Ghibli Museum and Kichijoji

Studio Ghibli’s movies never fail to instill a pining for Japan. They rank amongst my favourite movies, especially Spirited Away, and I always listen to them in the original Japanese.

Yet we had never visited the Ghibli Museum. Mainly due to the difficulties in getting tickets as a foreigner.

Fortunately, you can now buy the tickets online. I set my alarm and joined the queue in March to get tickets for an April entry.

Finally, success!

So off we go!

Thankfully, there are no cold fermented squids on my breakfast plate today. Afterwards, we hunt for extra pairs of glasses. Not only could B get a pair made up in 20 minutes, they were about half the price of in Australia.

We catch the Chuo Line from Akihabara to Kichijoji, eat a lunch of udon in Sanuki noodles chain. Then a short bus ride past Inoshira Park to the museum.

We arrive too early for entry, but there are still cherry blossoms in bloom, so we enjoy a little hanami while we still can.

The queue for entry into the Ghibli Museum is long. The museum is designed as a three storey fantasy house, with stained glass windows displaying scenes from Miyazaki’s animated movies. No photos are allowed in the interior, ensuring that our focus is on the art inside, not our screens.

The Beginning of Movement features stroboscopic and other effects to mechanically display the impression of motion. A 20 minute original movie then screens in the small cinema, a delightful piece about a water spider, merging both science and emotion in a gorgeous wordless animation.

There are other rooms displaying sketches and artworks from Ghibli movies and a series of very messy rooms full of inspirational books, object and art making tools representing the generation of ideas and concepts for movies.

The Tri Hawks room has a variety of children’s and picture books that you can buy. I was very tempted by a gorgeous children’s book about a train, and did buy a book about Spirited Away.

We could buy, and probably did, way too much from the Mamma Aiuto shop of Ghibli inspired art and objects.

On top of the building is a pretty garden and a Laputian robot statue, an outdoor area for a few photos.

We spend over two hours in the museum. Even if you weren’t familiar with Studio Ghibli’s works, it would be impossible not to enjoy the amazing art and fantastic design of the museum.

Rather than catch the bus back, we decide to walk through the very green Inoshira Park, which sits around the source of the Kanda River, one of Tokyo’s original water supplies.

It is a lovely place, with glowing green maples, a red shrine and bridges across the water, where you can see people paddling in swan boats.

The street leading back to Kichijoji is lined with quirky shops and cafes. Alex and B share in a pancake and bubble tea, then buy lots of stickers and a couple of t-shirts at B-Side.

There is more conventional shopping to be done at Marui (OIOI) opposite the station, until our feet are aching from standing for so long.

I like Kichijoji. It lacks the glamour of Akihabara or Shinjuku, is more for local residents and has enough grime to think there are stories to be told.

There are plenty of eateries, including alleyways of tiny Izakaya, and covered arcades. We treat ourselves to an all-you-can-eat, cook-your-own dinner of shabu-shabu, boiling the meat and veges in the bubbling pot of broth, dipping them in sauces. There’s ice cream and waffles at the end. It’s a lot, but so was the day’s exercise.

Some more browsing in the Atre shopping centre under the railway tracks and a reminder of all the beautiful things for sale. But it is closing for the night and time for us to go back to the hotel.

I always feel a sense of sadness as the lights turn off. Japan, Tokyo especially, feels like a 24 hour place, where you might stay out late to catch the spirits of the night, where anybody could be Chihiro trapped in a spirit world.

Late last night the news reported on a magnitude six earthquake of Shikoku. It would have been felt in the next city we are staying in. Hopefully the aftershocks aren’t too strong.

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