The Studio Ghibli Museum almost requires no introduction. This legendary wonder palace designed by its famed founder Hayao Miyazaki, is a children's, fine arts, and technology museum all in one - dedicated to everything Ghibli. Ghibli is the animation studio producing such iconic films as My Neighbor Totoro and Spirited Away.
The Studio Ghibli Museum is a bit out of the way from the areas of Tokyo most visitors frequent. So do make the most of your trip by taking advantage of the museum surroundings and the area. Most importantly, make sure to make a reservation when wanting to visit the museum. Without it you won't be allowed in and will be exploring for things to do a little longer than you planned – like I did!
Although I couldn't make it inside the museum, I still got a taste of the Ghibli charm by seeing the building facade, adorable shuttle bus, and inviting street signs. From there my journey started. I was a twenty minute express train away from Shibuya via the Keio Inokashira line that beautiful Sunday morning. The quaint town full of cafes, boutiques, and a general calmness which is rare in Tokyo unless you know where to look, is known as Kichijoji. My first recommendation is to backtrack towards the station and unwind in nearby Inokashira Park. The luscious greenery, along with the lake reflecting the rays of the morning sun, lent to the tranquility of the place. People of all ages wondered around, either taking a stroll, having a run around the nearby track or spending quality time with their families by just sitting down on a picnic mat. The park also produces some picturesque cherry blossoms in early spring.
The best way to continue exploring around the Ghibli Museum is walk the streets and keep your eyes open. Just by glancing around, one can tell that Kichijoji has certainly somewhat undergone slight gentrification of sorts: old houses were reinstated into cosy cafes that had that kitschy-cool, pre-renovation charm. One in particular was the Hammock Café and Gallery Mahika Mano, a café with a no-children policy and apparently the most famous hammock café in Japan. My friend and I had lunch at People and Things, a café that served brunch-style cuisine, and also had a small section dedicated to a curated collection of women’s clothing. It was an all too familiar sight for me, having studied in Melbourne, a place where café culture is huge and the conversion of old spaces into cafes and cool hangout places is the norm.
To recap, a trip to the Ghibli Museum should be on nearly all Japan fans to do list, but don't forget to check out what's happening around this part of town, too. With some hidden treasures, funky locales, and a peaceful park, Kichijoji makes a serene getaway for people wanting to temporarily escape the chaos that is metropolitan Tokyo.