Day 17 - Final Day! Ghibli Museum, Shinjuku, Nakano Broadway
We got up early and went from our hotel in Ikebukuro to the Studio Ghibli Museum in Mitaka, and it was PERFECTION. If you don't know, the Ghibli Museum celebrates the work of Studio Ghibli, the animation studio led by the famous director Hayao Miyazaki. If you love movies like Kiki's Delivery Service, Spirited Away, Howl's Moving Castle, Ponyo, or any of the other works, you will adore this cozy, interactive museum. It's built in what feels like a mansion but has the vibes of a cozy, secret library. Every nook and cranny is welcoming and it feels like a place right on the cusp of one of the studio's famously heartwarming adventures.
Getting tickets to the Ghibli Museum is a bit of a process. This isn't something you can do spur of the moment, and it requires you to either go through a travel agency or Lawson's stores, which are a chain of convenience stores. The former is easier if you want to buy them before your trip to Japan, but the latter is much more convenient if you're buying after you've arrived. These tickets are limited and do sell out often, so scheduling in advance is best!
It was a really relaxing, refreshing, lovely place. We toured every room, caught the exclusive movie, and waited in about an hour line to go to the rooftop cafe (which was ABSOLUTELY worth it – and I'm not a person who can deal with long lines usually.) We left feeling like we'd spent all day recharging, and were eager to make our last night count.
Next, we went to Nakano Broadway, a famous shopping mall full of thrifty deals, counterculture, and interesting sights. We actually didn't buy much if anything, other than loads of snacks and some video games we wanted. My husband somehow convinced me that he needed MORE conveyer belt sushi so I shopped around while he did that.
Finally, we made it to Shinjuku and beelined to Golden Gai, otherwise known as "Piss Alley", a local bar crawl route full of modern and historical hole-in-the-wall bars no bigger than walk-in closets and overflowing of character. Everywhere you turn, there are locals having fun, tourists gawking, and bartenders quipping at each other from neighboring nooks.
We stumbled into the first empty bar we saw and spent an awesome evening meeting new friends, sharing music and chitchat, and drinking just enough to have a great freaking time. I wish I had gotten the name of the place! It had foreign money taped all over the walls with notes on it, and the bartender played mostly rap and metal. Our cohorts were a mix of local businesspeople trying to loosen up after a long day, students on trips, foreign exchange alumni wanting to test their English out, and random passers-by. We stayed until around 11PM, then headed back to pull an all-nighter (we don't trust ourselves to ever get up on time for important things) and fly out of Narita at 9 AM.
Day 18 - Return to US We reached Narita airport with time to spare, and popped our pocketwifi into a mailbox just before going through security. We were sad to see the thing go after all this time!
At this point, we were already 25 days into our extended honeymoon trip with 7 left to go, so were thrilled to pass out just after waving goodbye to Japan.
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