If You Want To View Paradise
Hayao Miyazaki might as well be Willy Wonka for all the footage people actually see of the inside of the Studio Ghibli Museum. It really is a hassle trying to visit this gem of a tourist spot. I had to make reservations through JTB in New York City in August, exactly three months in advance from my scheduled visit date. For those who reserve a ticket in Japan, you have to do so one month in advance at Lawson’s. I received a voucher and was essentially told, “No voucher? No Ghibli.” Fair enough. Upon presenting my passport as proof of identity, I heard the words no amateur photographer wishes to hear toting their shiny new DSLR toys: “No cameras.”
Miyazaki beseeches us to take home all experience of the museum with fondness in our hearts and no photos in hand. “The Ghibli Museum is a portal to a storybook world. As the main character in a story, we ask that you experience the Museum space with your own eyes and senses, instead of through a camera’s viewfinder.” So yea. We are expected to summon our wonderful recalling skills when we are old, senile, and probably not even remotely near Japan let alone the Studio Ghibli Museum to remember this wonderful place. You’re a crook, Miyazaki-san. You’re a cheat and a swindler! That’s what you are! How could you do something like this, build up a little boy’s (girl’s) hopes and then smash all his (her) dreams to pieces? You’re an inhuman monster!
Three years ago when I visited Japan I wasn’t so concerned; I had a cheapy little disposable and wasn’t expecting to get good pictures anyhow. But I came prepared this time. I had full gear! But alas, no cameras. At least not on the inside of the museum. The outside is fair game! (╬ Ò Д Ó)
A World of Pure Imagination
My all time favorite Studio Ghibli film is Spirited Away. Disney is magical. The wise words of General Shang inspire me everyday to be a man with all the strength of a raging fire. But in my personal opinion, the mermaid Ariel could only wish she was a part of Ghibli’s world. There wasn’t enough adventure for me in Disney princess movies. Look at Pixar too, and even today, it’s still a man’s world in the cartoon industry (albeit, a little man’s world). All of our daring heroes are boys boys boys. Boy car (Cars), boy fish (Finding Nemo), boy toy (Toy Story haha (* >ω<)). Testosterone up the wahoo. Only the past couple of years has seen Pixar deciding to become Brave enough to venture into the strong, female protagonist role. Spirited Away was my first glimpse into a world of animation beyond the princesses whose strengths were always overshadowed by their male counterparts.
You can imagine my excitement in visiting a building that features Ghibli’s masterpieces. Unlike Wonka’s illustrious Chocolate Factory, the Ghibli Museum is all for discovery by losing one’s self in the museum. “A peculiar building, carefully designed exhibits, original short animated films that can only be seen here, a cozy cafe… You will discover many interesting things in the Museum. There are not any set routes that you must follow. You are the one to discover your own way. Those who can lose their way and fully enjoy this space are welcomed at the Museum.”
I behaved and put the camera away, mostly because I didn’t relish the idea of having oompa loompas cart me off as they sang about the wannabe journalist chick who couldn’t help but get some kind of scoop. Even while taking pictures on the outside, I had this suspicion that Miyazaki would deny me all future access to the museum shouting, “You lose! Good day sir!” Without the English mind you …
It’s worth putting down the lens just to experience this place, though. As a New York City dweller, I’m pretty confident in my appraisal when I say, nowhere – and I mean nowhere – have I seen an art museum like the Studio Ghibli Museum. The outside is reminiscent of the architecture from various Ghibli films; vernacular and always co-existing with nature. The building looked as though it were slowly being eaten alive by greenery.
We’ll Begin With A Spin
The inside is a tribute to many of Studio Ghibli’s works as well as a history of the technological development of animation. The bottom floor features a carousel with figurines in different positions. It’s called a zoetrope though it’s different from your traditional model in that it is 3D. Initially, when the carousel spins, you just see a whole bunch of spinning mini My Neighbor Totoro characters. Not very impressive. That is until the strobe lights come on. Then the party begins. The figurines blend into an animation before your very eyes. Pixar studio created a similar carousel featuring characters from Toy Story.The technical term is the stroboscopic effect. We’ve since then decided that strobe lights are much better put to use flashing above our heads as we fist pump to electronica in clubs. A worthy investment.
The second floor also had a museum store that was crowded beyond belief, so I didn’t spend much time there. There’s an illustrator’s room as well, cluttered with early character designs and scene sketches. I was surprised to note that Kiki from Kiki’s Delivery Service was originally a long haired brunette as opposed to the red bow sporting, short-haired young witch we see on screen. The evolution of the characters from their first to their final stages was amazing to witness. The adjacent room has books and posters of the storyboards strewn about as though it were Miyazaki’s own work room. Step-by-step, visitors can view the behind the scenes process of the great Ghibli works.
I wandered up to the roof and found a life-sized statue of the robot guard featured in the movie Laputa: Castle in the Sky. Outside. Fair game. So I shot like crazy!
Want To Change the World
The final leg of my mysterious journey ended in the museum’s Saturn Theatre. I watched a film titled Hoshi o Katta Hi （星をかった日) or The Day I Harvested a Star based on an original story by the artist Naohisa Inoue. Inoue contributes his fantastic world of Iblard to this piece directed by Miyazaki. The 15 minute animated short is one of many that shows exclusively in the Studio Ghibli Museum.
I’m definitely down for another visit to this wonderful place. Check out a Studio Ghibli movie if you haven’t. Tell me of your favorites if you have! If you need a rec, lemme know. As always, I’m here. In Japan. Not going anywhere. For a bit. Seriously. You can leave a comment now.
I SAID GOOD DAY!