Our last day in Tokyo was also our last full day in Japan, and it was jam-packed with things to do! We met our new guide in the morning and hopped on the metro toward Mitaka for our first stop – the Ghibli Museum.
For the benefit of those not familiar with it, Studio Ghibli is an animation studio that’s well known for producing numerous fantasy-based animated movies. Hayao Miyazaki is the co-founder of the studio and is greatly loved by Japan and by many other countries for being a masterful storyteller. He designed the museum as a place for exploration and learning about animation, but also enjoying the actual structure that contained the exhibits. We learned from our guide that all of the drawings in one of the exhibit rooms focused on pre-production were created by Miyazaki. Not only that, but he’s currently in the process of redrawing some of them, as they have aged from hanging on the wall.
As a rule, the museum doesn’t allow taking photos while inside, but you can take as many as you’d like outside the building and on the rooftop, where a robot from one of the Ghibli movies stands watch. We were given tickets that looked like pieces of film from one of the Ghibli movies. These tickets gave us entrance to a special theatre that shows a short Ghibli animated movie. The movies rotate, and are only available for viewing at the museum. I’d visited the museum once before on my previous trip to Tokyo, but it’s such an expansive place that there were many new details of the building and exhibits I got to experience that I hadn’t before.
After Ghibli, we took more bus/metro things to get to the area of Nakano, where we were to visit the Nakano Broadway shopping area and eat ramen. On our way there, we managed to find ourselves in the midst of some sort of fall festival that included a group of musicians playing on the taiko, which are large Japanese style drums. Our ramen was served in VERY LARGE BOWLS and quite tasty. The shops in Nakano Broadway were numerous and varied, but we mostly crawled around for video game/anime/comic book themed items. It almost like going to a flea market in the sense that there were a lot of stores with the same figures/books/items, but sometimes if you went somewhere else you could get the same thing for a little bit cheaper. Or realize you’d paid too much.
We headed back to Akihabara for more exploring of shops and sights. While there, we ran into some other sort of event that included a lot of mascots and cosplayers running about. Our next stop was a Maid Cafe for drinks and snacks. Maid Cafes are a cosplay restaurant themed on the waitresses being dressed as maids and greeting customers as if they were coming home to their own house, with a “Welcome home, master!” or “Welcome home, princess!”. The cafes are scattered about Akihabara and got their start in that area. We weren’t allowed to take photos except for our drinks that we ordered, as one of the maids took requests for drawing a picture on the coffee foam. We did pay 500 yen to get our picture with her later since she drew so well on said coffee foam.
Next, we explored some other tall shops and visited a large bookstore near the train station, where we got several comics (to look at the pictures, since we can’t read Japanese ). Our last stop with our guide (and our piles of shopping bags of souvenirs) was the Pokemon Center. The Pokemon Center is just that – a shop just for Pokemon, including the card game, a trading area for the video game, and special items that only show up there. It’s kinda like if you took a Disney store, but replaced it with Pokemon. One of the highlight items we bought – a Pikachu tin filled with Pikachu cookies.
Our guide escorted us back to the hotel, where we said goodbye, took our souvenirs up to our hotel room, then immediately ran back to the Diver City mall to find some tasty food for dinner. Our last stop we’d planned for ourselves was to go to Joypolis – an indoor theme park/arcade by Sega that was in walking distance from our hotel. It was also a blast.
The next day, we started our long, long, long trip back to the States, complete with jet-lag and buckets of souvenirs!