Day 3: Tokyo – Museum Ghibli & Inokashira

NOTE: THIS POST CONTAINS SOME MUSEUM GHIBLI SPOILERS. BEAR IN MIND IF VISITING.

Museum Ghibli was on our “must do” list. It is the museum of the film legends, Studio Ghibli. The company are the acclaimed producer of animated movies. Active since 1985, they produced the only foreign language film to win an Academy Award for “Best Animated Feature” for “Spirited Away” in 2003.

They are as admired as Pixar (who coincidentally are huge Ghibli fans). Their films work on multiple levels, appealing to both children and adults alike, in a similar way to “Wall-E” and “Up”. There is an element of child-like fun but there are also deeper themes of love and friendship, life and death. The movies feature a mixture of fantasy characters and adults, with oversized animals and abstract inanimate objects taking on life forms. They are a huge favourite in our house, entertaining without insulting your intelligence.

The museum though is very much a Japanese attraction, aimed at the home market. Tickets are limited internationally to a hundred or so every day. That’s for the whole world. They go on sale months in advance and sell out in minutes. We missed out and it was only via some nifty work by our hotel concierge did we make it. A premium was paid but boy, was it worth it.

We were collected at Mitaka Station in the west of Tokyo by the cat bus. Our daughter was disappointed that the bus wasn’t the representation of the cat that you see in the header photo from “My Neighbour Totoro” but hey, you can’t have everything.

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The Harvesters

Wonderful film strip tickets are given out for the movie theatre which shows a selection of Ghibli shorts. We got “Mr Dough and The Egg Princess” aka “Pandane to Tamago Hime”.  Made by Hayao Miyazaki, it was inspired by Bruegel’s “The Harvesters”.

It is the story of a tiny egg-girl who is forced to serve the evil boar-like witch Baba Yaga. But after a blob of Dough comes to life, she befriends him and both escape from the witch’s home at a watermill on a cliff and set off to see the world.

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Pandane to Tamago Hime

The theatre is much like the rest of the museum, a melding of all manner of influences. There is a representation of a working studio with books piled around that point to the references that influenced the movies, from Muyfield’s books on the movement of humans and animal to Jane’s aircraft reference books. English romanticism crops up but so also does steampunk. It is an assortment but it truly does work.

I was hugely moved by the museum, soppy lump that I am. To be somewhere that has brought so much pleasure to our family was touching. Transport is a big theme of the movies. I was a big aircraft nut when I was a boy and to see them used so inventively was thrilling. Indeed, one of the studios recent movies was “The Wind Rises” which tells the story of  Jiro Horikoshi, designer of the Mitsubishi A5M fighter aircraft and its successor, the Mitsubishi A6M Zero, used by Japan during World War II. The film didn’t shy away from the horrors of war and the plane’s role in Japan’s kamikaze attacks.

It was all tremendously well done. The museum has a no photos policy for the most part and it is all the better for it. Everything was geared to enjoying the exhibits. The food at the cafe was superb, a Japanese beef and vegetable soup. The gift shop was fantastic and I confess that we went a bit mad.

It was also wonderful to see my daughter’s reaction, much the same way that Disney are pushing their advertising campaign. The effort and cost to obtain the tickets was well worth it.

We walked back via Inokashira Park. It was our first encounter with the cherry blossom viewing and we saw our first picnics of the season.

Sakura Hanami in Inokashira Park

The park was full of locals enjoying a week day out, visiting the zoo, messing about in pedalos, eating toasted marshmallows.

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Marshmallow BBQ
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Swan Pedalo
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Picnics Japanese style

The evening meal was some excellent katsu curry, great fast food at a very affordable price. We ate at CocoCurry, which offers differing heat strengths. I went for 3, which was plenty hot enough. A green salad on the side cut through the heat rather nicely.

We wandered back through the Blade Runner like streets and to bed.

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