Friday, July 06, 2007

Kyoto's Surreal Nightscape

Kyoto at night feels straight out of Miyazaki's Spirited Away where you could swear there are gods coming out to frolick and get some teppenyaki or a sento bath.

There's a skinny, long alley-way called Pochonko where the short buildings gang up on you from the sides and the signs appear to float, inviting you in to miniature pubs, restaurants, and "massage parlors." Like in Tokyo, establishments are perfectly happy to be up on the 4th floor or higher, enticing litttle nooks reachable only by stairs. Enticing, certainly, but with few English characters to guide me, I just plowed forward through the glowing squares.

Occasionally I would see signs with English characters (How can you resist a pretty place with alchohol with mushrooms for company?):

One extremely rainy night, me and my new umbrella (probably made in China, but I'm assuming it speaks Japanese) ventured out in search of a small late-night Gyoza dumplings place. Naturally I took a wrong turn somewhere and it took far longer than it was supposed to but eventually found it:

Once inside, all I had to do was utter one word to the Japanese-only folks there. "Gyoza!" "Hai!" they said. The menu had only a list of things to drink (beer). At this place, they come in lots of 10 (although I'd say they're about half-size). I ordered 30. Mmmm.

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posted by Brian at 1:55 PM 0 comments links to this post

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Tokyo: Studio Ghibli

My primary reason for going to Tokyo, other than to see the damage from 40 years of Godzilla rampages, was to see the Studio Ghibli museum. Studio Ghibli is the company home of the works of master animator, Hirao Miyazaki. Indeed, his most famous works are portrayed here in exhibits, most obviously My Neighbor Totoro and Castle in the Sky. I probably should have disobeyed all the "Please don't photograph" signs, but it's actually a rather difficult museum to shoot. Lots of fun hidden passageways, stained glass windows, spiral staircases, atriums, patios, grottos, rooms filled with artwork samples & classic literature recreating the sort Miyazaki would have worked in, a giant soft "cat bus" for kids to jump on... Photos of the inside would not do it justice.

When you arrive via Studio Ghibli bus from the Mataka train station & hand in your ticket voucher, they give you a ticket which is actually 3 animation film frames from a Studio Ghibli film. Neat! Use this ticket to watch the film screening, which in my case was a new episode of Totoro. Brilliant!

Here's the unassuming main gate (Look closely, you can see Totoro and his friends):

One of the many caged spiral staircases. This one is the only way up to see the giant robot from Castle in the Sky:

I almost left the museum prematurely looking for this guy. From the photos, it seemed like he'd be out in the park surrounding the museum. But no -- he's part of the rooftop garden! Luckily, the museum guard took pity on me and let me back in for photos. Here he is in a rare moment alone:

And here he is with me, to show scale and my enthusiasm for having made it to one of the meccas of Geekdom:

If you intend to go, make certain you get your ticket before you leave for Japan! There's no way in otherwise. If you live in the United States, you can buy them here for a specific date.

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posted by Brian at 5:04 AM 0 comments links to this post