Monday, July 13, 2009

Ghibli Musuem, Mitaka

Finally a good night's sleep. I was up for maybe an hour, but that's no biggie. I'm very much enjoying Japan. The beds are so comfortable that the knot that I've had under my left scapula nearly every day for years seems completely healed. Service is fabulous everywhere. I watched in awe as a car was welcomed into a station by a bowing attendant, who then carefully washed each window as he filled the tank. But I digress, so back to what we're doing on our trip.

To try and make Andrea feel better about the food, we headed for B &B New York Style Bagels for breakfast. I had the Green Tea and White Chocolate bagel with cream cheese. Andrea said that if you don't think of it as a bagel, "just clear the concept of bagel from your mind," and just accept it on it's own terms then it is fine. After breakfast we shopped in a little food shop, buying dried fruit and lots of different kinds of rice crackers.

Then we head for the studio Ghibli museum. The place was amazingly well done. The architecture was fabulous and detailed: wood, stained glass with figures from their movies, colorful murals and frescoes, large airy rooms, endless detail, thousands of objects on display, each clearly thought out carefully. The elevator was straight out of Howl's Moving Castle. The kids, already Miyazaki fans, loved it. Photographs were not allowed, but I snuck a few.

After Ghibli we ate at the Mitaka station and headed back to the hotel for a well deserved rest. Once refreshed, we headed out again for a walk in harajuku. Metropolitan Tokyo has 36 million inhabitants and based on the crowding I am sure that at least 80% of them decided to take a walk in Harajuku this evening. We walked down takeshita dori - the center of Japan's otaku culture. So much young, hip, aching to be cool in one place, with each denizen a center of his or her own universe, it's a wonder it doesn't collapse under it's own weight into a black hole.

To warm the kids' hearts we visited Kidie Land: eight large floors of toys. I expected it to be stocked similarly to a toys R us and was pleasantly surprised at how much it was a real Japanese experience. Sure there were some Legos and the Transformers were just like the ones in a U. S. toy store, but most of the toys were genuine Japan. Much of it was stuff American kids (and adults) just wouldn't get. My particular favorite -- edamame (edible soy beans served in their pods) toys including keychains, stuffed edamame, towels, and something that was solar powered but neither Andrea nor I could figure out what it actually did.

We ate dinner at a kaiten-zushi restaurant: sushi is placed on conveyor belts and sent around to all of the tables. You pick the sushi off as it comes by. Different priced sushi is placed on different colored plates. At the end of the meal the staff counts plates to calculate your bill. The sushi chefs work in the middle and take special orders. They got a kick out of the gaijin (foreign) kid loudly ordering "more octopus, hold the wasabi, for my brother please" in his unaccented Japanese.

We escaped for under $40 and went off for crepes - there seem to be almost as many crepe shops here as there are French Patisseries, though IMNSHO Creperie De Hampstead is in no danger of losing it's position as the best in the world. Finally we took the express back to Shinjuku, which Andrea found out is the busiest train station in the world, and walked the two blocks back to the hotel.

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