
If you’re successful, you can then print your ticket pages out. Be sure to take both pages as you must have the second sheet with the group leader’s passport details to enter the museum. And don’t forget to take your passport when you go to the museum!
Disadvantages of Lawson online
Getting tickets is by no means guaranteed. You have to be ready at 10am Japanese time to get tickets when you want. This meant staying up until 1am for me!
When I booked our Ghibli Museum tickets at Lawson online the web page crashed a lot due to heavy traffic. It took me 30 minutes of constantly refreshing the page to make it through to the payment stage (when thankfully, everything went without a hitch). I think I had tickets in my basket about 5 times and had to start over and over again until I got lucky.
Each time I went back to pick my time again I could see that weekend tickets were already being marked as almost sold out so when I say they go fast I mean it. I went back into the site about 12 hours after the tickets went on sale and as you can see from the calendar screenshot above, pretty much all the tickets for the next month were gone.
The main advantage of booking on Lawson is the price – it’s the cheapest you’ll get by far. If you don’t manage to secure your ticket at Lawson then you’ll need to use one of the below methods.
Buy Studio Ghibli Museum tickets through the Japan Tourist Board
Now, if gambling with Lawson isn’t what you want to do then the Japan Tourist Board (JTB) system might be better. The JTB have branches in several countries and their tickets go on sale 3 months in advance.
The JTB tickets also sell out fast as there are only 200 available every day. You need to be organised and remember to book.
Unfortunately this wasn’t an option for me as the UK branch of the JTB only sell Ghibli tickets as part of a package tour, and since we’re travelling independently in Japan, this was a no-go for us. So I chose to take a gamble with Lawson. But if you’d like to take a look at what JTB UK offer, then click here.
However JTB offices in other countries do offer ticket sales only so if you’re from the USA then this might be the best option for you. Click here to book your tickets through JTB USA. Tickets cost $15 per adult, so it’s a little more expensive than booking through Lawson but a lot cheaper than other options!
If you’re in Canada then click here to buy your tickets through JTB Canada.
And finally if you’re in Europe, Australia or New Zealand then this link will allow you to find the JTB website in your country.
Buy Studio Ghibli Museum tickets through a third party supplier
If you’re not able to get tickets through the JTB or Lawson, then your last remaining option is buying tickets through a third party supplier. The disadvantage to this is that you’ll potentially pay a vastly inflated price, so it depends how badly you want to go!
These companies all offer ticket-only options as well as a popular tour that also takes in a local hotel and the Edo-Tokyo Open Air Museum which are both said to have inspired Miyazaki’s work.
Buy Studio Ghibli Museum tickets from Klook
After Lawson, Klook offer the next cheapest options, and if I’d been unsuccessful at Lawson online then they would have been my next port of call. Currently you can choose from two different tickets.
Klook’s ticketing system is the same as the Lawson one, with tickets being released on the 10th day of the month for visiting the following month. However you will need to buy tickets from Klook quickly as again, they will go fast.
The first and cheapest option is to book a tour which starts at the local station and walks you through the nearby park to the Studio Ghibli Museum. This tour takes about 30 minutes plus time at the Ghibli Museum (not capped). Tickets will set you back about £35 for an adult ticket. Click here to buy your tickets.
A more expensive option is to take a day tour to the Mitaka area which includes a Studio Ghibli visit. This tour covers the Ghibli Museum,a buffet lunch in a hotel and the Edo-Tokyo Open Air Museum. The day tour will cost you about £96 per adult. Click here to buy your tickets.
Buy Studio Ghibli Museum tickets from Viator
Viator offer a really good option for buying Studio Ghibli tickets in advance. A ticket only option, it’s slightly more expensive than Klook’s short tour and tickets; but the fact that you can book several months in advance makes this possibly a better choice.
Book your Viator tickets by the 5th of the month before you want to visit. Tickets through Viator will cost about £41 per adult. Click here to book your tickets through Viator.
If you want to take the tour of Ghibli, the hotel and the architectural museum then click here to buy these tickets. The price for this tour is pretty much the same as Klook.
Buy Studio Ghibli Museum tickets from Get Your Guide
Get Your Guide also sell Studio Ghibli tickets on their site. You can get a Studio Ghibli ticket with a one-way transfer from your hotel and they allow booking more than a month ahead, which is super useful.
Again, you must be quick. As I write in mid November, December tickets are almost sold out. If you want to book more than a month ahead then the price doubles. Depending on the number of people in your group the price can run into hundreds of pounds – a major downside of this option.
Click here to buy your Studio Ghibli tickets from Get Your Guide.
Buying Studio Ghibli Museum tickets – summary
To round everything up simply:
Cheapest Studio Ghibli option: Lawson online
Best advance booking: JTB (for some countries, not the UK)
Best tour options: Viator, Klook and Get Your Guide (in that order).
How to get to the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka, Tokyo
Mitaka Station to the Ghibli Museum
The nearest station is Mitaka Station – the Ghibli museum is about a 20 minute walk away.
You can get trains to Mitaka on the Tozai Line, changing to the Chuo line at Nakano Station. The Tozai Line runs through several stations in central Tokyo. You can use your Japan Rail Pass or Pasmo card to get here.
If you don’t want to walk from Mitaka station then there is a bright yellow shuttle bus that will drop you off at the museum. It’s covered in cartoon faces and you won’t mistake it for anything else!
Kichijoji Station to the Ghibli Museum
You can also get off the train at Kichijoji station and walk through Inokashira Park. There are plenty of signs so you won’t get lost. This is the route that we took and it was a lovely 20 minute walk through the scenic park.
Where to eat at Studio Ghibli Museum
The museum has an on site cafe which opens at 11am, and serves themed food. You probably want to get there for when it opens as otherwise the queues to eat can be an hour or more. We didn’t manage to get a table! Snacks are sold at a stand just next to the cafe and include hot dogs and spring rolls (but nothing vegetarian unfortunately).
More things to do in Mitaka
Inokashira Park is a pretty little place, and there’s a lake with fountains on the far side of the Ghibli Museum. The lake has boardwalks and bridges over it, and plenty of local bird life including comorants. In the summer you can rent swan boats and paddle them out over the lake.
There is also a beautiful temple by the lakeside, and a zoo (although we didn’t visit).
Edo-Tokyo Open Air Museum
A few kilometres down the road, in the much larger Koganei park, is the Edo-Tokyo Open Air Museum. This museum features on the above tours because some of its exhibits are said to have inspired Miyazaki’s Spirited Away. The buildings here are all traditional or historic homes, public buildings, and shops rescued from around Japan. As many traditional buildings in Japan have been lost to fires or earthquakes, this is quite a special collection.
In pride of place is a public bathhouse which definitely looks similar to Yubaba’s bathhouse (although not nearly as ornate of course!). One of the shops looks eerily similar to Kamaji’s boiler room; this one is even more obvious than the bathhouse as there’s a wide wooden floor and the walls are filled with little drawers.
The Edo-Tokyo Open Air Museum is open from 9.30 to 16.30. It’s closed on Mondays. You can get more information from the website here.
More Studio Ghibli attractions in Japan
The Ghibli Clock, Shiodome, Tokyo
On our first evening in Japan we popped over to Shiodome to take a look at an enormous clock designed by Hayao Miyazaki. The clock is gigantic – it’s three storeys high and made of copper and steel, and it’s intricately designed, as you’d expect from anything that Miyazaki has a hand in. While it’s not strictly a Ghibli piece, there are plenty of details that Ghibli fans will find familiar; the clock bears more than a passing resemblance to Howl’s Moving Castle.
Every few hours the clock springs into life. The display lasts for a couple of minutes and there are plenty of moving parts; doors opening and closing, figures working in a mine, and lots more.
The Ghibli Clock chimes at five minutes before 12.00, 15.00, 18.00 and 20.00 with an extra show at 10.00 on Saturdays and Sundays. To get there, take the metro to Shiodome and follow signs to Nippon TV Tower.
Mei and Satsuki’s house from My Neighbour Totoro, Nagakute, near Nagoya
A lesser known Studio Ghibli attraction was built for the 2005 World Expo near the city of Nagoya in Honshu. This is a full size, exquisitely detailed replica of Mei and Satsuki’s house from the beloved film My Neighbour Totoro. You can walk through the house which is almost identical to how it’s depicted in the film; filled with wonderful 1950’s Japanese items right down to the piles of papers on Mr Kusakabe’s desk, the implements in the kitchen, and acorns under the house.
To see more of the house, take a look at this photo journal from Kotaku.
And if that gets you excited, then you probably want to know that Studio Ghibli are building an entire theme park on the same site, which is set to open in 2022.
So that’s our next visit to Japan in the diary!
Have you been to the Studio Ghibli Museum in Mitaka? What about the Totoro house? Let us know about it in the comments!