Kyou wa, Peter-san wa Doko?

Where's Peter Today?

21st Oct 2004: Day 15-- Tokyo and the Ghibli Museum

As I mentioned in the opening page, one of the main reasons I came to Japan was the film "Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi" or "Spirited Away". The films of animation director Hayao Miyazaki are unique in that they are his films. Most feature animation is the result of a team of writers and so is the product of consensus. When you watch a Miyazaki film, you are watching his film. Miyazaki writes and directs his films, from the planning to the hundreds of storyboard frames to drawing many of the key frames and checking the other key frames and reviewing the in-between animation - he takes great care that every scene is just "so". The result is a film that is his vision. He co-founded Studio Ghibli with another colleague, Isao Takahata, back in the mid-80's and since then the studio has been producing some of the most remarkable films in feature animation.

We visited the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka, a 20 minute train ride out to the West of Tokyo, beyond Shinjuku, to see at first-hand some of their artwork. Studio Ghibli films are so popular in Japan that "Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi" topped the all-time cinema box office records there, beating "Titanic". Tickets for the museum are rationed and you have to apply for them several weeks in advance to gain entry.

Arriving at Mitaka station, there is a special bus that takes visitors to the museum and once inside, you can visit the Saturn theatre to watch one of a number of short films made specially for the museum and not viewable anywhere else. The museum itself was designed by Miyazaki and is run by his son. Displays in the museum draw upon methods of animation and a love of film, as shown by the "Film Goes Round" display that holds a specially designed continuous loop projector that allows you to see the film at various points by either projecting the frames or simply back-lighting them with strobe lights under a magnifying lens.

One display shows how the characters were built up by a multi-stage painting process that gave a truly 3 dimensional quality to the artwork, lacking in most typical Disney fare. Even old films like "Majo no Takkyuubin" ("Kiki's Delivery Service") used over 460 different colours for hand-painting. Films often feature beautiful and highly detailed background art that may only be seen for a couple of seconds in the finished film but add immeasurably to the World that Miyazaki creates for his characters to live in.

On the rooftop garden, a life-sized (if such a thing can exist from an animated film) sculpture of the robot from "Tenkuu no Shiro Rapyuta" ("Laputa - Castle in the Sky") towers over visitors and specially created stained glass adorns the doors and windows. One of the most popular displays though is the library, where visitors can browse through copies of Miyazaki's, Takahata's and other directors' storyboards from all the studio's films.

Another reason for going to the museum is the shop. Here you can buy items relating to the films, some of which are exclusive to the museum. In particular, you can buy framed reproduction cels from the films. These vary in price depending on the film and scene. Cels from later films tend to be cheaper as they are digital prints - the films after "Mononoke Hime" ("Princess Mononoke") were digitally painted from scans of line art. Earlier films, and especially cels from Miyazaki's most enduringly popular film, "Tonari no Totoro" ("My Neighbor Totoro"), are the most expensive as they are hand painted.

That evening we had arranged to meet up with another pen friend of mine, Megumi, and her best friend, Rie (a different one--it's a common name!) They took us to see the city view from the observatory on the 48th floor of a government building in Shinjuku, just behind the parliament house. There is a special entrance and express elevator that goes straight to the public observatory, by-passing all the offices.

After wandering about the town for a while, we went for a great dinner at another office block nearby that has restaurants on it's 50th floor. Some blocks even have malls in them so that the workers need never have to leave!

Jump To:


Prepare For Take-Off

Day 1 -- Tokyo

Day 2 -- Mikawa-Anjo

Day 3 -- Nagoya

Day 4 -- Suzuka F1

Day 5 -- Kyoto

Day 6 -- Kyoto

Day 7-- Himeji Castle

Day 8 -- Kurashiki

Day 9 -- Hiroshima

Day 10 -- Nagasaki

Day 11 -- Nagasaki

Day 12 -- Kagoshima

Day 13 -- Kagoshima

Day 14 -- Tokyo

Day 15 -- Tokyo

Day 16 -- Tokyo

Homeward Bound

View the day's photos

Visit the Nausicaa Web site by clicking above for more information on Studio Ghibli.