My small family has some big traditions – some based upon the seasons, some based in life changes, and a few based on simply having fun. Among the most enjoyable of these traditions is watching animated movies and shorts, and many of those movies came from the genius of Studio Ghibli. If you know My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki’s Delivery Service, or Howl’s Moving Castle, you know the quality of work that the studio has produced over many years. Not all of the movies from this studio are appropriate for children, of course, but of those that are no other film studio can match them for creativity, memorable characters, and beauty. When my daughter was younger, many Studio Ghibli movies played a large role in her interest in Japan.
Studio Ghibli has a museum in Mitaka, Japan, which my spouse and I had wanted to visit during this trip. Due to many unexpected situations, we were too late in obtaining tickets to the museum and had resigned ourselves to taking pictures of the building. Sometimes, that’s all you can do. Today was the one free day we had for this visit and we debated whether we wanted to go. It was a quick debate, and shortly, we were standing in front of the intriguing building and beautiful grounds watching people enter. As we were getting ready to leave, one of the young guides approached us and offered to help us (we looked lost, I assumed). I told him we didn’t have tickets and just wanted to see the building, and that we had to leave Japan later in the week and would not be have time to return. He directed us to the full-size Totoro and said to take as many pictures as we wanted. We spent about 10 minutes there and had turned to leave when the same guide approached again – but this time with a piece of paper in his hand. He said, “Take this to that store across the street and they will let you buy tickets for the museum.” I wasn’t sure about the offer at first but realized that if we were being scammed, it was his job on the line. So, we crossed the street, entered the store, handed the clerk the piece of paper, and he took two tickets out of a safe behind the counter. I looked at the tickets and then looked at him. The clerk smiled, and soon we were in the museum – no waiting in line, no fighting the crowds, no scheduling months in advance.
I won’t spoil your visit by giving you the details of this charming, creative, and original museum. But I will say it surpassed my imagination and expectations, and not by magic. Persistence, dedication to excellence, compelling storytelling, memorable characters, and the most beautiful animation you will ever see all work together to make movies far superior to anything magic could produce.
As our time inside came to an end and we left the grounds, we turned back and saw the long curving line of people waiting to enter the museum – people of all ages. And there stood Totoro, watching over each and every one.