September 18, 2007

After I attended the closing ceremonies at the Worldcon in Yokohama, a group of us, mostly Canadians, Americans, Brits and Aussies, hopped on a bus for Mitaka to visit the Ghibli Museum. The visit was extraordinary, but, like much that involves Studio Ghibli artwork, unphotographable. If you find yourself in Japan, and happen to be in Mitaka, be forewarned that pictures can only be taken of the grounds and the exterior of the building.

I'd rather not give anything away, because part of the fun is discovering the place for oneself. I was with one person who had already been there more than once, and he still had a great time, but I think that first time - well, no one should ruin certain parts for you.

What I will say is that you will get more than your money's worth. If you live in Japan, you must wait to acquire tickets, as the demand is huge. Many of the people I spoke to during my trip were surprised to know that many non-Japanese knew all his films and loved them, too. At least the people at the museum realize this, and with a little preparation, you can acquire your tickets but not have to wait the months that a resident would.

The museum is not huge but packs a lot in. It's surprising how much is still lodged in the space. Perhaps it is due to the size, but this is not the Studio Ghibli Museum, it is mostly the Miyazaki Museum (Hayao mostly, but nods to the latest film by son Goro). I didn't mind until I really stopped and thought about it, but I would not have minded seeing work from other films and I didn't find anything related to Iblard Jikan at the museum or even its gift store. That's not to say the exhibits were not satisfying or that it was solely composed of Miyazaki's art. In fact, a lot of visual information is provided on the process of making animation, including several variations of zoetropes. A large portion of the permanent exhibit is devoted to conceptual art. The Ghibli Museum makes space for foreign art and animation as well. I just thought I might see work from other Ghibli efforts, such as Whisper of the Heart or Pom Poko.

An exhibit of a film Hayao Miyazaki decided not to make, The Three Bears, was currently on display, and featured Russian artwork from children's books, and stills from Yuri Norstein's work. There have been past exhibits on Pixar and Aardman Animations, and during my visit, books and posters for My Love and Azur and Asmar were prominently displayed, both of which have screened or are screening in Japan, but may get lost in the cracks otherwise.

The gift store: Simply put, a Totoro explosion.

A final note: Instead of feeling miserable about the pictures you cannot take, and feeling frustrated when you should be enjoying your visit, buy the guide book when you leave for the year's exhibits for 800 yen (about 8 dollars) at the gift store or the convenience store right across the street. It contains snapshots of the interiors to help preserve your memories.

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