The Ghibli Museum is probably at the top of every anime fan's list of places to visit in Tokyo. In fact, it's spectacular enough for anyone to enjoy, even if you've never seen Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro, Castle in the Sky, or any other Studio Ghibli film.
Conjured up by director Hayao Miyazaki himself, the museum's cartoonish architecture, colorful organic shapes, spiral staircases, and ginormous sculpted characters can take your breath away. Walking around the Ghibli Museum is like moving through a dream.
The museum, located in Mitaka, Tokyo, is also highly engaging – for adults as well as children. Some of the museum's highlights include:
- Fascinating demonstrations on how animation works
- A theater that shows Studio Ghibli short films that you can't see anywhere else
- A huge Totoro Cat Bus that you can climb aboard
- A children's play area
- The whimsical Straw Hat Cafe that offers super cute food (yes, food can be cute!)
- An awesome (if not too crowded) gift shop full of Ghibli goods you won't find elsewhere
The Ghibli Museum is now at the top of your must-visit list, but it's not a done deal. Deciding you want to go is easy, but getting your hands on a ticket is the hard part. You can't just walk up to the museum, buy a ticket, and saunter in. In fact, come to the museum without a ticket and you'll be turned away – you need to purchase it in advance.
4 Ways to Buy Ghibli Tickets
The four best ways to get a Ghibli ticket are:
- Lawson's Loppi Machines (purchase in Japan)
- Lawson online
- Japan Travel Bureau (JTB)
- Booking a tour
These aren't the only ways to get your hands on a ticket, but trying another way can be iffy. For instance, some people have luck getting their hotel concierge to buy Ghibli tickets, but that could mean waiting until the last minute, which is not a good idea. Other people who have friends living in Mitaka can sometimes procure a special "neighborhood ticket," and if that's you, go ahead and ask your friend.
But for the rest of us, there are tried and true methods. As long as you plan ahead, they're your best bets for getting into the magical doors of the Ghibli Museum.
1. Lawson's Loppi Machines (Purchase in Japan)
If you're going to be in Japan for over a month, the easiest and cheapest way to get a Ghibli ticket is to buy it at a Loppi ロッピー (short for Lawson online shopping) ticket machine, found at any Lawson convenience store. With 11,384 Lawson stores spread across all 47 prefectures of Japan, you shouldn't have a problem finding one. But here's a map of all the Lawsons in Tokyo, in case that's where you're staying.
If buying through Loppi, make sure to plan your purchase ahead of time. Tickets for Ghibli go on sale at 10:00 a.m. on the 10th of the month before your actual visit. So if you are planning to visit the museum in February, tickets would become available January 10th. This doesn't mean you have to buy them right on the 10th, but the longer you wait, the higher chance you have of the date and time you want selling out.
In peak seasons, it's especially important to buy a ticket as soon as possible, but during off-season months, it's common to find tickets on Loppi even a week or less in advance, and sometimes right on the same day, especially during the week. Tofugu editor Michael Richey just traveled to Japan, and he had a friend in Tokyo buy his Ghibli ticket via Loppi a month before he got there – if you know anyone already in Japan, maybe they can get you a ticket ahead of time too.
Tickets are least expensive when buying through Loppi :
- ¥1000 for adults
- ¥700 for teens ages 13-18
- ¥400 for kids ages 7-12
- ¥100 for children ages 4-6
- FREE for anyone under four years old
How to Use Loppi
Once you're at Lawson, look for the shiny red machine near the cashier. The screen can look intimidating with its many buttons almost all in Japanese. But don't worry, you can do it!
Tap the "Information" button at the top of the screen.
Tap the second button at the top of the screen that says "English."
Now you'll see some English, but there is still a lot of Japanese mixed in, which can make this part confusing. But have no fear. We've found two sites that will help: Ghibli and Mihoshappylife. Click on one (or both) of these for a step-by-step guide to get you through the rest.
And perhaps even more helpful, here's a YouTube video by two travel bloggers who do a pretty good job showing us how to use the machine. They speak Italian but kindly add English subtitles.
Once you've ordered your ticket(s), the machine will spit out a receipt. Take this receipt to the cashier, sign it, and pay. The cashier will hand you a voucher, which you will later exchange at the Ghibli Museum for a real live ticket.
Other Tips About Using Loppi
You will need to know the "L-code" for the month you want to visit, and this is simple: January is 30001, February is 30002, March is 30003, etc. December would be 30012. When it comes to entering the month, just figure out your code and hit the button that corresponds.
There are no refunds, so make sure to choose the exact date and time you want. If it's sold out they will let you know and you can choose again. If you accidentally hit the wrong date and time and finish the transaction, sorry Charlie. They will not refund or exchange a ticket once you've purchased it.
Once you get your receipt, you have only 30 minutes to give it to the cashier, so no leisurely shopping for Pocky before heading to the register.
2. Lawson Website (Purchase Online)
If you don't have the luxury of kicking around Japan for a month or more (in order to purchase tickets on Loppi way in advance), a safer bet is to order your tickets ahead of time online. One place to do this is through Lawson.
The great advantage to ordering through Lawson is that they don't charge extra fees: you get the same base price that Loppi offers (see above).
The other great advantage is that you can print out your ticket at home, so there are no shipping fees (like there are with JTB travel agency, below).
Just like ordering through the Loppi machine, tickets become available on the 10th of the month before the month you want to visit. When I checked mid-morning on Dec 10th, all of December and most of January was already sold out.
The moral of the story is to check Lawson online early in the morning, right on the 10th! These tickets sell out fast.
3. JTB Corp Travel Agency (Purchase Online)
If Lawson online is sold out, you can try JTB Corporation, Japan's largest travel agency. Unfortunately, tickets are almost double the price at JTB, since they add tax and handling fees (then even more for shipping fees if you don't have a JTB office in your city). Here's a list of JTB offices in the US.
Make sure to order online as soon as you can. Unlike Loppi, which sells tickets approximately 4-7 weeks in advance, JTB makes tickets available on the 1st of every month, four months in advance. And don't take that as a pass to ponder the dates. As soon as the 4-month window of ticket availability opens up, jump online and grab your tickets! Fast! As I look on JTB for Ghibli availability on December 1, I see NOTHING available for all of December, Only ONE day available in January (the 29th), and half of February is available. March is wide open. So plan ahead and buy four months in advance if possible.
JTB's Fine Print
- JTB sells to non-residents of Japan only.
- You can only purchase a maximum of six tickets at a time.
- You must buy your tickets at least 10 days before your departure date so they can ship you the "tickets."
- You won't really be getting "tickets" – JTB sends you vouchers that you exchange for tickets once you get to Ghibli.
- Make sure to bring your original vouchers – not copies – Ghibli only takes the real deal.
- JTB does not offer refunds or exchanges.
4. Booking a Tour (Purchase Online)
This is the way I got into the Ghibli Museum, but I suggest this as a last resort, mainly because it's expensive and it's not really a "tour." You do take a tour bus (as well as a train) to get there, and you get interesting Ghibli trivia from the guide while traveling on said transportation. But once you get in the door of the museum, you're on your own, Bub. This is fine by me, but I'm not sure why it's called a tour.
The advantages of booking a Ghibli "tour" are:
- From the center of Tokyo it could take over an hour of navigating train stations and bus stops to get to the museum, so traveling with a guide makes getting there easy and stress free.
- You'll get all kinds of fun facts about Studio Ghibli and the museum on your way there.
- Most importantly, it's an alternative way to secure Ghibli tickets before you get to Japan.
The company I booked with was Viator. The tickets were SIX times the amount a ticket through Loppi or Lawson would be! But all the other methods were sold out for the week I was going to be in Japan, and Viator had an open date, so I cracked open the piggy bank and went for it. At least the tour guide was really friendly and informative, and getting there was a breeze. Since I couldn't find another way to get a ticket, I was happy I booked the tour, er, found a way to get into the Ghibli Museum doors.
Ghibli Hours and More Quirky Rules
Don't let the dreamlike magic of the Ghibli Museum fool you: this place runs a tight ship (but you've probably already noticed that, with the no-refunds and 30-minutes-to-get-from Loppi-machine-to-the-Lawson-cashier type of rules mentioned above). So here are a few other things to keep in mind for smooth sailing.
Hours of operation: 10:00 a.m.–6:00 p.m.
Days open: Every day except Tuesdays. Oh, except January 3 and March 21 – for some reason these two Tuesdays are open in 2017. Ghibli Museum also closes for a week at the end of the year and for the New Year holiday, from December 27-January 2.
Get there on time! You have half an hour from your entrance time to get your feet in the door. Otherwise, start all over and buy another ticket.
Times you may enter the museum: When ordering a ticket, you have a choice of only four times to enter the museum: 10:00 a.m., 12:00 p.m., 2:00 p.m., and 4:00 p.m. Once you're there, you can stay as long as you like.
Getting there from Tokyo: As I mentioned above, getting to Mitaka from the center of Tokyo can take a while. From Tokyo Station, the train lines become local and hit every stop, and once you finally get to Mitaka Station, you have to buy a special bus ticket from a machine at the bus stop to get on a Ghibli bus that takes you to the museum. So make sure to give yourself at least 1.5 hours to get there, just to be safe.
Punctuality: Get there on time! You have half an hour from your entrance time to get your feet in the door. Otherwise, start all over and buy another ticket.
What to Bring (Things You Better Not Forget!)
- Your passport! You won't get in without it.
- Your voucher (or printout with barcode if you're ordering from Lawson online) – in other words, your tickets!
- Some hidden food, if you can. The Straw Hat cafe is adorable and yummy, but there could be a wait of 1-2 hours, and there is nowhere else to eat inside the museum. Just don't tell them we told you to bring food if you get caught.
Is it worth it? Yes!
I know, I know. Getting into the Ghibli Museum isn't easy. From grabbing an available date to following all the rigid rules to navigating your way to MItaka, it's a miracle anyone gets inside the museum. But once there, you're whisked into pure enchantment, an alternate universe, and all the hassles of getting there are instantly forgotten. Seriously, it's totally worth the trouble. So go get those dang tickets, and be quick about it!