Fans of Hayao Miyazaki’s animation cannot go to Japan without stopping by the Ghibli Museum at least once in their life.
The museum is located in Mitaka, Tokyo. There’s a bus stop near the Mitaka station where buses take tourists directly to the museum. The adorable sign makes it hard to miss.
Mitaka is quite proud of its landmark. Some of its buses are decorated with cute Ghibli-themed designs. These are actual city buses with actual city routes. They also happen to pass the Ghibli Museum.
It’s famously difficult to get tickets to the museum. Tickets have to be bought in Japan, and there’s only a limited number of slots for foreigners. Luckily, the friend I was staying with is a resident, so getting tickets were no trouble at all, for me, at least.
It was raining on the day we visited, so tents had been set up outside the museum, which looked like something from out of a Miyazaki cartoon. The buildings looked like they were built into hills, with windows peeking out from shrub-covered walls. Everything had a pre-WWI tinge to it, that fantastic era so prevalent in Ghibli films.
We arrived just in time for lunch. There’s only one restaurant on the premises, the Straw Hat Cafe. The food is delicious, in the way that it seems that all food in Japan is delicious, but nothing special. Plus, it was overpriced. But aren’t all museum cafes overpriced? It’s the experience that you’re paying for, after all. And this particular museum has truckloads of those!
The Straw Hat Cafe posts its specialties outside. Its menu is simple and is made up of categories that sound like they should be yelled at you by an enthusiastic child temping in the family restaurant like “Something Cold to Drink,” “Something to Eat,” and “Dessert&Cake.” It is quite possibly the only good use for Comic Sans I have ever seen.
I love Japanese-style corn soup. It’s creamy and slightly sweet, but with a bump of umami, and when served hot, it hugs at the insides. Of course, I had to have the soup. I decided on the Pasta Neapolitana with a Mischievous Meatball because my friend told me about its importance in Japanese history (see photo caption below).
And I thought Filipinos had cornered the market on sweet spaghetti. The Pasta Neapolitana is a Japanese-style pasta made with ketchup that has roots in the second world war. At Straw Hat Cafe in the Ghibli Museum, it is served with a Mischievous Meatball, which–spoiler alert–is a meatball with a quail egg hiding inside.
We also tried the Creamy Vanilla Cheese Pie with Pineapple Crust Edges, which tasted like really well-made refrigerator cheesecake. After a good meal punctuated with fun conversation, we were off to see the museum.
Unfortunately, the Ghibli Museum did not allow photography inside its premises. Visitors get to learn about the animation process as well as enjoy rooms themed after their favorite animations.
Everything outside can be photographed, though, including and especially this adorable Totoro manning the ticket booth, the soot sprites huddling underneath.
The museum is out of the way, but it’s worth the trip. Even if you aren’t a Miyazaki fan, if you visit the museum, you’ll probably come out wanting to watch everything in Studio Ghibli’s discography.