September 17th, 2007


Tokyo--Studio Ghibli

First, I just found the Kyoto map. The little temple off the Philosopher's Path we loved so much (wait until I get home and download all my photos to Flickr, and you see the picture of the stone urn fountain with the leaf on the lip guiding a stream of water into the basin below) is called the Hoenin.

Second, today was [Bad username: <lj-cut text=]. Although our wonderful Japan Rail passes ran out yesterday, we had plenty of Y on the Suica cards Japan Rail gave us when we bought tickets on the train from Narita to Yokohama. And we took pains to ask directions to the proper line at the hotel, so we didn't have to wander through the mighty vastness of Shinjuku Station, stopping strangers like the Ancient Mariner and asking piteously for the Yamanote Line. It was, as promised on the tickets, 20 minutes from Shinjuku to Mitaka, which is not so much a district of Tokyo as a near, semi-urban attachment, like Somerville or Yonkers or Squirrel Hill. It looked more like Chigasaki than any other place we'd been, with small streets and shops fanning out from the train station and a supermarket with fresh produce and the makings of dinner rather than pre-made. We managed to find some bento anyway, and regaled ourselves on salmon eggs on rice with veggies and pickles and tuna roll before getting on the bus for the Studio Ghibli Museum.

Today was a national holiday in Japan, National Respect for the Elderly Day--apparently a big shopping day because everybody's off from school and work. There were still a lot more little kids at the museum than school-age children, but there were also a lot of young couples on dates and young women with their mothers. It's not a big place, but there's a lot to see, beautifully arranged, so that even when it's fairly crowded, it's not horrible.

My favorite part was the room called "The Animator's Inspriation." The walls were covered with colored pencil studies of characters and backgrounds and details, along with pages of the sources he'd been looking at when he came up with them. A bright red single-person fighter (very much like the one in Porco Rosso) hung over a pegboard hung with tools, each one outlined in black so you could tell where they went. A pterodactyl hung over a roll-top desk covered with boxes of colored pencils and stacks of paper. Every bookcase was filled with art books of many lands, and every corner was filled with wonderful little things: antique dolls, models, stuff clearly picked up around the world by someone with a strong governing aesthetic. Everything was different from the things around it, but everything lived together in perfect harmony.

On the desk chair was a cushion from France, a reproduction of a medieval tapestry with a fox in a field of flowers. We have one exactly like it on our living room sofa. And over the window was hung a small varnished wooden propellor with scarlet-painted tips, just exactly like the one that hung over my father's work bench where he built model airplanes of his own design. I felt that he'd like Myazaki a lot. Perhaps that's why I like him so much. There's something about him--particularly his obsession with flight--that really reminds me of my father.

There was a lot of art: backgrounds from Totoro and Kiki and Spirited Away; an ink drawing of Myazaki as the spider guy drawing with one hand, flipping drawings with another, drinking tea, handing finished work to an impatient pig; half-painted cells from Nausicca and Howl. There was an exhibition on a Russian children's book about Goldilocks, with a graduated set of chairs to sit on and bowls to eat from, and the three bears themselves, looking put out, by the exit. There was a kinetoscope and a series of exhibits demonstrating how all the parts went together to make an animated film. And there was an animated short about a little girl and a lost puppy, shown in the beautifully painted theatre. There was also a cafe, where we had some green tea and banana ice cream (it was hellishly hot and bright again today), and a shop, where we did not buy cells from our favorite films because what would we do with them? And how could we possibly decide?

We did buy other stuff. But the real cool Ghibli loot is not at the museum store at all, but in the Moe Shops, which are found in various department stores and arcades. The lady at the counter was kind enough to tell us where we could find one, and write it down in Japanese. Which was a good thing, since most of the people we ended up asking directions from couldn't speak English. That was a trek. Back to Shinjuku, onto our friendly familiar Yamanote Line, then to Ikebukuro, where we quested intrepidly through incredibly crowded and utterly unfamiliar streets until we found a place that not only provided a much-needed, but also a hand-drawn map of where we needed to go. Fortified by protein and data, we found the Moe Shop and acquired--well, a lot of stuff that we hope will make many of our friends very happy.">

And now I'm sitting on the bed in our hotel room, looking at an embarrassing number of little bags and boxes, all of which have to fit somehow into a suitcase. I don't expect I'll have time to deal with all of it tomorrow, so I'd better get cracking on it tonight. Good thing we're going home in two days, I guess. And I really do have lots of work waiting for me at home. But I so don't want to leave.