Money Hack: How to score cheaper Ghibli Museum tickets
The Ghibli Museum is an exceptionally popular tourist destination, and well worth visiting, but there's a (slightly risky) way to save a significant amount on the price of entry.
The Ghibli Museum in Mitaka is often cited as one of the must-see destinations for any traveller to Tokyo, offering up a behind the scenes insight into the making of such classic fare as My Neighbour Totoro and Kiki's Delivery Service, as well as screenings of specially produced animated shorts that can only be seen at the museum itself. If you're familiar with Ghibli's output, these are not to be missed.
The Ghibli Museum isn't terribly large, and as a result in order to keep the venue manageable, entry numbers are strictly limited. For Australian tourists, there's one official travel agency that handles all entry ticket requests for the Ghibli Museum, namely JTB Travel.
Single-day entry tickets sell through JTB Travel in Australia for $30 for adults, $20 for youth (13-18), $18 for juniors (7-12), $10 for children (4-6) and $1 for infants (0-3). Taking a family to Ghibli Museum is a lot of fun, but costs can quickly add up at those prices. That's presuming you can get a ticket at all.
Ghibli Museum is extremely popular to put it mildly, with tickets going on sale three months in advance of the month you want to visit. So if you want to visit in April, you actually buy your tickets (or try to) in January. Typically, all of JTB's allocation for a given month is gone well before the end of the first day of availability, meaning that many tourists miss out entirely.
There is another way to get into Studio Ghibli that's entirely above board and considerably cheaper. While overseas ticket allocations are handled by JTB, within Japan itself tickets are sold through the Lawson chain of convenience stores. In person, you can try to get a Ghibli Museum through the Loppi ticket machines, which this video goes through in detail.
However, you don't actually have to be in Japan at all in order to use Lawson's ordering system, because it features the option to order tickets online as well, and even in English.
Lawson's ticket ordering system opens orders up on the 10th day of the month prior to the month you want to visit the museum, so for example on the 10th of January, it opens up orders for ticket purchases in February. The Lawson site defaults to Japanese, but there's a full English language menu option for ordering Ghibli tickets, which you can find here. It's not super clear, but to start the online order process, you click on the hyperlink on that page that reads "Click here for details".
Ordering through Lawson isn't exactly a secret, however, so, rather like buying tickets to popular events here in Australia, you can expect the site to get hammered on the 10th of each month with folks trying to buy tickets. Still, it beats missing out, and the best part is that it's markedly cheaper than the travel agent route. Adult tickets cost ￥1,000, while youth tickets are ￥700, child tickets ￥400 and infant tickets are ￥100, because one thing that Studio Ghibli wants the museum to be is affordable for Japanese families.
At current exchange rates that does mean that infant tickets are marginally more expensive than they are here in Australia, but every other ticket is much more affordable, especially the adult tickets that drop from $30 in Australia to around $11.30 each.
This is a somewhat risky process of course, and if you're planning to visit Japan it may be worth the convenience fee of using the official travel agency, but if you're flexible with your timings or simply miss out on the official Australian allocation, it's at least worth trying the Lawson route, and possibly saving some serious Yen along the way. Trust me, you'll need it when you hit the gift shop.
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