10 Dec 2014
‘Hey!’ Exclaimed David cocking his head to one side and pointing at nothing in particular. I recognised his listening face. ‘This is me!’ We were having breakfast in the restaurant on the 41st floor. It took me a second to recognise that the (beautiful) music playing was one of his piano pieces.
‘Wow,’ I giggled so proud of my husband.
‘I wrote this when I was 24’ he said. I remember him writing that album 20 years ago. We wondered how it made it’s way onto the play list here. We stared at each other; what a surreal moment.
Everything is alien in Tokyo. At Shinjuku Station, we stood still in a sea of commuters staring up at the platform information, feeling lost but determined. This was our first time navigating the local train system and it was impossible to work out by ourselves, so we started asking people: at Information; Ticket Sales; and fellow commuters. Soon enough we found ourselves on a train bound for the Ghibli Museum. It’s the first time in my life that I feel conspicuous as a foreigner.
From Mitaka Station we decided to forego the bus and walk 15 mins through the neighborhood to the museum. We prefer walking as a way to get to know a place and the route looked straightforward. We peeked over fences, into gardens, and looked down interesting side streets. Yellow trees lined the street on one side and an overgrown stream on the other.
‘Imagine how much power this city must need.’ I said looking up at the mass of power cables. They’re everywhere, and are strangely familiar from anime films.
The Studio Ghibli Museum is as fantastical and magical as their films. We had entered another world. Getting a ticket was in itself an adventure. Months ago, back in Australia, we bought a purchase order which arrived in the post Stamped in Sydney. We had to present this valuable piece of paper along with our passports at the gate. Once allowed inside we were given our tickets which are actual pieces of film used in cinemas.
The building was as whimsical as any of the Ghibli films settings and reminded be of Gaudi’s architecture.
From the entrance a dark timber stair leads down to the central atrium.
‘It’s like the Bathhouse in Spirited Away’ David said looking up at the void, stairs, bridges and balconies. Out of scale doorways, child sized openings, a cramped caged spiral stair, this playful place is designed to explore.
Starting on the ground floor we entered a darkened room filled with models behind doors like an Advent Calendar, beautiful three dimensional paintings like a back-lite stage set models of surreal worlds. My personal favourite was a live stop-motion animation. It consisted of a series of clay figures on a wheel that rotated quickly under a strobe light creating the effect of moving figures. It slowed down and the lights came up to reveal the detail of the clay figures. Amazing.
On the first floor a series of rooms called “Where a Film is Born” which look like the animators a have just stepped out of the room. It’s a wonderfully romanticised image of film making. The walls are covered in original sketches, paintings, overlays. You can flip through Scrapbooks of reference images. The rooms are cluttered with furniture, models, inspiration, paints and drawing materials, colour swatches, plants, snacks. It’s a treat to explore and we had to wander through these rooms a couple of times to soak in the details. Oh to be a full time artist. I longed to have a full time studio set up at home.
‘I wish we had room for an art studio!’ I moaned to Dave
‘There must be away…’ He said thinking.
‘Yes: to buy a bigger place! Let’s buy next door…’ Ah, will our scheming never cease?
Later we found an awesome kids room, a big furry cat/bus creature took up most of the room and little kids squealed with laughter as they climbed in and over it. It made me giggle watching them. My young nephews, Fox and Banjo, would love it.
Photography was forbidden inside. I have found a blogger who has sourced interior images: Shardsofblue. (All interior shots are borrowed from this post)
This room lead to a terrace with another spiral stair, this one covered in vines, leading to the roof garden. Up here we came face to face with a guardian robot from Castle in the Sky.
‘Ooh I want one of these!’ I said picturing him in our garden.
Back at Shinjuku Station we hunted down a shushi train place recommended in the Lonely Planet. It took some detective work but we did eventually find it underground near the station. We were shown to a couple of stools overlooking the main kitchen. At first we were confused because although the restaurant was almost full, the conveyor belt was practically empty. We spotted menus and noticed people making requests directly to the chefs, who made up the plates and handed them directly to the customers.
At first the menu scared me a little. With lots of…um… unusual items: raw squid tentacles; fish innards; raw skate wings; fermented soya beans, for example. So being brave we ordered a combination of familiar and unfamiliar dishes. Actually sushi in Sydney is just as good as this.
We explored the back alleys on route to the hotel and discovered brightly lite neon arcades crammed with camera and technology stores, mingled with eateries like a curry house specialising in Katsu Curry, my favorite. Vowing to return another day to eat here we continued back up to our room in the sky.
Later that night we watched a favourite film: Lost in Translation. It’s set in our hotel, actually it’s the reason David booked this hotel. It was interesting to watch it here and know where each scene was set. Funnily enough the last scene in the film is set in the streets that we walked through this afternoon.