Thursday, December 10, 2015

Japan trip Autumn 2015, Part 3 - Day 3: Ghibli Museum, Shirohige Cream Puff Shop, Ikebukuro, Rikugien Garden & Nagomi no Yu

We had solid plans for Day 3, November 28 - the Ghibli Museum! We woke up, got our conbini breakfast again and then headed off to Mitaka via the JR Chuo line.

We easily followed the signs to figure out which exit to take and then which direction to walk. Based on the access information, we knew that it would be about a 15 minute walk from the station.

Christa's hair in the sunlight that morning -

There are many helpful signs along the way like this one, so you don't feel unsure of where you are walking. 500 meters to go!

We arrived! The whole building and area is very green.

The museum opened at 10:00. We arrived a little bit after 10:30 and this us at the back of the line, lol.

But no matter because that just leaves plenty of time to take pictures. My hair color that morning in slightly different lighting.

And the outside of the building is quite nice as well.
There are no photos allowed inside the museum unfortunately, so I don't have anything in the way of photos and videos to share with you from that. However, in terms of basic descriptions, I can say that the entire museum is very nicely detailed. There are three stories in total. The first floor exhibits are about the origins of the animation process. There is also a small theatre on this floor where you can view a short, original film once during your visit. The second floor goes into a little more specifics about animating the Ghibli films including a look at sample rooms for the artists and original artwork. The third floor has a Cat Bus play area for small children and the gift shop which was incredibly crowded.
It's probably worth noting that the entire museum and its contents are in Japanese (without any kind of subtitles). And this is certainly not a criticism but perhaps may be important to other people, so I thought I'd mention it. However, not being able to read Japanese doesn't really take anything away from the exhibits. I'm sure I could have understood things a little bit better if I had the ability to read some of the placards, but I was never especially confused about anything and most things are reasonably straightforward and illustrated well.
The architecture of the building is also very interesting. There were many moments throughout our visit that I wished I could have taken photos to show other people how wonderful it was, but at the same time, I understand why we were asked to refrain.

Although there were no photos allowed inside the museum, you could take as many as you liked outside. There is an outdoor "4th floor" area accessed from the third floor and features a robot from "Castle in the Sky". There is a small cafe and food area on the second floor and lockers on the first floor with other bits of outdoor architecture/design to explore throughout.
We were handed little film strips upon entry with scenes from one of the Ghibli movies as our "ticket" for the short film playing on the first floor. (We immediately entered the museum after receiving it, so my first chance to take a picture of it was after exiting on the third floor lol.)
I think that I would only recommend the museum to people who are real Ghibli fans and can recognize most of the movies or people who are really interested in the animation/artistic process. As someone who is an extremely casual fan (I like the movies I've seen but I've only watched them because a friend wanted to and my own knowledge is generally very limited), I did like the museum for what it was and certainly appreciated the concepts displayed in the exhibits, but I'm sure I would have enjoyed it a lot more if I knew all of the movie references. To be honest, I had to google to figure out which movie the robot at the top of the museum was from and what exactly it was. For someone who is like my mom who has never seen a Miyazaki film, I would guess that they would still probably be able to find interesting parts of the museum just based on what's presented, but just not feel like it was necessarily worth it to go all the way out there and would likely not feel the need to ever visit again. Even I don't especially feel like the museum needs more than one visit though. It's fairly small (on a scale of museums imo) and we did take our time through it and felt that we saw all that there was to see inside the museum despite having to wait in a few crowds. I would gladly go again if a different friend wanted to go because it wasn't a bad or negative experience by any means, but I wouldn't take the time, effort or money to personally make it a point of visiting again on my own simply because I feel that our visit this time was quite sufficient.
The distance from Mitaka station is advertised as taking 15 minutes, and that's truly the case, if not 20 minutes. There is, apparently, a bus that will take you from the station directly to the museum for about 200yen one way, but we didn't want to try and fuss with that and we hadn't done much walking the previous day, so we had been determined to walk. It isn't hard to do because signs help make finding your way very straightforward, but be sure to budget this into your time. If I were to visit again during the summer or a hotter month, I would probably vote to take the bus.
We purchased our tickets for the museum through JTB because we had heard that the tickets sell out quickly and this was the only way for foreign visitors to get them. After doing a bit of research, I had known about the Lawson ticket machines as well but since the museum was a must-do for Christa, we thought it was better to book through JTB and be 100% sure of being able to visit. If we had waited to go to Lawson's once we arrived in Japan, we weren't sure what the availability would have been like and didn't want to leave it up to chance. I'll talk a little bit more about purchasing the tickets through JTB in Part 10 - Travel notes.

We spent a couple hours at the museum (including wait time outside), and then leisurely walked back towards the station. Our next activity was to involve eating, but in the mean time, we wanted a small snack, so we went to a Family Mart close to the station to pick up onigiri.

Then we took the JR Chuo line back to Shinjuku station and transferred to the Odakyu line to get to Setagaya Daita station.

There was a little bit of construction going on at the station, so I got a bit confused, but I think you want the West exit. I then got even more confused (with no fault to the construction) and had us walk down the street way too far instead of turning right at Lawson's, and we had walked a good several blocks before I finally consulted Google Maps and turned us around to put us on the right track.

Finally we found it! Shirohige Cream Puff Shop, known for their Totoro cream puffs. It's actually quite simple to get there, but we just went the wrong way at first. Even then, it wasn't too hard to right ourselves once I figured it out. The outside is pretty unassuming except for the cute little sign.
We walked upstairs and fortunately there was a two seat table available right away. I hadn't even thought to make a reservation, but it is definitely possible somehow because that's what the people next to us had done lol.

Here's the menu -
Christa decided to order lunch + the cream puff because she was hungry since we had only eaten something small earlier. I probably would have ordered lunch as well but I didn't see anything I particularly wanted to eat.

Instead I went to the little bakery area that's part of the café and picked up a croissant, so I wouldn't be sitting there eating nothing lol. They offered to toast it for me, and it was really, really flakey as a result but also really good!

Christa's meat cream sauce pasta

And Totoro chocolate cream puff! The reason we came to the café lol. I don't actually eat cream puffs myself (although my bf and father are another story. When we come to Japan, they try them wherever we go and sometimes eat one or more a day lol.) but I knew this would be a good stop after the Ghibli Museum and a great photo op as well lol.
Quickly enjoyed and devoured.

There's also a small to-go bakery and gift shop downstairs. This was the wreath in the bathroom that I thought was too cute.

Having finished what we came for, we went back to the Setagaya Daita station and went back to Shinjuku then transferred to the JR Yamanote line to get to Ikebukuro for a little more shopping. Our first intended stop was the Disney store in Sunshine City. It was so crowded on our way to get there once we exited the station!

We stopped at a store selling Sanrio goods along the way where I saw the accessories from the Liz Lisa x My Melody x Sweet Piano collab (all sold out in the actual Liz Lisa stores I had visited) and also a Tokyu Hands where I tried to take an outfit shot apparently lol.

We finally made it to Sunshine City but decided to go to the Pokémon Center first where I didn't do any shopping so I took a lot of pictures lol.

After that, I wanted to briefly look at the Axes Femme store which was having a really reasonable sale on some items but in the end, I didn't end up buying anything.
And then we finally found our way to the Disney store for Christa, and, as we were leaving the Sunshine City area, I stopped at the Daiso and picked up a few things.

Since we were in Ikebukuro anyway, I wanted to stop at Parco and look at the Liz Lisa. For some reason, I always have so much trouble finding Parco no matter how many times I've been there. This time, I knew it was connected to the Seibu but it still took forever to get there. And then I didn't even buy anything lol. I also wanted to look at the monLily store in P'parco but apparently it's not there anymore lol. There is a new Swankiss store on the same floor that it used to be on that was having a good sale, but nothing I wanted to buy unfortunately.

We ate dinner at the pasta place that my family now visits regularly during our trips lol. Christa wasn't that hungry since she had eaten a full meal at Shirohige, so she just got a dessert and drink while it was my turn to get pasta lol.

We took our time in the restaurant to rest our feet then got back on the train and headed to Komagome to see the Rikugien Garden illumination. It was relatively easy to find with some navigation help and not very far from the station.

When we first arrived, we weren't sure what all the fuss was about, but as we kept walking, there were better things to see and capture.
(All taken without flash and just the help of the lights in the park.) The garden is actually quite big, and the route we were directed to is a large loop, so once we started, we were pretty much obligated to go all the way through it. Even at that, I don't think we went through all or even most of the grounds. The walkway is unpaved and due to the illumination, I think they don't turn on lights for the path on purpose (so the emphasis is on the trees instead). I was wearing white pumps so I had to step carefully, but luckily at least it was not raining and muddy, and I managed fine.

The last item on the agenda for the day was to visit an onsen. We had done a little research beforehand and had picked out Nagomi no Yu, just outside Ogikubo station. After finishing up at Rikugien Garden, we got back on the train to get to Shinjuku, stopped by the apartment to pick up what we needed and then headed back out. On the way back to the tracks, I made sure to ask the staff when the last Chuo line train would be running coming back from Ogikubo so we knew when we would have to be back by as Nagomi no Yu is open through the night.
Obviously no pictures inside for privacy lol. But we ended up just staying for a little while - not as long as we thought. I'm not even going to try and give advice about the actual process because I'm not even 100% sure what we did was exactly right. If you are unfamiliar with onsens and the general practice and not going with someone who is, I would definitely encourage you to do your own bit of research though because it can be intimidating to do things wrong when you're naked and not knowing a few basics (like hydrate before you go) can be dangerous for your health.

We stopped at the 7-Eleven just outside for some water and Christa also wanted to try her luck at the UFO catcher games next door for a bit.
By then, we had had a very full day and were ready to call it a night. We hopped back on a JR Chuo line train headed towards Shinjuku and then just went back to the apartment.

There were quite a few things we did this day that I had not previously done or experienced during any of my previous trips. I had never been much west of Shinjuku as we had done to get to Mitaka for the Ghibli Museum or Ogikubo for Nagomi no Yu. I had also never been to or even really heard of the area where Shirohige was either, and it was a really nice neighborhood. Although I had visited Ikebukuro before, I had never gone all the way to Sunshine City or visited that specific Pokémon Center. And I don't think I've ever gone far enough up the loop to get to Komagome either and had never visited while the parks were doing nighttime illuminations. Looking back at it now, it almost seems like an overly full day, but because we were looking forward to relaxing at the onsen at the end of the night, we didn't mind doing a bit of extra walking and exploring, and it was well worth it.
Japan trip Autumn 2015 posts
Part 1 - Day 1, November 26: Tokyo DisneySea
     Part 1a - Planning for Tokyo DisneySea
Part 2 - Day 2, November 27: Hair Salon NALU, Shibuya & Harajuku
Part 3 - Day 3, November 28: Ghibli Museum, Shirohige Cream Puff Shop, Ikebukuro, Rikugien Garden & Nagomi no Yu
Part 4 - Day 4, November 29: Arashiyama, Fushimi Inari & Fire ramen in Kyoto
Part 5 - Day 5, November 30: Minoo Park, Kaiyukan, Tennoji, Namba & Umeda in Osaka
Part 6 - Day 6, December 1: Shibuya, Yokohama (Chinatown) & Seirinkan
Part 7 - Day 7, December 2: Ueno Zoo, Alice Café & Yebisu Garden Place
Part 8 - Liz Lisa & Other shopping purchases
Part 9 - Budgeting for a week in Japan
Part 10 - Travel notes: Planning, Tips, Accommodations & Pocket wifi

Japan trip Summer 2015 posts
Japan trip Spring 2015 posts
Japan trip Summer 2014 posts


  1. I love your hair color! It's so subtle. My uncle went to the ghibli museum once many years ago and they were still giving out the same tickets. He gave it to me as a gift and I still have it on my wall. <3

    1. Thank you! Which movie is yours from?

    2. I think mine was from Howl's Moving Castle! But it's actually back home at my parent's house now, so it's been a while since I last looked at it. I've watched a fair amount of Ghibli but don't recognize the characters on yours.

    3. Haha yeah I'm not sure either, but that's okay. Maybe I'll happen upon it one day.