1. Ghibli Museum
    Photo: Cowardlion/DreamstimeOne of the permanent exhibits at Ghibli Museum
  2. Ghibli Museum facade, Totoro
    Photo: Cowardlion/Dreamstime
  3. 白髭のシュークリーム工房
    白髭のシュークリーム工房(Photo: Kaila Imada)Shiro Hige's Cream Puff Factory

The Ghibli lover’s guide to Tokyo

The Ghibli Museum is just the start – here are the best Ghibli-related attractions, shops, cafés and parks in Tokyo

Kasey Furutani
Written by
Kasey Furutani
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What was your first introduction to Japan? Was it the kawaii culture of Hello Kitty or the ever-evolving Pokémon? For many, the wholesome films of Studio Ghibli were the magical doors inviting Totoro, Kiki and other famous figures of Japanese culture into children’s minds across the world. Chase after your childhood nostalgia in Japan, where your whole itinerary can revolve around the elusive animation studio.

You’ll find bits and pieces of Ghibli’s influence all around Tokyo. You might not encounter a giant tanuki or travel in a floating castle, but Tokyo has plenty to offer for the die-hard Studio Ghibli fan – from the inspirations behind popular films like ‘Spirited Away’ and ‘My Neighbor Totoro’ to authentic souvenir shopping. 

Recommended: Here's everything we know so far about the Ghibli Park opening in 2022

Sightseeing

  • Art
  • Kichijoji

Essential for any Ghibli lover, the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka is the closest you’ll get to actually being in a Ghibli movie. No photos are allowed inside, so you enter the museum unmediated – and it feels like you’ve stepped into a Ghibli fantasy world.

Filled with steampunk elements, hand-painted illustrations and original stained glass, the museum showcases seasonal exhibitions – you might catch a showcase on the delicious meals featured in the movies or see original production sketches. The permanent exhibition explains how a movie is made, and each room has little Ghibli Easter eggs hidden throughout. 

The Saturn Theatre is the in-house cinema showing short Ghibli films only released at the museum. The films rotate on a monthly basis, so you might catch a film about an egg princess or a nursery school on a whale hunt.

Do note tickets must be purchased one month in advance, and they tend to sell out quickly. Currently, tickets are only available via the Lawson Ticket phone app.

  • Attractions
  • Tokorozawa

The rolling inaka (countryside) of Saitama is the real-life home of Mei, Satsuki and of course, Totoro. Director Hayao Miyazaki visited Sayama Hills – also called Totoro no Mori – for inspiration for the country setting of ‘My Neighbor Totoro’, where Mei and Satsuki spend long afternoons running through nature and befriending spirits. 

Pack a bento and explore one of the 19 hiking trails in the 3,500-hectare forest. Pick up trail maps, discover native plant life and learn about the forest’s influence on the movie at Kurosuke’s House, the visitor’s centre (open Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday 10am-3pm). The forest is preserved thanks to Miyazaki and other donors, who helped set up the Totoro no Furusato Foundation to help maintain the lush nature.

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Ni-Tele Really Big Clock
Photo: Studio Ghibli

Ni-Tele Really Big Clock

Designed by Hayao Miyazaki and the Ghibli team, this giant clock outside of Shiodome’s Ni-Tele Tower is a spot of whimsy in the bustling business district. This steampunk clock looks like it grew two legs and walked right out of ‘Howl’s Moving Castle’. Much like in a Ghibli film, the clock comes to life at 12noon, 3pm, 6pm and 8pm (with an additional 10am show on weekends and public holidays) and puts on a performance of music and dancing clock creatures.

  • Museums
  • Koganei

This outdoor museum in Koganei has preserved structures and trains from bygone eras, with most of the buildings dating from the Meiji period (1868-1912), when Japan first began westernising. While so many of Japan’s historical buildings have been destroyed in war or natural disasters, this museum preserves the structures in all their glory. Spend the day wandering in and out of old buildings, including the Kodakara-yu sento bathhouse. 

The museum feels like a town devoid of any residents, much like the creepy town Chihiro stumbles upon in ‘Spirited Away’. In fact, it’s believed Hayao Miyazaki visited the museum to reference landscapes used in the film.

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Seiseki Sakuragaoka
Photo: 源五郎/Photo AC

Seiseki Sakuragaoka

‘Whisper of the Heart’, a lighthearted film starring Shizuku, an aspiring young writer, takes place in the Tokyo suburb of Seiseki Sakuragaoka, about 30 minutes from Shinjuku on the Keio Line. The hilly landscape will be familiar to any fan, you’ll recognise the suburb that bores Shizuku, until she finds its hidden secrets, which include a mysterious antique shop and a violin-crafting boy. Get there at sunset to climb Mimioka, or Whisper Hill, the same location of the final climactic scene.

  • Travel
  • Transport & Travel

The first Ghibli Park in Japan – and the world for that matter – won’t open until 2022. However, lots of info has been revealed about the attractions that will populate the site, which is set within the Expo 2005 Aichi Commemorative Park in Nagakute city near Nagoya (about three hours by train from Tokyo).

Studio Ghibli has announced that its first theme park will be divided into five areas: Hill of Youth, Ghibli’s Large Warehouse, Mononoke’s Village, Valley of Witches and Dondoko Forest. All these attractions are based on the studio’s most famous flicks.

Unfortunately, not everything will open at the same time. The Hill of Youth, Ghibli’s Large Warehouse and the Dondoko Forest are scheduled to open in autumn 2022, while Mononoke’s Village and the Valley of Witches will not be ready until autumn 2023.

Shopping and eating

Donguri Republic
Photo: fb.com/donguritaishi

Donguri Republic

Missed out on the Ghibli Museum? Don’t worry, you can stock up on merch at Donguri Republic, a chain dedicated to Studio Ghibli. Only found in Japan, these stores have everything a Ghibli lover could dream of: stuffed toys, figurines, household and kitchen goods, planters, anything. Donguri Republic has outlets throughout the country, with Tokyo locations in Ikebukuro Sunshine City, Odaiba Venus Fort and Character Street in Tokyo Station.

  • Shopping
  • Shibuya

Originally an online-only shop, GBL opened its first brick and mortar store in Shibuya’s Miyashita Park. The ultimate cool-kid shop for Ghibli fans, GBL offers a street style spin on the animated films. You’ll find retro graphic T-shirts, pop art skateboards featuring the likes of No Face and Totoro’s Cat Bus and even a line of Hawaiian-inspired outfits for summer. 

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  • Restaurants
  • Bakeries
  • Daita

The Shiro Hige Cream Puff Factory serves up adorable Totoro-shaped cream puffs with chocolate or custard filling. Keep an eye out for seasonal flavours like summer peach cream or winter chestnut. Each flavour of Totoro has a different accessory on its ear – way too cute to eat. 

The Setagaya Daita location (Kichijoji is takeout-only) has an upstairs café with stuffed Totoro and other Ghibli decorations that make you feel like you’re in one of the studio’s wholesome films. Don’t forget to pick up some souvenirs on your way out – the pastries tend to change on rotation, but normally packs of Totoro cookies are on sale, perfect for friends and family back home.

More Ghibli magic

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