Ghibli Museum, Tokyu Hands, and Zauo
To get to the Ghibli Museum, you have to take the train out to Kichijoji (pronounced Kee-chee-joe-jee) Station. It's a beautiful walk through a nice park and neighborhood to get there. (You can buy tickets online, as described here. I ordered through Lawson.)
Since we got to Ghibli about an hour before our time slot for museum entry, we wanted to get out of the bitter cold, which luckily, we could since there was a cute bird cafe across the street. They even had cute main courses to order!
After perusing the cute plushies at the bird cafe, and drinking some hot chocolate, we headed back over to Ghibli. (Note: Ghibli will verify your name on the ticket printout if you bought them online, so do bring your passport along.) Standing in line, I couldn't help but notice a bunch of little details... like the guesthouse in "Spirited Away"!
I couldn't help but notice the stained glass windows...
I feel like every Ghibli fan will want these stained glass windows in their house....
I wish visitors could take pictures, but I do appreciate that we were forced to enjoy the moment of just being at the museum. The level of detail was just outstanding (not to mention you can see a lot of artwork from the movies, including some of the original storyboards).
Perhaps one of the coolest parts of visiting the museum is that everyone gets a "ticket" to go watch a short film at the museum. It's awesome that everyone gets to take back a piece of the Ghibli magic with them! When I looked up the film that we watched, I'll have to admit that a part of me died inside when I found out that it was about fishing for a whale. I thought since the kids were using a bucket of worms on a rope, they were looking for actual fish but then accidentally caught a whale. Maybe it's a good thing it was playing in Japanese-- it seemed pleasant in the moment (since I was blissfully unaware of what was actually being said).
And yes, we did go to the museum cafe, which, yes, does have a 1 hr wait, and yes, there's nothing super special about the food (though it's on-par with any fancy sit-down Disney park restaurant), but it's worth a visit just for the ambiance and the cute dishes. Their strawberry shortcake is quite tasty. (Note: There is a takeout counter that sells beer, ice cream, hot dogs, and a couple of other things, so you do have other options if waiting for an hour outside doesn't seem like fun, even with a provided blanket.)
You can climb in and out of the Catbus, but sadly, no one got to hug this Totoro. It's still awesome to see a life-sized version of him, though!
On the way back to the station, we walked along the road instead of the park. This yakitori restaurant off to the side reminded me of the food stalls in "Spirited Away" and it seemed like a neat place to go eat. We would have tried it except by that point we felt overstuffed by our pork katsu + curry and pork katsu sandwich + strawberry shortcake lunch....
At some point we turned towards the station and found this little shopping street. My cousin and I agreed that this would be a nice neighborhood to live in.
We explored for a little bit around here since Harmonica Yokocho (a market that's been around since wartime) was still here. After hitting both Muji and Tokyu Hands, it was time for our dinner reservation at Zauo.
Once I heard about Zauo I knew I just had to go there. Fishing in a restaurant is awesome, even if it is a little overrated. The tatami rooms were cool because they were right by the water, and there were some tables on their boat inside the restaurant.
Also, I now know how to gross my cousin out.
And after all that fun it turned out we were close to a very fancy bar in Shinjuku. I think this is a pretty good hint as to how to get there....