Monday, January 18, 2010

Japan/SoKor Day 4: Miyazaki Museum, Akihabara, Shibuya at night

December 14, 2009
Japan Trip Day 4: Miyazaki Museum, Akihabara, Shibuya at night

Today was yet another AMAZING day in Tokyo. I'm really glad I decided to spend a few days here, there is SO much to do in Tokyo. I started off the morning early, taking the subway from my hostel in Kuramae over to Mitaka Station, about 45 minutes West of Tokyo. There I met my friend Tatsuya, legendary A&M classmate of my buddies from Pixar, and currently living in Canada! Tatsuya is here in Japan for the Siggraph Asia conference I'll be going to next week, and also to stay with his family - but he graciously offered to show me around his awesome country for a few days!! I was so excited to meet up with Tatsuya and we were both very excited for a day of adventure, starting off at the Hayao Miyazaki museum in Mitaka.

I left at about 8:30am to head to Mitaka, and this was a Monday morning, so I saw my first weekday rush hour on the subways in Japan. It was incredibly packed, but I saw Japanese efficiency and organization at it's best. I saw a few of the "white glove people", employees of the train station whose job it is to stuff people into the train, I saw people just squeezing into any open spot on the train and stuffing the train cars to the max. There was so much body heat on the train cars from all the people that I noticed mist on the train car windows as they pulled up to the station. Never expected that, totally crazy! But with the busy craziness, it was all calm and very professional. Even though there were SO many people there, everything still ran perfectly on time, on schedule, people lined up in order, took their turn... it was all a very impressive thumbs up for how awesome Japanese culture and people are. In nearly any other country, I bet a train station as busy as the one I was in this morning would have been an absolute mess. In Japan, it runs like clockwork. (This is starting to become a trend here) :)

I met Tatsuya at Mitaka Stn., and then we walked to the Studio Ghibli Museum (pronounced Studio Ghi-bur-i in Japanese). For those who don't know, Studio Ghibli is widely recognized as one of the best animation studios in Japan. They made "Spirited Away", "Princess Mononoke", and my favourite, "My Neighbour Totoro." The head of their studio is Hayao Miyazaki, who is good friends with John Lasseter from Pixar. So cool. Anyway, maaaaaan it was... A M A Z I N G. It started with a very imaginative building on the outside, and inside it was even more fantastic. There was a cool artistic "Evolution of Animation" exhibit, including some funny reel running with an animation of evolution and frogs racing turtles in a race, and finally turning into humans, it was funny. There was a really cool set of paintings and sculptures, including one of a "Miyazaki Pig" - a pig in the form of the pig characters in the movie "Spirited Away", but with a grey beard and glasses so it looked like Miyazaki. So funny.

Upstairs there was an explanation of the latest film, "Ponyo" (which I can't wait to see!) It talked about the painstaking effort to make Ponyo - 200,000 individual drawings, i.e. 200,000 individual works of art! Also upstairs was, a CATBUS!!!!!!!!! Cat Bus (or, "Neko Basu") is, quite literally, a cat bus. He is from the movie "My Neighbour Totoro" and is totally awesome and hilarious. He flies around in the air or runs on telephone wires, and the museum made a huge replica of the cat bus for kids to jump on and play inside and throw the "soot characters" around. Very funny!! Outside was a beautiful roof garden with the robot from "Castle in the Sky." Inside, the store was SO COOL and I bought a hilarious plush Mei character (small girl from Totoro) wearing a cat bus suit and hat?!! It was so weird and funny, and I love it.

After that we went to see a short film in the theatre there, called "Mei and the Kitten bus"!!! This was a short based on the cat bus from Totoro, and there was a tiny cat bus that was just big enough to fit Mei in it, and she fed it some caramels which the kitten bus loved. He flew her around the countryside, and met up with a bunch of cat trainliners and "other cat transportation vehicles" and they met up with Totoro before the kitten bus flew Mei home. It was so cute and funny and the kids in the audience just LOVED it when Totoro showed up and his theme music played. It was such an interesting museum and you could get right into it - there were animation cranks to spin that would show you flipping pages of animation in motion. So cool. Also lots of original artwork, and nothing behind glass or velvet rope. It was so accessible and open, I loved it.

Miyazaki's website for the museum is hilarious, and I love his vision of the museum (see

This is the Kind of Museum I Want to Make!

A museum that is interesting and which relaxes the soul
A museum where much can be discovered
A museum based on a clear and consistent philosophy
A museum where those seeking enjoyment can enjoy, those seeking to ponder can ponder, and those seeking to feel can feel
A museum that makes you feel more enriched when you leave than when you entered!

To make such a museum, the building must be...
Put together as if it were a film
Not arrogant, magnificent, flamboyant, or suffocating
Quality space where people can feel at home, especially when it's not crowded
A building that has a warm feel and touch
A building where the breeze and sunlight can freely flow through

The museum must be run in such a way so that...
Small children are treated as if they were grown-ups
The handicapped are accommodated as much as possible
The staff can be confident and proud of their work
Visitors are not controlled with predetermined courses and fixed directions
It is suffused with ideas and new challenges so that the exhibits do not get dusty or old, and that investments are made to realize that goal

The displays will be...
Not only for the benefit of people who are already fans of Studio Ghibli
Not a procession of artwork from past Ghibli films as if it were "a museum of the past"
A place where visitors can enjoy by just looking, can understand the artists' spirits, and can gain new insights into animation
Original works and pictures will be made to be exhibited at the museum
A project room and an exhibit room will be made, showing movement and life (Original short films will be produced to released in the museum!)
Ghibli's past films will be probed for understanding at a deeper level

The cafe will be...
An important place for relaxation and enjoyment
A place that doesn't underestimate the difficulties of running a museum cafe
A good cafe with a style all its own where running a cafe is taken seriously and done right

The museum shop will be...
Well-prepared and well-presented for the sake of the visitors and running the museum
Not a bargain shop that attaches importance only to the amount of sales
A shop that continues to strive to be a better shop
Where original items made only for the museum are found

The museum's relation to the park is...
Not just about caring for the plants and surrounding greenery but also planning for how things can improve ten years into the future
Seeking a way of being and running the museum so that the surrounding park will become even lusher and better, which will in turn make the museum better as well!

This is what I expect the museum to be, and therefore I will find a way to do it

This is the kind of museum I don't want to make!
A pretentious museum
An arrogant museum
A museum that treats its contents as if they were more important than people
A museum that displays uninteresting works as if they were significant

Ghibli Museum, Mitaka
Executive Director
Hayao Miyazaki

...and that's why Miyazaki is awesome. :)

From there we headed back to Tokyo, and went to Shibuya to validate my JR Rail Pass ("Raii-o Pah-su") and then lunch in Shinjuku. We ate at a nice little lunch place, and had a great conversation about Japanese culture and how surprised I was that you're not allowed to tip anywhere, but really it's because Japanese culture believes that "good service" and "how much money you pay" are two separate ideas. Good service should be standard, no matter what. Very interesting! (I told Tatsuya I was very impressed with his country and their ideals) :) Also it was fun to discuss Japanese fashion, I have noticed a lot of crazy hair and clothing, and Tatsuya said hair and clothes are a nice way for people to achieve individuality - "since most people have brown eyes, they don't have an option to dress in clothes that match their eye colour, they must achieve individuality another way." So eye-opening and fun to talk to someone who actually grew up in Japan.

And then, off to Akihabara!! This is the "Electric Town" - the famous district with a bazillion electronics and computer stores a minute. Everything was 6 floors! The Sega Arcade was cool, sortof 1/2 arcade, 1/2 amusement park. There were lots of those "claw" games, and I tried hard to get a plush pig that was hilarious looking. There were girls in maid costumes handing out flyers (see photos below). Then we went to Yodobashi Camera Akiba - like Fry's Electronics, on crack. It was SO cool. They had USB 3.0 (who knew that existed yet?!), Blu-Ray burners, Touch Screen LCD, a small notebook computer with a full-sized, fold-out keyboard... wow. I got a nice Mango Ice Cream with Rice Pudding/Rice Balls, which rocked. Then we looked at a Stereo 3D Point-and-Shoot camera, which was totally insane!!!

We then headed back to Shibuya and walked on the "Starbucks" Shibuya Crossing walkway at night, it was really busy and a pretty cool area to be in. We then walked to the nightclub/love hotel district and to a restaurant that one of Tatsuya's friends had recommend... and it became one of the crazy stories that I will be able to tell about Japan. :)

It was called "Alcatraz E.R.", a totally insane restaurant which is All-you-can-eat/drink for 2 hours. We tried beer in a test tube, shochu with Mango and Peach and Litchi-Orange (very good!) They had weird names for everything: "New York" Pasta, "Landmine Pizza", and the CRAZIEST DRINKS EVER. (See the images below, must be seen to be believed) :) The plastic mannequin heads we saw earlier in Akiba were being used at the restaurant as gross cup holders for specialty drinks!! haha, so nuts. But in all the craziness and silliness of a strange themed restaurant like this... it was still SO Japanese. There were rules on the wall about not overeating/over-ordering and thus wasting food (or they would reserve the right to start charging you more) and not to take photos of the waitresses in their nurse costumes. Haha, so funny. The male waiters were also dressed up, in doctor outfits! The bill came in a prescription envelope, and the food came in metal trays. One of the funniest parts of it was that when you wanted to order more food or drinks, you bang on the metal jail door, and then then come ask you what more you'd like to order. So funny. Also, there was scary music outside, but 80's hair metal rock inside (Journey, Bon Jovi, etc.) Such a SUPER strange and weird place,and so much fun to go to such an unusual place with Tatsuya and laugh about it. I'm also glad this wasn't my first day in Japan so I didn't think all of Japan was like this! "Don't worry, I think it's insane too", Tatsuya said!

Then I said bye to Tatsuya for the evening and headed back to my hostel. I got a Hot Lemonade from a vending machine (soooo goooood) and chatted a bunch with some English tourists who were in my hostel. It was SO hot on the subways today, and I was sweating a fair bit, I always had to take off my sweatshirt or jacket when on the subway. I asked Tatsuya if there were lots of sweaty businessmen, and how in the world people could travel to work in a business suit during rush hour and not show up to work totally sweaty. From what I can see so far, I think Japanese people just don't sweat much... probably because they are very thin and healthy eaters :)

Hayao Miyazaki's Studio Ghibli Museum in Mitaka, Japan!!!

Awesome robot from "Castle in the Sky"

Pensive robot

Cool staircase up to the roof garden

A sneaky shot of the "Catbus"

Here's a waaaayy better photo of the catbus from someone else's blog, that I found online.

I am SO excited to be there

Look at the huge Totoro in the window!!!!!!

Hanging around Akihabara, the "nerd's paradise!" (Electric Town)

Cat5 cables, anyone?

Under-car lighting

There were tons of these girls dressed up on the street, handing out fliers for "maid cafes" (where you get food served to you by people wearing these clothes - haha, Japan is crazy)

Tatsuya and I try on our own costumes

I like this photo. Lots of bikers zooming around in Tokyo.

Random plastic heads

Blu-Ray burnable discs. Siccccck.


"Wall-E Toys" - actually, these might have been legit

Nothing in Japan is complete without wearable cat-related paraphernalia

Ads for the new Final Fantasy game looked like the sickest CG ever

Final Fantasy "Juice"?!

Look at that hair and goatee sim!!

Running on a chicken

Funny drum arcade game

The cell phones are very tall here - to accommodate the Japanese character set, and because everyone always has their phone open and are texting on it

Big screen cell phone

Solar Powered Cell Phone

Cool claw machine at an arcade

Awkward figurines


At Yodobashi Camera in Akiba - more RAM than I've ever seen before

Absurdly sick STEREO 3D POINT-AND-SHOOT CAMERA by Fuji!! This was INSANE. It came with a 3D picture frame too!

Was like a 9-floor Best Buy

Got a tasty mango/rice ball ice cream dessert

So, apparently... there is a USB 3.0. What?!!!!!!!! And it's 5Gbps (like a Shinkansen high speed train, apparently)! Japan is awesome.

Pixar posters in Japanese

Shibuya Crossing at night

Shibuya 109 building at night

Outside of Alcatraz E.R. restaurant

Scary sign for the restaurant

Tatsuya laughing at our "booth"


Hilarious menu

"Land Mine Pizza", and other silly takes on pub food

...and then there was the "specialty drink menu". We laughed for like an hour at how ridiculous this was. A "syringe" drink, drinks in baby bottles, drinks in those plastic heads we saw earlier in Akihabara... and... well, the last drink on the bottom right, made of a banana and ice cream and served in a beaker class. Hahaha. Holy moly, Japan is insane.

Edamame in a hospital dish

"Landmine Pizza" and fried chicken in a chamber pot

Some warning sign saying not to harass the waitresses

Our receipt came in a prescription envelope

The "doctors and nurses"

How to get inside, you press the button and the door opened

Close-up of the crazy menu

Shibuya was awesome!!

1 comment:

Lisa & Derek said...

Love the photos of the Alcatraz cafe - so cool! Looks awesome Mike!