The last post has come, and boy, do I have a lot of stuff to tell you. You won’t believe what Komame has been up to all this time. In fact, I wasn’t sure if I believed it when I heard.
The day started off… wet… cold… and M I S E R A B L E.
Not only had Haru almost forgotten the museum tickets she and Kristina ordered almost a month beforehand, but she was late getting to their rendezvous point. While Haru may not be the most punctual person in the world, she tries. Unfortunately, remembering that the tickets were back home about halfway to Tokaichiba station, she had go back for them. It was a pain trudging through the mucky rain on the way there, but it was brutal going all the way back and out again.
Let’s just say that by the time we did meet up with our good friend, we were all a bit low in the spirit and just wanted dry feet and some place warm and cozy to eat lunch. Rainy days tend to do that to people.
So after arriving at Mitaka station about an hour and a half later, we found a little Italian restaurant near the station and set up camp there. After two steaming bowls of spaghetti and a sweet strawberry dolce later, we talked a bit more about what we would see. The girls talked about what their favorite films were and why, but all I wanted to do was to go back to the station and catch the bus!
It’s no Catbus from My Neighbor Totoro (となりのトトロ), but it was still pretty obvious where this one was headed. The bus was crowded, and while the journey there wasn’t too long, I decided to take a nap.
When I did wake up, Haru was rifling through her bag for her umbrella and almost made us late getting out of the bus. Again.
Unfortunately, we couldn’t take photos indoors. But we’ll use some visuals from Google to help you see what we saw.
I’ll tell you a bit about the inside. But don’t worry, I won’t spoil it all for you. It’s something you’d have to see for yourself, especially if you’re a Studio Ghibli fan and know the movies inside out.
Like Kristina and Haru – they got pretty emotional the instant they walked into the first room. It’s not like they were crying or anything, but Haru did have her handkerchief out, just in case. Those two have probably been watching those movies since they were in diapers. They were pretty overcome with nostalgia, particularly when they saw their favorite characters in action.
There was a platform with little figures of Satsu, Mei, the Totoros, etc. The order of repetition for the figures didn’t make much sense at first, but then when someone presses the switch, everything goes dark and suddenly there’s this flashing light. Then inside the case where the platform is, you see the characters’ figures moving. It’s bizarre at first, but once the lights stop, you can see how the platform had been turn around and around like a roulette wheel.
I didn’t get it at first, but Haru explained that it was only an illusion. But somehow, the figures really DID look like they were moving! I swear, and I’m even allowed to swear!
Aside from all the cool little displays inside, the rest of the museum is built like a cozy house – just like something out of their movies. There’s this really cool windy, wrought iron staircase that’s sort of like a bird cage if you look at it from afar.
And there are all these wooden bridges and stained class windows. On those stained glass windows are Ghibli characters.
We even saw Chihiro and dragon-Haku on the colored panels.
There were even secret rooms with tiny doorways. We got lost once or twice and stumbled into the bathrooms. If there was ever a bathroom where you felt like something magical would pop up… maybe see No-Face rise out of a toilet or flowers to start growing under your feet… it was there.
Those bathrooms were a work of art.
Of course, there’s the Catbus. However, this one’s only for little kids. The museum got itself a bigger one though, where adults could sit inside and enjoy the scenic windows of Saitama’s farmlands in the summer time. All we needed was a plate of chilled watermelon, iced green tea, and yukata to wear.
And we can’t forget about the theater room where a Ghibli short was playing. The day we went, there was a showing of Ghibli’s short film, Water Spider Monmon (水グモもんもん). It’s very cute, even for the arachnophobic. It’s about a water spider who falls for a water strider. While the water strider is scared of him at first, she eventually learns to accept him and become his friend.
It’s amazing how a 15 minute film can make the warm and fuzzies grow all over you.
Next up are photos Haru took outdoors. Having been all enchanted and warm inside the building, the instant we stepped out, we were met with the cold and wet unpleasantness all over again. However, it was still pretty cool.
There was a real water pump out back, just like the one Satsu and Mei used.
And Haru got to meet her… knight in shiny armor. Despite being rain drenched, the girl wanted to throw her arms around it. Anyway, it’s that giant Laputan robot from Castle in the Sky (天空の城ラピュタ).
Walking around the museum grounds was like walking around in an alternate dimension. You just never know what’s watching you behind your back…
All that wandering around made us tired, so we went and got some food. A hot dog for Kristina, and two milk-flavored ice cream cones for the both of them. But I was not feeling hungry, and chose to mull quietly to myself.
Our days were numbered here in Japan, and I still couldn’t find Komame anywhere. I looked everywhere we went, even as I helped Haru with these blog posts. But nothing… I knew my kitty was gone.
Seeing my long face, Kristina offered me her cone, but even then, I turned it down. Milk was Komame’s favorite flavor.
That was when Haru started messing with my wig, knowing it was the best way to annoy me/get my attention.
I was going to tell her to leave me alone when I realized she was holding Komame out to me!
“Where did you find him?!”
Haru looked bemused as she put Komame in my lap.
“Well, where to start?” she asked.
So she told me how she had known I was upset since the day I lost him when we went to Kamakura. She’d also known why because she was the one typing my blog posts for me. I guess I feel sheepish now – I thought she was ditzy all around, but I really should have given her more credit.
I remembered that day in Kamakura. I wouldn’t tell her about it all semester, because I had wanted to find him myself. She entrusted him to me, so it was my responsibility to make sure he was safe. But when he got lost, I couldn’t bear to tell her and ask for help.
“Remember the bus we took here?” she began, “Well, I couldn’t take my eyes off this cat shadow. I thought it looked familiar.”
So that was when she caught Komame almost sneaking off the bus. Luckily, she managed to catch him. He had been trying to get off at the wrong stop anyway.
When she asked him why he would run away and worry us like that, Komame told her he hadn’t meant to. He was just tired of being a simple house cat and had bigger dreams to fulfill. He’d been searching for Studio Ghibli all this time to get a job. He wanted to be their new mascot!
“So why didn’t you leave a note?” Haru interrogated sternly.
Komame said he didn’t have fingers. He did have a point…
Either way, Haru gave my little friend another lecture about running away regardless of what he wanted to do. I also knew she didn’t want to mention it, but aside from the obvious Totoro merchandise, Studio Ghibli already had a mascot. He was also a snarky black house cat, except his name was Jiji.
Now that I knew, I couldn’t help but feel badly for my friend. I hadn’t meant to be ignorant of his dreams… I was just so caught up with my own. You know, being a world explorer-journalist and all.
Haru wasn’t done explaining.
“I’d known Komame was missing all semester since you used to take him everywhere with you. But I wanted you to tell me on your own.”
I was puzzled. “Why?”
“This is the Studio Ghibli museum,” she grinned, gesturing all around, “Think about what most of their films have in common.”
I thought hard, but couldn’t think of a thing. There was lots of magic and lots of characters.
The characters would make lots of friends…
And with their friends’ help, they would solve their problems, and…
“Sorry I didn’t tell you from the beginning, Haru,” I said quietly, “But thank you for bringing him back to me.”
Haru just smiled and told me not to worry about it because she’s always watching over me. She was just happy I learned more about friendship and what it means to be a friend.
“You grew up a little,” she told me. And I knew she wasn’t talking about my height.
“Yeah, but I’ve got some ways to go.”
Hugging Komame to myself, I wondered what my next adventure may be. But whatever it will be, I’m just glad I’ve got my friends with me now – and I can’t wait to meet those I haven’t met yet.
May all of you out there find good friends to keep, and visit as many corners of the world as you can!
Ps. To see what other mischief I get up to on Haru’s country-hopping trips, go check out her personal blog: Sincerely, Nobody. Catcha later!