Friday, July 7, 2017

Tokyo in 40: From Toro to Totoro

The neighborhood of Kichijoji, a western suburb near Tokyo, is known to be a shopping haven for homeware and zakka, and being a self-professed shopaholic for both, I am still puzzled why I have never visited there before. And this time shopping wasn't even my main purpose as I hopped over to this side of town for a museum that I always wanted to go, after my sushi lunch in Tokyo.


I finally made plan to go to the Ghibli Museum, a complex next to a park dedicated to the many wonderful animation works of Hayao Miyazaki and his Studio Ghibli. Not sure whether it's due to the popularity of the museum, but admission is strictly by reservation only and ticket need to be bought in advance for the specific date of your visit. Quite a nuisance, if you ask me, but luckily I could get my ticket through a local agent a few weeks before arriving here, saving me the trouble of scrambling for one.

The museum is located in the township of Mitaka, easily reachable by public bus from either Mitaka or Kichijoji train stations (or by museum shuttle departing from Mitaka) and less than half an hour away from Shibuya or Shinjuku. It's housed inside an European art-deco style structure designed by Hayao Miyazaki himself, as an integrated part of the Inokashira Park, and the interior bore some resemblance to many scenes in those famous movies produced by Studio Ghibli, with bridge across the ceiling, balconies, spiral staircases, and many fun artifacts set up throughout the building.

No photography was allowed in the indoor area of the museum, keeping everything a surprise for new visitors. One side on the ground and first floors of the museum was their permanent exhibition which showcases the creative process of the many movies they produced, along with drawings and illustrations displayed in a mock-up animation studio. On the other side is a mini theater showing different short movies produced specifically for the museum and upstairs was the space dedicated to temporary exhibitions.

At the time of my visit they just started an exhibition about food and meals in the movies – how appropriate was my timing of the visit – and inside they showed numerous sketches and storyboards of the many food-related scenes from the movies and how they were produced. There's also a replica of some of those scenes, including the kitchen from Laputa - Castle in the Sky or the one from My Neighbor Totoro. Even though it’s hard to understand the Japanese captions attached, it’s still fun to look around.

Through the narrow spiral stairway was the rooftop garden, where a gigantic robot soldier (from Laputa – Castle in the Sky) was displayed. That’s what most see from pictures since it’s one of the few areas that allow photography. At the patio below not far away from the museum cafĂ© was the water pump used in Spirited Away. There’s a “real”-sized Cat Bus as in the movie My Neighbor Totoro that was part of the children’s play room. Of course the most popular area of the museum was the museum shop with way too many cute items available on sale, from postcards to some of the limited edition prints or souvenirs.

This is definitely not just a place for kids, but for adults who grew up watching the many memorable movies by Studio Ghibli and wanted to re-live those moments depicted, and got lost in the sea of imaginations and fantasies. This is certainly the part I enjoyed most during my weekend in Tokyo!

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