Previously, from July 7th to September 11th, there was a massive showing of artwork and other exhibits by Studio Ghibli at the Mori Art Museum in Roppongi Hills. My girlfriend and I were lucky enough to catch the showing before it ended, and I’d like to share my experience. I should probably note that I haven’t yet been to the Ghibli Museum itself yet, and this was the first time I saw any sort of Ghibli exhibit. Also, most of the exhibition banned photography unfortunately, but I will do my best to summarize.
I didn’t grow up with Studio Ghibli like my girlfriend did. Whereas she’s seen nearly all of the their films, and has even met with the actress who portrayed a main character in Laputa (her favorite), I saw my very first Ghibli movie only a few years ago. After moving to Tokyo, we set upon a Ghibli marathon to watch all of the most classic Ghibli movies. I have become quite the fan, and when this exhibit opened, I really wanted to see it all for myself.
Heading to the Mori Art Museum, the streets were filled with Doraemon. When we finally arrived at Mori, we were met with a long line of people all ages waiting patiently in crammed lines. Pokemon Go was still very recent, and everyone from children to their grandparents were swiping their phone screens and discussing what they might see within the exhibits. We paid about ¥2,300 (a bit over $22.00), got our tickets, and headed up to the display area on the 52nd floor.
After being ushered into the correct entrance of the showing, we entered a small bar area with Tottoro himself managing the register, and then into a viewing area featuring many Ghibli movie posters. The walls were completely covered with international editions, recreations, and alternate versions. Further in, the high walls revealed concept sketches, fliers, mini-posters, and other promotional materials related to the films. My degree is in graphic design, and I’ve always been a great fan of movie posters, so this was quite the time for me.
Next, we spotted something a bit unexpected–a perfect to-scale recreation of the director’s office. Down to the books on the shelf, it was an exact replica of the real office at Studio Ghibli, complete with a reference photo as proof. We weren’t allowed to go inside (or take photos) but it was a very interesting sight indeed. Beyond that exhibit, we entered a display room that, from floor to ceiling, displayed nearly every single piece of merchandise ever made featuring Ghibli characters. We weren’t allowed to take photos or touch anything, but it was a sight not unlike anime shops in Akihabara near the Electric Town exit, but it was all Studio Ghibli fare.
Finally, the signs warning us to not take photographs disappeared, and we were ushered into a darkened room. Breaching the exit, our eyes adjusted to something fantastic–the iconic Cat-But from My Neighbor Totoro, complete with lights, and filled to the brim with happy fans. After waiting our turn in line, we were given approximately 2 minutes to set-up and take our own photographs, as well as explore the inside of the big cat himself. The attention to detail in this exhibit is absolutely stunning, and it was the highlight of our trip. In my attempt to hurry to get my own photograph of myself inside the cat-bus, I was flanked by an granny and her family before I was able to get my photo. She looks like she’s enjoying herself, at least.
After that exhibit, we entered the Laputa: Castle in the Sky area, which was the main area of the exhibit. The Laputa exhibit was extra amazing, most likely because of the film’s 30th anniversary, and was what excited both of us the most about coming to the exhibition. This area featured a glowing scale model of the sky ship from Laputa, as well as the terrain below. Characters were hung from the walls in all directions, and in the center, the giant sky ship glowed and elegantly raised and lowered itself as if paddling it’s way through the clouds. It was a quiet, dimly lit room with a very high ceiling with an amazing view of the city below. The combination of this exhibit and the room it was presented in made you feel as though you may be in Laputa yourself, overlooking all of Tokyo.
Sadly, from there we exited the exhibit. The Ghibli gift shop was on a lower floor, and once we made our way down, we found it to be even more crowded than the exhibition itself. For sale was a massive variety of figurines, notebooks, bags, clothes, movies, books…anything Ghibli you could ever want. It was all very expensive, but that didn’t stop many fans from filling their large shopping bags and fighting back through the crowd to exit.
After leafing through some very expensive Blu-Ray releases of the films and looking at all the adorable plush toys, we decided to save our money. Before we left however, we both decided to pay the ¥500 fee to see the Mori rooftop. You walk through what looks like the set of a horror movie to the uppermost deck, which featured walking platforms, speakers, seats, and tons of young couples. We were on the roof of a 52 or 53 floor building, so the view was worth the money alone. We took lots of pictures, danced to their playlist of early 90s rock, and dodged a few rude tourists running around on the platform before returning home.
Overall, our experience was very positive. It was a great place to take a date, and the other visitors appeared to have a great time as well. As an English speaker, it really helped to have an interpreter, but I can’t exactly fault the exhibition for being almost entirely Japanese. The only complaint I had was the ban on all photography for over half of the exhibit. I understand why it was put in place, but because of it being a limited engagement, it’s difficult to find photos of everything that I saw in the exhibit, and my memory isn’t so great. That said, if there is a similar exhibition in the future, you can count on my reservation.
All photos credit to Kris Leisman and Midori Oyama