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Today I visited the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka and then took the train to Shibuya to wander about a bit.

Ghibli Museum

The Ghibli Museum is located on the edge of a very large park in Mitaka Ward.  It was about a 15-20 minute walk to get there from the train station.  If you someday have the chance to visit, I highly recommend it for any fan of their works, but be aware that you have to buy a ticket in advance and there are no ticket sales on site.  For understandable reasons, they don’t allow any photography inside the museum, only in the outside spaces.

As a fan of much of the Ghibli work, I thought the museum was very cool.  Unfortunately, a museum is one of those places where understanding the local language comes in really useful.  It would have been nice to be able to read the descriptions of the exhibits.  The museum has a lot of exhibits, a cafe, a movie theater, and a GIANT CATBUS.  There was a re-creation of Hayao Miyazaki’s office (or what we were supposed to think was his office) with original, hand drawn artwork all over the place.  All of the doors and windows were stained glass featuring creatures and characters from the films.  The movie theater showed a 10-minute animated short exclusively for museum visitors (I think).  They had several exhibits on how animation is done and how film works, including a zoetrope depicting how individual frames move together to create the illusion of motion.

The place is very kid-friendly, and it’s possible that I went some places someone my size wasn’t designed to fit such as the 4-story caged spiral staircase…  The Catbus is there for kids to run around and play on, much like a play structure in a park.

My only complaints are that it’s a bit smaller than I expected, and was more crowded than I’d have predicted for a Friday afternoon.  I enjoyed it, but was left wanting more.

Shibuya Ward

This is the Times Square of the Tokyo area.  At 9:00 at night, the light from all the signs are bright enough that it’s no different from walking around in daylight.  Lots of food, lots of entertainment, lots of shopping, and lots of nightlife.

I spent a couple hours walking around here, just looking in the shops and people-watching.  Ran into a fellow American at dinner at Kirin City (tasty, tasty beer and reasonable prices) and was happy to have someone to talk to for a bit.  He invited me to join for drinks later at Propaganda in Roppongi, and I figured, “why not?”

Roppongi Ward

Welcome to the sleazy side of night life.  Once I realized the environment I was in, I knew exactly how to handle myself, but it took me a few minutes.  Lots of bars, lots of strip clubs.  I felt like I was walking around North Beach in San Francisco.

The area has dozens of men from South Africa there to recognize the foreigners, speak English, and walk them to whichever club they’re working for.  In a moment of naivete, I thought the first guy talking to me was just being friendly.  But then he started being pushy, asking where I was going, suggesting that I go to a certain place…  I quickly shifted from “friendly” to “not gonna happen, pal”.  After that, I just ignored anyone who tried to talk to me and it was all good.


I continue to be impressed with the quality and ease of use of the local transit systems.  Buses are 200 JPY to ride, wherever you’re going, the rail and subway systems are easy to use (with the help of Google Maps on my phone).  This is so much more robust of a system than what we have in the San Francisco area.  Compare these two maps:

JR Rail:

Tokyo JR Train Map



Also, I thought I’d been on full trains before.  I was wrong.  On the JR Rail cars, the only seats are against the wall, not like BART where the seating is in rows and you have a guarantee of  SOME amount of personal space.  When it’s midnight and people are heading home from the bars, the people are packed in so tightly that one cannot fall down even if you wanted to.  I had people up against me from every side.  There were a couple of people that were literally asleep standing up.  And if you’re one of the “fortunate” few to get a seat, you’re getting presented with someone’s ass or crotch for the ride.


  1. When you get home, go to the Disney Family Museum (really good for those who are a child-at-heart, rather than a child) at the SF Presidio – for another viewpoint on animation. Believe they have a Maurice Sendak exhibit going now. Glad you survived nightlife. Have you planned a trip on the Japanese high-speed rail outside of the Tokyo area? It might be good to compare with European rail you’ll experience later. Mom

    • I’m considering going on this tour on Monday.

      • Or not… Looks like that one’s full up for Monday. Back to searching.

  2. One thing I’ve found in my (limited) adventures is that most places have better, more robust public transit systems than we do – and by “we”, I mean “the SF Bay Area”. I’ll see about Seattle next week, but so far NYC, DC and Boston all have us completely outdone when it comes to effective trains. London was even better – the Underground is excellent. (And none of those systems required me to get up-close-and-too-personal with my traveling companions… 😉 )

  3. So jealous about Ghibli! I wish you could have taken pictures.

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