When I was living in Kathmadu 20 years ago (yow!) this summer, I found this awesomely makeshift ferris wheel in a nearby theme park. A teenager would stand in the middle, and walk from one bar to the next, giving passengers a slow, staggered ride.
Much more recently in southern Laos, down on the island Don Khon, I stumbled across a close cousin: the makeshift merry-go-round or carousel. I think there was a generator giving it a little power, but the operator had to push it around for it to keep any momentum. For context, this is an island where rooms cost one dollar a night, there’s electricity for only a few hours a day, and the closest email terminal was an hour away.
Beijing’s filled with hidden secrets. Behind all those highrise tower blocks and overpasses, there is awesomeness to be found. And so it was that we heard rumors of a decrepit half-built theme park, somewhere way out west. The rumors came from a Chinese film student, who’d heard them from a friend, who’d heard them from another friend. No-one knew where on a map they were. “Just go to the Yuquanlu subway stop,” said Bing, “and walk south. That’s where it is! Ask a passerby.”
We did just that. And two hours later, we were still walking and asking passerby. The problem wasn’t that no-one had heard of it… everyone local seemed to know what we were talking about, but everyone local pointed us in a different direction. Two blocks in one direction. Twenty minutes in another. Half an hour walking along a highway. Finally we got wise, and paid a stranger to drive us around the neighborhood. And, in a moment of enlightenment, through a gap in the buildings, we saw what we were looking for: The Romance Park of the Heart.
This is what it looks like from the roadside (at least last year, it did. The last time we happened by, it was all being torn down.)
King Rama IX, the King of Thailand, is groovy. I haven’t read the ugly tell-all bio yet, but based on pictures alone, this is a man I can adore. Some oldies, first: But this next picture, his newest, which ran as the above-the-fold cover photo for every Thai newspaper on the first of January this year, is just about my favorite. I mean, how cool is this guy?
To be honest, I came to Tokyo for only three reasons. Each had been percolating in my mind, independently, for years. Each seemed to be something I needed to do. Each of these demanded a pilgrimage. And each of these would be difficult.
I first read about The Ghibli Museum in a New Yorker profile on Hayao Miyazaki, one of my favorite filmmakers. A legend in Japan, he’s created a number of gorgeous, meditative animated masterpieces — Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, and Ponyo are my three favorites. They’re slow, weird, dark, and scary. Most of all, they’re films about awe. Awe for the protagonists, and for the audience as well. The Ghibli Museum is his own tribute to himself.
Like any good pilgrimage, it wasn’t an easy journey. Tickets could only be bought, in advance, from Japanese-language ATMs in Lawson’s Convenience Stores. It took an hour to find a Lawson’s. And then thirty minutes to work out how to buy a ticket. Then another hour to get to the suburb.
I needed a break. I needed sustenance. I needed some kobe beef. Continue reading “Hayao Miyazaki’s Breathtakingly Awesome Ghibli Museum, Tokyo”