Wednesday, February 23, 2005

The Ghibli Museum

I had a day off from work today, so I spent it at the Ghibli Museum. I did not mention this as I did not want festering poison-filled posts of jealousy knocking on my journal in the days previous to my travels. So, anyway, I took the train to Tokyo and from Shinjuku went to Mitaka. It was a relatively easy, cheap trip. Good to know for future Japan Worldcon 2007-goers. I didn't know which line took me too me Mitaka, so I asked a man, who was scared of me for a moment and just said, "No, no, no Mitaka," and so I thanked him and walked back down to the waiting area, saying, "Doushiyo kanaa?" (What'll I do now?) until a felt a tap tap tap on my back and it was the man I'd asked. He came back after me and when I turned around and he said, "Mitaka?" I sort of jumped in surprise and said, "Sumimasen, bikkuri shita!" (Excuse me, I got surprised!) to which he laughed and took me to the right line. I then didn't know where to buy the ticket to Mitaka, but I asked a woman vendor who graciously told me that I didn't buy one here. I road the train there and paid at the end of the line. Yes, I'm making you all wait to hear about Ghibli and how wonderfully I'm understanding Japanese first because this is my blog and if you don't like it, go get your Ghibli elsewhere!

Anyway, I will cut to the chase and say I got on the wrong bus in Mitaka and finally made it to the museum anyway. It's in a park in Mitaka, surrounded by trees and tennis courts and a river flows nearby it. It's quite beautiful there, and quiet. What follows is a pictorial tour of the things I saw at the Ghibli Museum.

Here we are at the front entrance.

Nearby Totoro waits in the ticket booth.

Beneath Totoro are the little black specks whose name I forget from Spirited Away.

Atop the museum is a tower you can climb in. Also a robot is perched up there. I'm not sure which film he's from.

You are not allowed, actually, to take pictures at the Ghibli. So the remaining ones are few, but I managed to snag them anyway. Here are a few stained glass shots of characters from Princess Mononoke.

And here is one of those aliens from one of those Pixar films, I can't remember which one, peeking out from a cracked doorway. I went through hell and highwater to avoid getting caught taking that one, so you better appreciate it!

Down below the cafe is an ornamental well where kids can play with the pump and parents can take pictures of their cute kids playing with the pump.

That is actually all the pics I could get out of Ghibli with. The place is stalked by the nice but no you can't take pictures here police. They speak English too, so you know, I can't play dumb here. Sorry.

To encapsulate what you can't see via Chris Cam: lots and lots of original drawings by Miyazaki and his crew, film stills and plates and books that he's inspired and been inspired by, a ton of way expensive cool things in the gift shop, and little doors to bend over to go to different areas occasionally. There is also the Cat Bus room. I so love the Cat Bus. The only problem with the Cat Bus is that only little tiny children can go on the Cat Bus, which is one humungous teddy bear that you can crawl in and on top of, and it's filled with the black specks to play with. I wanted to go on the Cat Bus too, damn it. We love the Cat Bus.

The Ghibli Museum was quiet and calm even though it was crowded. A sort of manifesto of what this museum would be run like, written by Miyazaki, says that it will be a quiet and calm place we where can all get lost (you guessed it) *together*. He explicitly states that it will not be full of hoopla and flamboyancy. This is very sweet and all, but I am American and also all about the flamboyancy, so I sort of was overcome by all the calmness. I sort of wanted my own little Miyazaki world to play in. I wanted Miyazakiland, but I got a real honest to goodness museum, like it's called. I wanted to ride the Cat Bus damn it.

Still, the museum is beautiful and well worth the trip, if for nothing else you can spend tons of money in the very over-priced cool gift shop.

On my way back to the train station, I walked instead of taking another dubious bus ride to Mitaka hell. It was a strange day. Something was in the air, I couldn't name it. But I felt melancholy and as I walked beside the river I snapped a few pictures of flower blossoms coming out early due to the recent warm sunny days, and also a statue in a statue park that was closed, so I snapped her through the wrought iron gates. There's a certain sort of beauty in Japan that always contains some sort of sadness. I'm not sure how to explain it. But that's how it works. Walking beside the river today, seeing the first blossoms opening, watching a koi as big as my arm slide down the river, I couldn't help but feel strangely both at home and out of place at the same time.

Some blossoms.
More blossoms.
Yet more blossoms.
A tree down by the river.
A stone woman.
A view across the river.

7 Comments:

Blogger Elad said...

great post, Chris. the first time you mentioned the Ghibli Museum, I was like, "what the hell is that? and why do so many Americans care?" then I read your references to Spirited Away and Princess Monokoke above and I was like, "Ahhh.." I want to go too! Fascinating pictures, of creatures hiding and on top of buildings, etc. Seems fun, in a sedate kind of way.

About Japan: everything I know about Japan I've learned from reading Haruki Murakami and watching Lost in Translation, (so don't trust me) but there does seem to be a particular brand of melachonly in the air. despite all the flashing Tokyo lights and giggling Japanese girls (might be a hollywood thing). Point: A lot of bands that touch on sadness have found extreme sucess in Japan, especially Radiohead and Mogwai. I wonder if it has something to do with huge recent history weighing on that little country, World War 2, the bomb, corporate imperialism, etc.?

10:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks, Chris. Love the photos. Now am going to put Japan on my list of places to visit, just for the freakin' museum.

I think the robot is from Castle in the Sky.

JeffV

10:21 AM  
Blogger David Moles said...

The robot also turned up in an episode of Lupin III that Miyazaki directed.

They need a PG-13 version with stuff like the giant bugs and post-apocalyptic ruins from Nausicäa.I don't suppose the photo cops were wearing bowler hats and handlebar mustaches and little round dark glasses like the secret police in Laputa? 'Cause that would have just been way too cool.

10:43 AM  
Blogger sdn said...

i love the fact that it is a quiet museum.

i think the "black specks" are the soot sprites from totoro.

2:26 PM  
Blogger Jason Erik Lundberg said...

Wonderful pics, Chris. Thanks for risking serious bodily injury to get them to us! We all envy the mighty Barzak...

I haven't seen Totoro, but I know the little soot creatures are in Spirited Away.

4:14 PM  
Blogger lisa said...

I think it's twofold: Japan is old, first of all, in a way that America and Canada are not. Then, there's also the sense that its entire cultural tradition is imbued with an acute sense of the transience of life. The flamboyant stuff--Tokyo city lights, for example--are way flamboyant, screaming look at me! for next century, I might be gone! And the subtle quiet stuff feels more deep and more quiet, in contrast.

Or such has been my impression, whenever I have visited.

4:23 PM  
Blogger Christopher Barzak said...

Lisa, I think you're right about the contrasting moods of Japan, the ancient timelessness of certain aspects and the modernize flashiness of places like Tokyo. It's sort of a jostle to my emotions, being the sensitive new age sort of guy that I am, haha, to go back and forth between these two extremes.

Sharyn and Jason, the soot specks are in both Totoro, where they first showed up I think, and then reappeared in Spirited Away in the furnace room scenes.

David, if the nice police wore bowler hats and handlebar mustaches and little dark round glasses, I would have tried to get caught more. That would have been justification for taking pics alone. They did wear cute outfits, but no bowler hats or round dark glasses or mustaches.

Jeff and Elad, glad you want to come to Japan now. Hopefully I'll still be here when you do. Maybe if you come to my area, I can play tour guide.

9:28 PM  

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