Saturday was one of the days I was most looking forward to, the visit to the Studio Ghibli museum. Noriko and I met Sumi and we got the train to Inokashirakoen, where we walked through the scenic Inokashira Park with its beautiful lakes. The walk through the park was longer than I think any of us had expected but would have still been very enjoyable if it wasn’t for the worry about getting to the museum on time – each ticket, bought months in advance, has a specific entry timeslot. Soon enough, though, we arrived at the gates, greeted by a large Totoro and swapped our paper tickets for special collectable ones made from strips of film. We all stopped for a moment to look at them through the sunlight and try to work out which films they were from.
The Ghibli museum was amazing. Not particularly huge, but it was clearly made with love and is packed with interesting stuff. The building itself is a delight to explore and get lost in, with hidden treasures at every turn, from the stained glass windows to the detail on the sink taps and the huge statue of the robot from Laputa: Castle in the Sky in the rooftop garden. The most memorable exhibits included a remarkable three-dimensional zoetrope where it appears that models of characters from My Neighbour Totoro come to life and a mock-up of the animator’s rather untidy studio, where we were able to flip through storyboards for films such as Spirited Away and Kiki’s Delivery Service. There were also many exibits relating to The Borrower Arrietty, the latest Studio Ghibli film which probably will take a while to arrive in the UK.
We decided to have lunch in the museum café, The Straw Hat Café, which was a very good decision. Fitting the location, the food itself appeared to be so perfect that it must have come from a cartoon. The sandwiches were made from huge, doorstop-like slices of freshly baked bread with mugs of tea that appeared to have come from a giant’s kitchen. I chose to have a slice of cake, which was probably the biggest and one of the most delicious I’d ever had, along with what the menu described as Looking up at a Clear Blue Sky in the Field Cream Soda – even with that description I wasn’t expecting anything as wonderful as a tasty blue drink with a big scoop of icecream.
There was also a cinema screen which rotated through about eight short films (so you’d have to make that many trips to the museum to see them all). Luckily on this day they were showing Mei and the Kittenbus, a mini-sequel to Totoro. Before we left, we had to visit the gift shop, which was as much of an attraction as anything else. Full of toys and merchandise, it was really difficult to reign in my spending, but I still think I bought around half of my gifts there, everything from a fluffy kittenbus to a box of cookies.
After the museum, we met up with Nahoko, Mari and Aki and had dinner in nearby Mikata. We found an American diner, which seemed a pretty good place to get food and drink. Missing my favourite drink from back home, cider, I decided to give apple beer a try and instantly regretted it – it tasted of beer mixed with apple juice, not very nice. Still, it was my choice, and the food was good – with my burger being so huge it had to be served between two slices of toast.
The drinking continued around the corner, in a place that looked like a more modern, smaller version of the Golden Gai, a grid of alleys with various themed bars. We hopped from one to the other at first before staying at a wine bar with a very friendly Bangladeshi waiter who kept bringing more and more bottles to our table. It slowly dawned on us that this was my last night in Japan, so we decided to make the most of it.
But it was soon time for the bar to close – we seemed to be the only ones there for most of the evening. While it was time for Nahoko to head home, the rest of us decided to continue the party at Noriko’s place. We were pleased to have caught the last train before realising that it only went four stops. A few slightly tipsy ladies wanted to argue with the train driver, but eventually it was decided that the five of us would get a cab back.
We stopped off in the supermarket on the way, to stock up on supplies. The rest of the night was a haze of wine, Pringles and lots of fun. I’ll miss this place, and I’ll miss my friends.