Today marked the biggest day for me of the entire trip. First thing in the morning we were heading to the Ghibli Museum and as an animator this was a highly anticipated adventure.
I have seen most of the Studio Ghibli films (my top 3 faves: Kiki’s Delivery Service, Whispers of the Heart and Princess Mononoke) and was eager to see so much work from Japan’s most famous studio.
On the way to the Ghibli Museum we stopped at a well known bakery and grabbed breakfast. I had a couple bite sized cheesecake bites that were absolutely amazing. When we got to our final train stop we started to see signs pointing us to the direction of the museum. The signs were decorated with various characters and Totoros as we got closer to our destination.
The museum was hidden away in a very green park with vines dangling on the walls. From the outside we could see stained glass windows with characters from all of the films. We entered the museum and were instructed that we were not allowed to take pictures inside the museum. Our entry ticket also was a ticket into the theater room where we could see an exclusive animated short. The short was very well done and executed without any voice over for the characters or subtitles for that matter. On of the things I love about animation is the ability to tell a story through body language alone. It was a very cute film and it is only one of several that are screened at various times at the museum.
The first floor of the museum was very satisfying as an animator because it had several displays and exhibits on the various processes of animation and techniques. They had several stop motion exhibits that varying in pictures but also larger displays that used flashing lights to break up the motion blur on actual moving objects to give you a sense of stop motion. They had 3D models of characters all lined up to replicate the various drawings you would see in a characters run cycle for example. There were multi layered cels in deep frames so you could see the various layers of depth in cel animation. I spent most of my time here checking out all of these exhibits. I was proud that the museum spent so many resources on the first floor to show people the process of animation which sometimes gets overlooked, especially in the digital age. This floor would give anyone a greater appreciation of the animation process.
The second floor boasts several exhibits about the animation process at Studio Ghibli. The exhibits spanned the entire second floor and had concept and reference drawings hanging up on all the walls from various films. The first exhibit focused on the content creation of the films and how each got their starting point/concept. The second room had a replicated desk of an animator with reference materials scattered around. I know how that happens 🙂 The other side of the room had a colorists desk set up, with all sorts of brushes and color tubes scattered around for painting on cels.
In a small adjacent room, there were completed storyboards for each of the films and you could page through several binders for several films. One of the final rooms had some compositing and camera exhibits that kids were enjoying quite a bit. One was a crank that would move the background behind a hot air balloon. Kids were surrounding that station waiting for a chance to turn the crank and see the results.
The third floor had a couple non-Studio Ghibli works and a couple gift shops. At one gift shop I picked up a little stuffed Ponyo and the other gift shop I picked up a book about the museum along with pictures and also a book breaking down the film of Princess Mononoke. The fourth floor was the roof which had a couple sculptures, one was the giant robot from Castle in the Sky and the other was of a cube I believe from Castile in the Sky as well. The museum had several doors, stairwells, bridges and areas that made even the most serious person feel like a kid and want to explore the museum more. I fell in love with the museum on the trip.
I was just finishing up my rounds in the museum as we were preparing to head over to Shinjuku and the world’s busiest train station. At Shinjuku we made a small excursion to the Square Enix store to check out their goods. It was a lot of Kingdom Hearts content.
After the Square Enix store we ventured to an arcade by our meeting spot and played an epic 3D shooter arcade game. The game had rumbling seats, air guns and such to give you an immersed feeling. The air guns would blow in your face when a door opened or when a zombie/creature would jump out at you. Pretty awesome experience, we easily dumped in 700 Yen into that game and played a couple levels.
We left the arcade and went to a nearby rooftop beer garden for a last meal with the group before they would fly back to the states the next day. The garden had little grills and trays where we could make our own food with various sauces and such. We were also allowed to drink as much as we wanted, we started to pile up empty glasses and then found out that we had to return empties for full ones and that workers didn’t retrieve empty glasses like here in the states. It was a rather funny cultural difference. We headed back to to the hotel and got some rest for our final day with the group.
*(First and second images are a couple of the Ghibli Museum signs we saw, the third is the robot from Castle in the Sky on the roof and the final image is our grill at the beer garden in Shinjuku).