Tokyo: Side Trips
Kichijoji and Studio Ghibli Museum
Kichijoji is a lovely little suburb west of Tokyo, less than 20 minutes on the express train from Shibuya station. Get off at Kichijoji station and head south to Nanaibashi Street, lined with shops and cafes. At the end of that road, before the big steps, you'll see Iseya Sohonten, a big smoky yakitori restaurant and Kichijoji institution, on your right. If you don't want to dine in, you can order skewers of grilled meat and corn on the cob from the take-away counter and continue on into Inokashira Park. There's a pretty lake lined with cherry and maple trees, so you get the blossoms in the spring and autumn leaves in the fall. Rent a paddle boat in the shape of a swan, or follow the lovely trails that lead through the woods, past a pretty red Benzaiten shrine and an interesting Thai restaurant called Pepa Cafe Forest.
In the West Garden of Inokashira Park, past the lawn tennis courts, is the Studio Ghibli museum, where you can admire the work of Hayao Miyazaki, the Japanese anime master behind Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, My Neighbor Totoro and other films. There's a big furry cat bus to play in, a giant robot on the roof, artist sketches and cels and a trippy zoetrope. The museum is geared toward kids, but Miyazaki fans of any age will enjoy it. The theater shows a short film that you can't see anywhere else.
Tickets for the Ghibli museum (open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.), which cost $10 for adults and $7 or less for kids, must be purchased in advance, and they often sell out on weekends. Unfortunately, you can not buy tickets online. Some travel agents in major U.S. cities can sell them to you, or you can try your luck at a ticket kiosk in any Lawson's convenience store in Tokyo. The menus are all in Japanese so ask a store clerk for help. Click here for more information on the ticket sales system.