Two Film museums in Japan

Two film museums in Japan.

Studio Ghibli Museum

Juzo Itami Museum

As one of the most popular attractions in Japan, tickets are very hard to get hold of. You can only get them in advance. You are given a time slot. And that’s it. Bow, I have no issue with popular places and I understand perhaps the need to make a reservation.

The first big downside is you must enter a queue before you can even enter. So imagine arriving at 4pm, waiting for your poreciuos slot, and then finding you have another ten minutes before you can go inside. Then your ticket must be verified with your name, and it might cause problems if you are not the same person as the one who booked it.

I t looked like there were people who hadn’t left from the previous showing. Why on earth do you give people a particular time slot if they aren’t going to have the museum to themselves?

When we went inside we were told not to take photos of anything in the museum. This didn’t bother me and I can understand why they ban them. Now I’ve been to a lot of famous museums in my time and I m used to being told what I can and can’t do.

But this has to be the most overly monitored museum I have ever entered. Although there’s nothing particularly fragile on display, there are staff at every turn, ready to admonish you for not taking your shoes off in the right place, or for not putting them on again properly.

I thought that calling it a museum is not truly accurate. Most museums offer some explanation of their subject and follow a logical theme. This is really just a theme park, with one or two museum-like areas. There is very little information and only one or two exhibits. One of the most disappointing experiences was the short film shown in the cinema. Although we had to queue for ten minutes (valuable time which could have been spent actually looking at things) there was no idea of what we were waiting to watch. By the way, these ‘films’ are not shown anywhere else. I’m all for giving customers a unique experience, but I can’t imagine why they would only show a film in a museum if, oh, wait, it’s not going to be any good then, is it? iNDEED, Those expecting to see some kind of lost masterpiece will be bitterly disappointed.

I’m not sure if the short film was even by Ghibli, so poor was the animation.

Next to the cinema is a room containing carousels of some of the famous Ghibli films which light up when they are spun. It’s titled how a film is born. Fair enough, but aren’t most of the Ghibli films taken from existing ideas, such as children’s books? So why not show how the book’s were developed into the movies?

There are several staircases leading to the second and third floors. After failing to get any thing from the short film (which wasn’t short enough), I left, eager to see what was so exicting for people to make a special visit for. A room upstairs contains books and type writers. It’s charming but I can’t see the link with Ghibli. Are these items belonging to the famous directors Hiyazaki and Takahata? We don’t know, because there aren’t any captions to tell us. At this point I was feeling frustrated and a little fed up. It was a lovely day and I was thinking of skipping the museum for a walk on the park. But there was finally something worth looking at on the third floor. Titled food and film, it contained actual storyboards from Laputa, Spirited Away, and Princess Monoke, showing frames of characters eating food. It was the only part of the museum containing any real substance.

The museum also feel somewhat dumbed down. Yes, Ghibli make films for families, but so what? I don’t consider the films themselves childish. For example, the explanation of menstruation in Only Yesterday, or the effects of war in Grave of the Fireflies. The museum doesn’t even mention the 1993 title Ocean Waves, despite it being some people’s favourite Ghibli movie.

There are two shops, one which was so crowded I couldn’t go in to. I have heard that there wasn;t much to buy and that the manga shop has better merch. But I didn’t go to buy things. I wanted to learn more about Ghibli, but the museum failed on this front. There were far too many people for such a small space. Tourists crowded together, families with crying children who looked as though they were bored, and yet again, too many staff who seemed to interrupt anyone from enjoying things too much.


Finding the Ghibli museum a little bit of a turnoff, I had low expectations for other museums. But I found a second museum that in some ways I liked more.

For starters, this one had some things in it and contained a stronger theme. The name Juzo Itami might not have the same meaning for foreign fans as Ghibli but he was one of the first directors to really make a name for Asian cinema internationally (at least after Kurosawa).

His most famous film is easily Tampopo. It has some of the most fabulous scenes of characters eating and is perhaps best known for an incredible sex scene involving various food items.

The museum can easily be seen in one hour. Easily, because there are few people attending. There aren’t many exhibits in English but as it’s all visual, this won’t be a problem. Starting with a video of his wife Nobuko introducing the museum, there are exhibits of some funny sketches the young director made. Helping to give a sense of who he was as a person, the museum has old family photographs.

There is a café where you can enjoy tea and try a cake popular with the direcrtor himself. These were really overpriced but at least they could be reasonably associated with the films. As opposed to anything at the Ghibli museum, which I couldn’t try anyway due to the lack of time.





Juzo Itami museum

Studio Ghibli museum




Getting disillusioned with South Korea

How long did it for you to become disillusioned with South Korea?

For me, the moment came when I attended my company dinner in March. They got us to come to a big wedding hall venue near Somyeon. We were told to arrive at 5:30 but had to sit around for hours while they kept rehearsing some speeches. When I looked at the table layout, I saw that they had put all of the English speaking tables in the equivalent of Siberia, the worst part of the room and the furthest point from the main action. It was also impossible to see the stage properly without turning your head at an awkward.

The speeches were all in Korean, they couldn’t be bothered to translate them. and then we came to the dinner, we found that there was no alcohol. I mean, the idea that you can have a company dinner without drinking is just unimaginable. But the worst part about it was that we all knew that we had been denied real inclusion to the event because we weren’t Korean.

That’s the problem. South Korea is great if you’re Korean, they haven’t figured out how to make it accessible to foreigners.

Like last year when it was Chuseok my co-worker asked me what I was doing. Even though I only arrived a week before, I was supposed to have a plan worked out. No-one thought that maybe as a foreigner it might be difficult to make a plan to do something. No-one though to invite me to hang out and experience this part of Korean holidays with them. Nobody thinks like that.

The crazy thing is, when I see TV shows with Koreans falling over themselves to make foreigners feel welcome when they visit Seoul, and I think about the reality of the situation, where they can barely smile at you.

People are constantly telling me to visit this or that tourist location in Busan. It gets tiresome after a while. I don’t doubt their good intentions but most of the places people mention to me are either far too crowded, or impossible to find, or simply not worth visiting in the first place.

I chose to come to Busan because of the closeness to Japan (perhaps not the best reason), and because, when I visited last year it seemed friendlier than Seoul.  But guess what? It’s not actually any friendlier. And the cost of flying to Japan is actually really expensive. So what can I do? I thought about the beaches. But I live far away from all of them, and they’re only open some of the time.

There are mountains, but I’m not crazy about them. What I do most weekends, is go for a swim, have lunch. At the most, I might hope that I can meet some interesting people at the weekly foreigners’ Korean meet-up. What I’m saying I guess, is I thought that there would be more to my time here. I really did. I guess I should think carefully, really carefully, the next time I decide on such a crazy move to another country.

Hochi Bochi – Restaurant review

Hochi Bochi restaurant

Sometimes restaurants deliver in some unexpected ways and I react in different ways to how I imagined I would.

Like when I went to Hochi Bochi restaurant in Chiba recently.

I was lured in by the varied Okonimiyaki on offer restaurant. The restaurant has a very unique atmosphere With low level tables where we sat on cushions in front of a polished steel grill,  which was where the okonomiyaki were cooked. Monje yakki was raw vegetables (tuna, cabbage and sweetcorn) which we combined with the batter to  make our very own okonomiyaki.

To my delight the staff were nearly all female, with many of them young students. I started to focus more on them than on the food. They were wearing red bandanas with  t-shirts with what looked like the restaurant logo.

I went back a second time the following evening. The restaurant has a great atmosphere where staff call out each order as they go back to the kitchen. In traditional Japanese style the servers greet each customer loudly and this happened on both occasions when I went there with my girlfriend.


Photo of Ayume, my girlfriend Mihi and me. I got so sidetracked by the female staff that my interest was moved away from the food and onto other appetites.

The atmosphere was warm and very inviting. The smoke rising from the grill greeted us as we entered, and the interior was so warm and cosy that we didn’t want to leave.

Ayume served us on both occasions and she was an absolute delight. Watching her sit down to scrub one of the grills in her bare feet was an experience I won’t forget in a long time.

She posed for photos, laughing as she did so. She works there every night from seven. I’d like to go back in a few months time to find out if she and any of the other cute girls are still there.

Restaurant information: Hochi Bochi, Chiba.