Day 5 in Japan: Ghibli Museum, Yoyogi Park, and Shibuya

Alright, we got some time to add details to the pictures for today — read on! 🙂

We started off with a tasty breakfast at a little cafe/bar just a block from our hotel — we devoured toast with egg, a pizza-like dish, and several pastries.

We then headed for the Studio Ghibli Museum, which is in far Western Tokyo, in Mitaka. This was the furthest out of Tokyo we’ve been yet. It was the first non-weekday morning we spent on the subway, so we weren’t packed like sardines with men in suits, but instead there were few people out early, and those who were were much relaxed. To the museum from the Mitaka station it was a pretty walk, with a nice stream/greenbelt and a casual neighborhood. Studio Ghibli is a major Japanese animation studio co-founded by the director Hayao Miyazaki — it has created such movie classics as “Spirited Away” and “Howl’s Moving Castle.” In Japan they’re apparently more well-known for “My Neighbor Totoro” and “Kiki’s Delivery Service.”
Anyway, we got to the museum about 11AM and were quite surprised to see few people around (they opened at 10AM), but we got in and started wandering around the quiet museum. We unfortunately couldn’t take many pictures due to copyright infringement, but we snuck some in anyway. Basically the museum is in a 3-story building with few directions/reason to the arrangement of the exhibit, but each exhibit is interesting — one large room was devoted to showing how animation historically developed and functions, another few rooms were arranged to look like Miyazaki’s personal study, showing his inspiration for his creative works and the tools of the trade. There were a few rooms with several sketches from the different movies, showing the progression from an idea to the finished product, and flip-motion machines.
The day we came also happened to be the grand opening of a new exhibit, the biggest one in the museum yet — two rooms devoted to the latest Ghibli movie, “Laputa: Castle in the Sky“) (I’m in a picture standing next to it) and we also got to watch a 20-minute short animation that has not been released (and probably never will be in the US). We also got some original Ghibli film frames for free with entrance to the museum.
Draw-backs of the museum — though we had a great time and felt it was definitely worth our while, we feel there’s definitely areas of improvement. First, everything was in Japanese. Everything. Also, it was a bit smaller than we imagined, but hopefully it’ll grow with time/donations/visitors, and maybe gain some subtitles along the way. Amazingly, it’s not for a lack of interest that it doesn’t grow — we had to purchase our tickets months in advance and even though it was rather empty when we arrived, only an hour later we looked out to find a huge line of people waiting to get in (they only admit a certain number of people into the museum at a time to prevent congestion, apparently). Maybe they just want to keep it small. Thirdly, the gift shops were quite limited in their selections — I couldn’t find a single thing from my favorite movie (“Howl’s Moving Castle”), which I guess wasn’t a big hit in Japan. We’ve noticed this with other attraction-attached gift shops in Japan — if the same shop were in the US, you’d expect a lot more stuff they could convince you to waste money on, but for some reason this isn’t the cast in Japan. But, we bought a few fun souvenirs anyway.

Anyway, we left the museum and headed back for central Tokyo. Along the way we saw a little shop (possibly selling more Ghibli merchandise than the Ghibli-museum gift shop!) with an owl and hawk displayed out front — they advertised that they breed and sell these birds!

We headed for the Shibuya district for some Saturday afternoon people-watching. We went to the Yoyogi park (in Shibuya/Harajuku), which we went to before, but this time it was packed with people. Of particular note, there was a really good throat singer, several cute dogs (Dachshunds are pretty popular), and some people in anime costumes (specifically Power Rangers) — we actually came to the park to see people in costume (following guidebooks), but really didn’t see any except this one small group.

We then headed down to the Shibuya shopping district and looked and shops and were amazed by the Saturday night affluent teenage crowds. We got some tasty dinner and headed home. Along the way, we saw some homeless people (though we’d seen this before) and took some pictures of one homeless person’s home — the homeless are rather ignored in Tokyo (I’m not sure they know what to do with them), but they do definitely exist. Some have created quite elaborated places to live by very busy roads.


2 Responses to “Day 5 in Japan: Ghibli Museum, Yoyogi Park, and Shibuya”

[…] Day 5 in Japan: Ghibli Museum, Yoyogi Park, and Shibuya […]

Paradoxdruid’s Rants » Blog Archive » The Great Japan Honeymoon Summary Mega-Post - June 5th, 2009 at 10:36 pm

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