Tag Archives: Komame

The Ghibli Dream

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The Ghibli Dream

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…

Oh.

“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!

Rowan

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!

Starstruck at Ebisu

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Starstruck at Ebisu

Ever had one of those moments when you think, “Well geez, this sure ain’t Kansas anymore”?

I think the reality of where she actually is, finally hit Haru hard across the face – in a good way of course. She was just surprised really, but I had to remind her not to leave her jaw behind as she traipsed her way through the Ebisu Garden Place (恵比寿ガーデンプレイス) with her friend, Yuan.

Before I get to that, how about I tell you why we were in Ebisu in the first place. For those who don’t know where it is, it’s close to the middle of Shibuya and close to Roppongi as well. In other words, it’s a pretty famous place around here with museums, stores, restaurants, and gardens around.

In our case, there was a class field trip this past Saturday to the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography. It was a tiny place inside a huge building. But I think the archives were most impressive – behind the librarian’s desk was an automatic double door. And behind those doors, it looked like it would lead into the Matrix. I was almost expecting Neo or Agent Smith, to stride out of there with a rocket launcher in hand.

While we couldn’t take pictures inside, here are some photos of the enormous plaza leading to it. Everything was just so… grand.

But here’s the really fun part – watching Haru and Yuan go goo-goo-eyed as they struggled between melting and exploding at the same time. Here’s a photo taken from my point of view of what got them so excited. It just looked like a stick of rotten swiss cheese, with square holes instead of round ones.

It really didn’t seem like anything to me, other than another monument stuck in the middle of brick desert with random people trudging around. I made my exasperation quite clear, so Yuan decided to break the news to me about why Haru would stand comatose for one moment and then go into a photo-shooting frenzy the next.

“That’s where Tsukushi Makino and Tsukasa Domyouji met for their first date!” Yuan bubbled, as she jabbed her finger towards the stone monument, “That’s where Tsukasa waited hours and hours in the rain for Tsukushi to show up. It’s romantic, don’t you think?”

I guess, I can’t say what I think because I don’t know. I’m just a kid after all! And only after asking more questions, did I realize Yuan and Haru were talking about characters from a famous Japanese drama, and not about real people! But I couldn’t help but wonder why the girl character from Boys Over Flowers, or Hana Yori Dango (花より男子) would think to stand up the guy character in the first place. Didn’t she realize that standing up friends was a bad thing? Then again, I don’t know their whole story.

While Ebisu Garden Place may have been a famous set for a famous drama, luckily, we didn’t spend our entire time standing there, gawking. For instance, we met a sweet old lady walking her dog! He’s in his sixties in dog years, but in human years, he’s nine. Haru thought he had a dashing personality, and Yuan was more than happy to play with him and talk to his friendly owner!

Yuan got hungry so we followed her to Saint Germain Bakery for some tasty pastries. I tried talking Haru into getting something, but she was saving her stomach for dinner. Everything they were selling looked so yummy though!

After that, we went about touring the grounds. It was such a big area! People looked so tiny milling about.

And beyond it was the famous Taillevent-Robuchon restaurant, catering to gourmet food lovers and お金持ち, rich people, or at least anyone who can afford to eat there!

It wasn’t open when we were there, but we still went ahead and looked around. Here’s a photo of Yuan scoping the place out!

It was getting late, and the girls had to hurry back to Minato to meet up with their friends for a dinner Haru planned earlier in the week. But here are some twilit scenes at Ebisu Garden Place. It looks totally different than those earlier photos, huh? The place took on such a completely different feel when day descended into night, it was almost like magic was afoot there.

On the way back to Ebisu Station, we took the Sky Walk route. It was scenic as well as convenient, like most things here in Tokyo.

Not only was it a walkway that spanned several blocks, it was also somewhat of an underground mall – or rather, an “overground” mall.

Here are some photos of a flower shop Yuan and Haru passed.

It was stocked full of expensive, freshly cut flowers; an explosion of color and scents.

There was a very nostalgic air in there for Haru, as it reminded her of a local flower shop near her home back in the States. But this time, the knowledge of being in another country came with an intense feeling of severe homesickness.

On the way back to the Minato area, Yuan and Haru took the wrong train and ended up in Naka-Meguro, when they should have been going in the other direction. But the awesome thing about Tokyo’s transportation system is that it’s fast and intuitive so finding the way again wasn’t so hard.

Finding the way again… Wherever he is, I hope Komame’s finds his way back to me.

We’ll meet again, right?

Rowan

Kamakura Upside Down

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Sunday. Where to begin… So many things happened in Kamakura after all. For instance, Haru ate a Buddha, President Obama visited an ice cream stand, and I… Komame…

KOMAME’S DISAPPEARED!!!

I know I shouldn’t have let him out of my sight, but, but…

How about I just start from the beginning?

So we got off the train at Kamakura Station, and walked on the broad path, Wakamiya Oji, leading up to the famous Tsurugaoka Hachimangu. It’s a big Shinto Shrine or Jinja (神社) in the area that you can’t miss. That’s when I realized Komame was missing!

I couldn’t remember when the last time I saw him was, since I was so excited the night before when Haru told me she was taking me to Kamakura with her friends.

I looked everywhere and couldn’t find him. I didn’t want to ask Haru if she knew, because she gave me Komame when I first came to live with her. Komame was – is my responsibility.

I tried not to show Haru I was upset, since she had been looking forward to the trip since earlier in the week when her friends asked her to join them. So I just watched quietly as they had fun drawing Omikuji (御神籤) or sacred slots.

It’s a Shinto fortune-telling method that’s really popular with visitors. You just buy a chance to draw from the bamboo box for a stick, which you exchange with the Miko (巫女), a shrine priestess, for a corresponding piece of paper with your fortune on it. Then you tie it to the Omikuji post and pray to the resident Kami (神), or resident nature god, to make it come true. If you don’t like it, you can still leave it with the Kami, and pray for it to not come true. You can also make wishes on wooden plaques and leave it there for the Kami to hear any personal wishes you’d like to make.

While Haru was taking pictures, her friend Yuan picked me up and brought her grape lollipop a little too close for comfort. It smelled really good, and was made of hardened grape syrup, glazed over a real grape. While I normally like sweets, I wasn’t in the mood to have anything since Komame was missing. I think that’s when Haru realized I wasn’t feeling well.

The next stop was visiting Kotoku-in temple, an old O-tera (お寺), or Buddhist temple to see Daibutsu-sama, Kamakura’s famous Great Buddha. He’s great, because he’s huge and super old. He’s also great because I felt cheered up seeing Daibutsu-sama’s gentle face. It was as if he was telling me everything would be okay.

And I know I’m short, but it also felt great knowing he dwarfed humans the way humans dwarfed me.

And did you know you could go INTO Daibutsu-sama? As in INSIDE of him. It was dark and crowded, but there was something about being inside that made me feel safe. Did you know he was made in 1252 AD during the Kamakura period? That’s over seven and a half centuries ago! He was cast in 30 separate stages and then slotted together using a very ingenious slotting method. Aside from reinforcing his neck with steel rods, he’s pretty much the same as he was back in the day.

Daibutsu-sama is so well loved that many little kids my age got together and created giant waraji (わらじ) for him to wear. I wish I could’ve helped!

After that visit, Haru and her friends when to a local dango stand to buy dango (団子) which is made of rice flour, related to mochi. It can be either sweet or savory, or both! Yuan bought some, but Toshi, Brittani, and Haru decided they wanted a Daibutsu-san manjyuu, which is basically soft waffle batter poured into a mold with some kind of filling inside. In Haru’s case, she got herself one with custard cream. Her expression was pure bliss as she chomped off Daibutsu-sama’s head.

And as if that weren’t enough, Haru and friends also went to get ice cream. It was a little shop they passed by earlier which caught their attention, because the sign said that President Obama had eaten there before. Yuan bought the ice cream named after Obama, while Haru bought the one that had sweet potato flavored ice cream in it.

We passed by this old red mail box, which seemed really old. It must have been somewhat important if the shop across the street had a miniature of it sitting on the windowsill.

 

Eventually, we meandered our way to Hasedera temple.

Toshi told us that it’s almost near impossible to visit in the spring with all the flowers blooming, because it was known for its Japanese gardens. Despite not seeing the gardens in full bloom, Hasedera is also well known for its seaside view of Kamakura… not to mention its array of cute statues. Their smiles are really contagious.

However, at the end of the day, I was so tired that all I could do was huddle into Haru’s scarf and fall asleep. I never did find Komame even after looking everywhere for him and turning the places we went to upside down. Perhaps he’ll show up one of these days when I least expect it… maybe that’s what Daibutsu-sama was telling me anyway.

Let’s hope,

Rowan