Journeys in Japan, Part 5: Tokyo

IMG_0065

I made my first trip to Japan back in June of this year and since then I have been itching to return. It’s such a fascinating and beautiful country and there is SO much to see. I decided my second trip would be to Tokyo, Japan’s capital and largest city, and Kyoto, the historical center of the country. I flew from Busan to Tokyo Narita airport on Air Asia (a budget airline that packs their planes so full you can barely move) and spent the night near the airport. The following morning I took the train into Tokyo city proper.

IMG_0147

Tokyo is the world’s largest city, measured by metropolitan area (Seoul is the second largest). The city seems to never end and it takes several hours just to get across it. My first stop was at one of Tokyo’s quieter districts for a visit to the Ghibli Museum. This museum was designed by Hayao Miyazaki, a famed animator and basically the Walt Disney of Japan. Miyazaki has created my favorite animated movies of all time and I couldn’t make a trip to Tokyo without stopping by the museum.

IMG_0017

The museum architecture is fun and quirky, and there are characters from Ghibli films throughout, including Totoro, the most famous of them all. Inside, the museum contains detailed exhibits celebrating animation and revealing the process behind the creation of Miyazaki’s films. One of the rooms is designed like Miyazaki’s office, with drawings and reference books covering every inch of the walls. There is even a section where you can browse through books of storyboards for some of the films. I felt as if this museum had been designed just for me and I wished I could spend many hours there soaking it all in.

IMG_0021

The entrance to the Ghibli Museum.

IMG_0022

Totoro!

IMG_0032

IMG_0033

IMG_0039

A life-size version of the robot from the Ghibli film “Laputa.”

IMG_0045

IMG_0043

IMG_0047

IMG_0050

This architecture reminded me of Tatooine from Star Wars.

IMG_0059

Look who it is in the ticket booth…Totoro!

Here is a video another visitor was able to take of the museum:

My last stop in the museum was the movie theater where special short films are played. These films are only shown at this museum and are not available elsewhere. I saw a wonderful film called “Looking for a Home,” in which a girl sets out on a journey to look for a new house. Along the way she encounters and befriends many manifestations of the natural world including fish, insects, and a spirit. All the sound effects in the film were done by the human voice but there is no dialogue. The story is conveyed completely through art and sound effects. Sound is also depicted on screen as animated writing. This film was written and directed my Miyazaki himself and it is one of the best animated shorts I have ever seen.

You can see some clips of the film at the beginning of this video:

Unfortunately the time soon came for me to leave the museum. My next stop was Tokyo Skytree, the tallest structure in Japan. The building is 2,080 feet high, making it the tallest tower in the world and the second tallest structure (after the Burj Khalifa in Dubai). From the Skytree observation deck I was able to get a fantastic view of Tokyo, which really seemed like a never-ending city fading into the distance. There was one section on the observation deck where you could stand on a window of glass and look straight down below you, hundreds of feet to the ground. It was quite a surreal experience.

IMG_0062

The view of Tokyo Skytree from the bottom.

IMG_0068

Tokyo from the top.

IMG_0078

The endless city.

IMG_0081

The shadow of Skytree.

IMG_0086

Looking straight down.

After the Skytree, I met up with Shonte, the EPIK teacher from my school, who was also visiting Japan. We went to the Shinjuku district of Tokyo to meet one of Shonte’s friends who is living in Japan. We wondered around the streets of Shinjuku, one of Tokyo’s main nightlife areas and had a good dinner near Shinjuku station. One unexpected part of our night was the fact that we had to walk through the red light district of Shinjuku to get to our hotel. All the “activities” took place well behind closed doors but we were approached by several people advertising the services of various establishments. It was a bit of a shocking experience, especially coming from Korea where such things are never openly advertised.

IMG_0111

The lights of Shinjuku.

IMG_0121

IMG_0127

Walking down the streets of Shinjuku.

IMG_0129

IMG_0133

Enjoying a beer with friends.

IMG_0134

The Japanese beer Kirin.

IMG_0136

Second dinner in Tokyo.

IMG_0145

The tattered remnants of a delicious berry dessert.

With that, my day in Tokyo came to a close. Early the next morning we would take the bullet train down to Kyoto, the historical heart of Japan.

IMG_0146

Morning in Tokyo from the hotel room window.

Advertisements

2 responses to “Journeys in Japan, Part 5: Tokyo

  1. You certainly packed your day in Tokyo. I’m glad your careful planning paid off. It brings great joy to know you’re having such interesting experiences while traveling.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s