On the Southern island of Kyushu,Kumamoto is a city in Japan. It’s mostly rural and there are many beautiful sights to visit. Most people who have heard about the city know about the Kumamoto Bear, a mascot created to draw tourists to the region when the Shinkansen opened in 2010.
This loveable character has been seen countless times, thanks to free licensing rights that mean the image can be used as long as it promotes the area, and in fact the bear is the most popular mascot in Japan.
You can buy all kinds of snacks for souvenirs in the shops. As it is for other cities, everything is impressively packaged and the service is first class, as you would expect.
The mountain in Kumamoto is an extinct caldera volcano; it still smokes but does not erupt. It’s perfect for a day of sightseeing!
Considered to be one of three most important castles in Japan. In truth, it looks the same as any castle you will find all over Japan.
Kumamoto is famous for ramen. It’s not as greasy as Hokkaido ramen, and includes sliced garlic and sesame oil.
Fly to Fukuoka, the largest city in the region, and travel by bus or train to Kumamoto.
How the film diverges from the book, whilst keeping some things the same.
Published as part of a short story collection, Drive My Car is one of Murakami’s finest short stories. But it’s not particularly dramatic, strange, or interesting. Nothing would suggest that it would make a particularly cinematic film. But here we are, with the most critically acclaimed Imternational film of the year, and now the winner of Best Foreign Film.
The short story
Taking the title of the short story form a Beatles story, the main character is another Murakami proxy. He’s introduced as a widower, and his wife is mentioned as being someone he was in love with but perhaps thtere were things about him that he never understood. Then there is an actor who had an affair with the wife right up until she died. Finally, the third main character is the driver. These characters appear in the same form in the film, more or less. But the film adds several characters who don’t exist in the book. Instead of the book’s limited dramatis personae environment, the film goes for a more expanisive cast that is closer to the previous works of the firector rather than the Murakami story.
The wife is wonderfully played in the film; a mixture of eroticism, sadness and strength by Reika Kirishima. We see that she loves her husband very much. And we know this before the scene where the main character accidentally finds her making love with another man. Yet the film makes this revelation somehow boring and not as surprising as it should have been; leaving us to wonder if the man had always believed that his partner was unfaithful.
Both book and film make it clear that the main character was waiting for his wife to explain her infidelity, but she dies the same evening. I thought that the film hinted that her death was a suicide, but later we’re told that she had a cerebral heamorrhage. This could have been caused by a blunt object to the head – yet the film never looks at the possibility of her being murdered, or that it could have been a suicide. The absence of the wife is a massive part of the book. Yet the character in the film shows less regret than we would believe possible for one who has lost their partner of twenty years.
The book largely uses conversations between the driver and director to reveal what happened when he struck up a friendship with the actor his wife had an affair with. These are some of the best parts of the story – tense, exciting, and we don’t know where the story will turn next. Yet these conversations aren’t even used in the film. It’s an example of why Murakami has always presented such a challenge to directors adapting his works for the screen. The character’s internal monologues in the first person are what gives the writing its power – but this is difficult to translate to a visual medium.
The actor is presented as a rather timid man who is attractive to the women without having any strong characteristics. He’s more of a threat in the book and his outbreaks of violence are easier to accept, especially as they are grounded in alcoholism.
I can’t say that this film has done a bad job of adapting the story. In some ways it’s very original – it borrows some details from other stories in the same collection and it works. A lot of the stories that the wife tells him come from Scheherazade in the same collection – and Hamaguchi manages to interpolate these within the story of Drive my Car without losing the cohesion of the narrative.
Yet it doesn’t have the mysterious Murakami quality you get from reading the book. What the film does have that the book doesn’t – is a powerful scene where the actor/director is comforted by a Korean-signing actress who tells him to carry on living, it could and should have been the ending. Yet the film ends with the driver now living on Korea but driving Yusuke’s red Saab. It’s an oddly flat ending that really lacks an emotional catharsis that the film had led us to expect. The film has found favour with critics who found something more in the film than I did. It’s said to show another side of Japan, and is even being touted as a tourist advertisement. Yet the film shows very few famous landmarks that we would expect to see. Perhaps this is inevitable from a film that wants to focus on the banal reality at the expanse of any wonder. Yet it’s an oddly cold, uninvolving film, and it’s not been a success in Japan, with people largely ignoring it for bigger homegrown films such as Demonslayer.
The joys of the Asian girl on a working holiday visa in UK
Every year, some 2000 working holiday visas are granted to people aged up to 30 in some of the east Asian countries such as South Korea and Japan. The majority are here for enjoying a break from the often hectic lives they have in their own countries. Some come to learn English. Others might be here for work. The good news is that most are single and up for a good time.
But you need to know a few things so that you can make the most of the situation. A girl I met recently is on a two year working holiday in London. Sakura is in her late twenties, and she is over here to enjoy London. As well as working in the Japan Centre https://www.japancentre.com/en, Sakura also has a second job in a restaurant. Sakura* is as a good an example of the many Japanese and Korean girls who come to London.
They won’t have the best English, so bear that in mind when you come to approach them. And they will be changing jobs, moving around, perhaps doing some studying at the same time. It’s common for most girls to stay with with a ‘host’ family to help them settle in, for the first few months, and quite possibly the length of their stay. So bear that in mind too, because in these situations it’s going to be hard for you to be able turn up at the host family’s house, however much you want to have sex.
It’s good to be realistic, so that you can make things easy for both of you.Let’s say you’re lucky enough to meet a nice girl from Japan and you’re both into each other. You become a couple. Then her 2 years’ are up. You try the long distance relationship and it fails. You could have spent that time getting with all the other girls you ignored when you wanted to be with her exclusively. Sometimes, it works, and a lot of girls who have a working holiday will return, especially if she likes you a lot. But bear in mind that it could go either way.
Another thing you will find is that these women have only a very basic idea of what life in the UK is actually like, because there is not much connection with the UK and their own countries. It’s hard for girls to come here and know how to make money , when the pound is an unfamiliar quantity – also they won’t really know how much money they will need until they actually live here.
Working holiday girls are easy?
Its not as though all girls on a working holiday are sluts, but some are going to be quite open to the idea of sleeping with a foreigner. You may have a good chance if you live in a nice area of London where she’s going to want to spend time in. Notting Hill (because of the film) and Camden (no idea why), are two of the places you are guaranteed to find Asian girls. Don’t go thinking they are going to sleep with you just because you gave them directions to the mall or told them which side of the escalator to go on. They won’t make it that easy for you. Most of the girls on a working holiday are fairly serious, and may only want a relationship, if they even want anything from you at all. And if I’m being honest, I’ve wasted a lot of time taking girls out to the sights of London, when I would have preferred to have taken them to a hotel.
If you’re looking to have sex with a girl on a working holiday, go for it. Although my experience is that quite a few girls from Japan are a bit shy and it will take a long time to warm them up to the idea. Or it could be simply that they don’t find me attractive. If you are a bit awkward at talking to girls cold, you can try some dating services. Japan Cupid https://www.japancupid.com is only worth it if you pay the membership, but you can find one or two Japanese girls who are living abroad. Otherwise, you might be lucky to find a Japanese girl who somehow has decided she is going to find the love of her life on Tinderhttps://www.reddit.com/r/Tinder/comments/ta3t7o/what_is_it_with_japanese_girls_and_photos_from/
So in a nutshell, meeting an Asian girl on a working holiday can be a great opportunity if you are patient and able to deal with them wanting to do stuff you consider boring. But you risk becoming attached to the same girl for too much of your time, and most of the women on a working holiday are quite boring. So there you have it guys. here’s a video on the subject as well.
The Asian ‘girlfriend experience’ in two American movies
If we take a look at depictions of Asian women is some famous American films, we can get an idea of how certain ideas and stereotypes have gained a hold in people’s understanding of Asian women. I want to look at two American films that show relationships between a white man and an Asian woman.
Released in 1992, the film is a full length feature about two slacker types who run their own TV show from their basement. The men are typical of the audience the film was presumably aimed at. Whilst Garth has his own dream woman in the form of a blonde fantasy goddess, it’s Cassandra (Tia Carrere) who is the object of Wayne’s affection. That the actress playing Cassandra Wong is not Chinese but Hawaiian is beside the point – most of the time Hollywood will choose actresses who look only part Asian rather than look for an Asian-born actress who can speak fluent English.
Cassandra is by no means a submissive Asian woman, but it’s interesting to see how her Asian-ness is at times highlighted in the film. For example, she wears a traditional Chinese dress when meeting her father with Wayne. This is a very curious scene since it plays into the fears white men have of dating an Asian woman. Most commonly these relate to feeling inadequate, especially in the eyes of the girl’s family.
In another scene, Cassandra orders Wayne a Chinese takeaway. She’s far from an ‘easy’ woman, in fact she’s not terribly interested in Wayne until he shows that he has the ability to be successful. At the same time, Cassandra is seem to be in every way the perfect girlfriend. It doesn’t hurt that Carerre looks gorgeous in the film. She looks good in every scene, whether it’s the red lace dress she wears performing on TV, the bikini she wears in a dream montage, or the leather outfit for the video shoot. These aren’t the clothes that would normally be worn by a rock singer, even a grunge singer would wear much less revealing outfits. In case we had an idea that Asian women are submissive, the film has Cassandra executing a perfect flying kick to a drunk gig-goer who gets in her way.
The Social Network, 2010
The second example of an Asian woman girlfriend comes from the film that covers the origins of Facebook. Brenda Song plays Christy, a student at Harvard who meets Eduardo Saverin when he is at a speech given by Bill Gates. Although Christy is not the main character in the film, she makes quite an impact. The film has already explicitly mentioned Asian women as being attracted to Jewish guys, “and you don’t need an algorithm to work it out. “They’re not Jewish and they can’t dance,” says Eduardo at a party scene.
If Cassandra is in many ways the ideal Asian girlfriend, Christy is the exact opposite. Firstly, she is shown to be jealous and controlling of Eduardo to the point that she openly accuses him of being unfaithful because he hasn’t changed his relationship status from single on the website he co-created. In another scene, Mark asks Eduardo how his relationship with Christy is. ‘It’s terrible, she’s controlling and incredibly jealous. I’m scared of her.’ In the next scene, Eduardo gives his girlfriend a gift in an attempt to mollify her. Instead, she flies into a rage and then sets the scarf on fire. It’s as if the film is sending out a warning to viewers that they shouldn’t become romantically involved with Asian women, unless it’s to have fast and exciting sex in restaurant wash-rooms.
I draw these as examples because I feel that the cinema is a strong cultural indicator of society. It may not have quite the range that it did, but films are still a global force. What I’m really interested is how films shape and help us to make sense of the world. If you wanted to understand what it’s like to date an Asian woman, you could watch Wayne’s World and it would give you a good indication of what to say, the kind of things to do and just as importantly, the things you shouldn’t do.
I particularly like the way Wayne at some point in the film realizes that he may be losing Cassandra to the smarmy TV executive, so he has to work harder to get her back. In this way, the film is as positive in in it’s summation of how it is to date a sexy Asian woman. It’s mostly fantastic of course – the film shows us exactly why Wayne has such a thing for Cassandra and gives the idea that the most unconventional of men can attract their very own Asian beauty to be their girlfriend.
Sadly, there are other ideas people have about Asian women that aren’t nearly as positive. If you ask some men what they think of Asian women, they might say something along the likes of ‘Asian women are easy‘ – meaning I guess that Asian woman are easy to have sex with ( as long as you are a white male to begin with).
Unfortunately, Asian women have been portrayed as little more than sex objects and certainly no more than thinly sketched love interests for the main character. In most action films where the male visits Asia there will be a minor character who might provide some extra exoticism to the film. You can see this in franchise movies such as ‘Tokyo Drift’, or some of the Bond films set in Asian countries such as ‘Tomorrow Never Dies’ and ‘You Only Live Twice’.
You do wonder why Hollywood has been so reticent when showing interracial relationships. Certainly it’s unusual even now to see films where the couple are of different nationalities. Even as international marriages become so common as to be not worth mentioning, the movies are such a long way from catching up that the movie that is closest to the reality of dating an Asian girl is still good old ‘Wayne’s World’ from 1992.
I stayed in large countryside home with traditional shoji
paper screens. For contrast, I also slept in a one-room studio apartment in a
suburb of Tokyo. Somehow I managed my 20-kilo bag inside Ryo’s place, using his
bed whilst he slept on the floor. All this is to say that while it might not be
common to be invited to people’s houses as a tourist, if you make the effort,
it will happen.
It was when I was on the local train for Imabari that I met an orange farmer who wanted me to visit her farm. At first I was doubtful, but decided it was worth making a small diversion. In fact, it was one of the best experiences of my journey. The house was traditional country style with the sliding doors I had seen in films such as the iconic ‘Love Letter’ and Unimachi Diary. There were so many interesting things about the house. For a start, the rooms were filled with furniture and captivating objects.
There were things everywhere, in a comfortable rather than cluttered way that reflected the eclectic taste of the owner, a slightly eccentric woman who has lived in the house since childhood. It was so spacious and comfortable that I didn’t want to leave. And the oranges which grew on the farm were some of the best that I tasted. It didn’t hurt that the owner had a fridge full of delicacies that she was happy to share.
The hotel industry offers a wide choice. At the bottom are guesthouses, or hostels. Sometimes they were quite adequate, with reasonable facilities such as a wide TV in the living area and decent cooking equipment. On the other hand, some were so dingy, dirty and crowded, I wished I had slept outside. There are simply too many visitors in Japan, many on such a low budget, and the basic hostels aren’t able to cater for them properly. The problem is the differing needs of backpackers who use these places to meet their friends, and businessmen who stay at them when they are on the road. If you’re Japanese tourist, you probably won’t really mix with the other guests for fear of making them feel obligated to you. In fact, that was the most notable difference between Japanese, and travellers from other countries, whether they would mix or not with strangers. It was most pronounced in the communal areas, where Japanese students would bury themselves in their phones, whilst others would be eagerly mixing, sharing food and other things, as well as comparing their experiences.
It was at the breakfast area that things became most awkward.
With up to thirty people wanting to eat at roughly the same time, it was
everything it took everything in their power to feed everyone. With only two
toasters with slots to cook 2 slices at a time, it became rather a long wait
for a piece of toast. Here the conundrum is do you cook 2 slices at once, thereby
hogging the toaster to yourself depriving others of the right to use it, or simply
toast two slices and offer one of them to someone else, then going back when
you have finished it for another slice, because you can’t keep toast hot very
long anyway. I never found a good enough solution. The fairest way would be to
have a toast monitor, someone continually refilling the toaster so that the
toast was always on hand? But then, I observed that some people would adjust
the toaster so that it cooked their bread for longer or shorter, and in my case,
I often got tired of standing in front of the toaster (I don’t know why I felt
I had to do this) so that I sometimes pulled it out early before the toast was
ready. Others just waited, up to two minutes, with their plate in hand. They wasted
a lot of time like that, but seemed to enjoy it. If someone else’s toast popped
up, they left it sticking out of the toaster. That was annoying too, but
perhaps they didn’t want to handle it too much.
Another thing was the choice of jam was limited to
blueberry, strawberry and marmalade. I didn’t want to leave any out so I had to
put a teaspoonful of each jam on my plate. I hardly used much, and I was
surprised the amount others used. It was the cheap bulk jam. The best bread and
jam I had was at the Maharashi temple in Onnomichi. It was there, on arrival,
that I discovered I had lost my passport.
Onnomichi is a small city along the coast not far from Matsuyama. I
didn’t do much there. I had been recommended to visit the Kendama rock café,
despite what it said online; it was stubbornly closed on both Saturdays I
attempted to visit.
Still, the kitchen offered free tea and coffee. It was powdered coffee, but I did drink it anyway. The problem this time was waiting for the water to boil. Kettles in hotels are usually so old that can take nearly 5 minutes to boil. When they are full the problem is far worse, and meant that there was always a line.
I think there have been too many jokes about kettles with
short flexes. Anyway, it’s probably a safety measure anyway. I’m more
disappointed by the lack of bathroom shower gel miniatures. When you are
travelling across the country, these are highly useful. Yet many of the hotels
I stayed in offered some facial cleansers and toners. What I wanted was
shampoo, but this was in the bathroom in large dispensers fixed to the wall. I suppose
they are saving costs. I didn’t take any thing from the fridge; there was
nothing there anyway. Sometimes they gave me an actual key. This was the case of the International in Nagoya. It was mildly
inconvenient. On the other hand, it was nice to be reminded of the past, when
people carried keys to open doors. It made a nice weight in my pocket too. That
hotel had gleaming gold buttons in the lift, more retro touches. There were
newspapers in the lobby for sale and cabinets of ceramics. Perhaps because I
booked late I was on the eighth floor. I wonder if there can be any choice in
floor level when booking?
The hotels offered a level of courtesy that was often superfluous to the hotel’s price. Bowing was common and many times I was given polite assistance to my enquiries. I tried not to be a pest but sometimes I enjoyed walking through the hotel lobby late at night. I wanted to see who was around. Sometimes prostitutes hang around outside hotels, but I couldn’t see any. It was only in the convenience in Nagoya that I met a lady I who I’m sure was a hostess. Just from the way she was dressed and her manner. But you can never guarantee these things.
Not only is the marriage rate among young people falling, the divorce rate is rising. To make things more complicated, the cases of remarriage is on the increase, with people going into second or third marriages, having children again and living with second or third partners, or having children extra-maritally.
What other social trends are on the rise? I saw a greater amount of tattoos on young people this time. And some anti-social behaviour, such as bad language and spitting that was somewhat disappointing to see. Smoking is still accepted in most places, but is carefully controlled in specially designated smoking areas. On the Shinkansen, there are standing capsules with a sliding door to access them. Only in the very expensive green cars is it possible to smoke in your seat. The trains are fast and clean and they connect all the big cities but the luxury might not be as much as you would expect. Most of the tables are no bigger than the trays you have on airline and there is not much room for big cases. Tellingly, the JR pass that allows foreigners the option to use the trains for 7, 14, or 21 days, does not give access to the faster services, conveniently reserving these services for the Japanese almost 100%. When I took the faster service from Osaka to Tokyo, I was clearly the only foreigner on board, while on the far slower stopping service, I had to jostle through backpackers and families with crying babies. The food cart cheerfully pushed through the carriages (I didn’t buy anything – too expensive), whilst most platforms dished out bento boxes. People queued up at the stations to reserve seats, while in the unreserved cars it was often standing room only.
Wherever I went, people seemed to be on the move somewhere, even before the big cherry blossom season. Restaurants were full and the only time I didn’t have to wait was in the fast food burger places and cafes. There are now foreign workers from Vietnam and Nepal in many restaurants. The government is currently making plans for 40,000 temporary foreign workers, never mind what it will do to Japanese society. Even though it wasn’t what I wanted, I underwent the charade of speaking Japanese with them. At the best restaurants, the staff were always 100% Japanese – these were far the best. Not only was the service better, the experience seemed to be that much better for being in Japanese. It’s convenient to be a solo diner as most restaurants offer counter service.
Women go to work dressed in high heels and dresses far more demure than anywhere else I have seen, making the Tokyo metro a perfumed paradise for the voyeur. There are hostess bars in all the big cities, offering services by the hour. There are plenty of opportunities for dating; you just have to look around. In fact, there seemed to be women everywhere just waiting to be approached, ready to be swept away by anyone who dared to try. At night-time things became more sexual, with dozens of girls bars and women standing outside soliciting passers by inside. There is some controversy as to what these venues provide. With prices as high as 5,000 yen, it’s hard to imagine they are just for talking. It may be that the charge covers the cost of drinks, but not sure. On numerous occasions softly spoken elder women who were trying to offer me various services, which I reluctantly declined, however much I wanted to partake, approached me.
The cost of living in Japan is high for Asia, but not exorbitant, you can get around easily for 50 dollars if you eat simply. It was travel and accommodation that put the biggest hole in my budget, and with just a few hundred extra pounds I could have done even better.
Some of the things I did seemed to be overpriced, such as paying to enter castles and gardens (where they would be free in London). It was something I did grudgingly; whilst it was great to be able to access free toilets everywhere. Hotels were reasonable considering the services provided. I made a point of accessing the free breakfast at the Nest Hotel in Matsuyama and it was excellent, but I could only eat half of it. Sometimes the beds in these place were uncomfortably hard, in others they were more luxurious. Probably the most disappointing hotel I stayed in was a branch of Toyoko Inn around Nagoya station. For some reason the hotel chain has become one of the biggest in Japan (there are some in Korea too) for providing reasonable rates and a free breakfast. Unfortunately, almost everything about the hotel was second rate. I found out there were limits of tolerance to my bad habits. I was told that I wasn’t able to have breakfast in my dressing room, despite being the only guest at the time.
I enjoyed Mystays Premier Hotel, a new range of business hotels. The hotel near Narita was extremely comfortable, with a pool and spa. It even had a 24-hour convenience store on the first floor. My budget forced me to stay in several hostels. They were like echo chambers for germs, with nasty coughing and sneezing preventing anyone from ever sleeping properly.
My most Japanese experience was at the site of First Airlines in Ikebukuro. Everything I had heard about the world’s first virtual airline made me convinced that I would love it and it proved to be so. From the entrance where they used ambient airport sounds and used monitors to show where the plane was heading, it was an immersive piece of conceptual theater up there with Punchdrunk. I ‘flew’ to Paris, having been unable to secure some of the other options Helsinki and New York.
Every new place I went had different candy that I saw in the food halls of the department stores. I lost track of most of it. Many were a kind of sweet bean filled bun known as mango that was pressed into a particular shape. In the Island of Miyajima they were maple leaf shaped. Sweets from Hokkaido were made using butter. Nagano offered highly unusual apple rice crackers – the first time I had seen anything like that.
Some of the best food I had was in unlikely places. The cookies from the Aunt Stella shops were superb: buttery and crispy and with some creative flavours, I found branches outside Nagano and Matsuyama stations, the latter is most charming, with waitresses wearing headbands and blue aprons. Really what you find is that every place has a speciality, one thing that they are good at if a shop sells cookies, they aren’t going to be messing around making brownies as well. You can find English bars, or very good attempts at trying to imitate them as much as possible. The idea of being able to drink freely without partaking of food is so radical that many go there just for the novelty of it. There are bars where you only have room to stand. Then there are those bars targeting an exclusive male audience – known as ‘Girls Bar’, they charge a cover fee, and are staffed by attractive young women wearing various stimulating outfits. The one I visited was open early, and I was fortunate to be the only customer there. You pay per half hour, and they give you an electric timer showing how much time you have left. It’s not really sexy; it’s more about some female attention. Of course, you could go to any normal bar and try to get female attention, but there’s a possibility you would be bothering someone. Paying for this service seems to be part of the appeal, but the idea of forking up money for nothing but chat put me off going for a repeat visit.
Numerous people have thought that Japan’s sexualisation of young women is a sign of something wrong with Japanese society. But on the other hand, it’s a way for these young women to make some decent money while they are studying. And what the hell is wrong with that? Many men would do the same if only they had the chance.
The more time I spent in Japan, the more I felt that it was
like a perfect society where everyone has their role and knew how to perform it
expertly. People often like to point out that Japan is a land of contrasts –
young and old, ancient and modern. But then, when you go there, these things
are not so much contrasts as part of one big palette.
They are six in the family, a rag-tag bag of waifs and strays in a downtrodden suburb of an unnamed Japanese city.
Kore-eda has moved away from the struggles of the middle class with something new; a film that looks at those on the very margins of society and somewhere close to the criminal underworld.
Father Sako, who is employed on a meagre salary, turns to shoplifting to bring home the goods, managing to snatch grocery items using well-practiced methods and sleight of hand. The wife has a job too which allows her access to items left inside jackets and attached to clothes.
It takes a while to get adjusted to the film, because the director is careful to only reveal a little at a time. Why do they live in such a small house? How did they meet each other? Why does the grandmother visit her ex-husband’s house every week? And how do they manage to survive?
These are details that the film is not in a hurry to explain. Kore-eda is more interested in showing us the lives of these people; how they get by on whatever they can scrape together. Then there is the little girl whom they see staring out of a window every night, and decide to adopt, gradually introducing her to a life of shoplifting, but crucially they give her the family home that she didn’t have with her biological parents.
There are many films which romanticise crime, this isn’t really one of them. “Until someone buys them, he tells his son, these items belong to no one” he tells his son in an attempt to assuage his guilt, still it’s hard to feel good when they are stealing from those whose lives are not much better than their own.
Occasionally the film moves away from the cramped quarters of their hovel. Daughter Sako works in a sex chat room and the neon lights and school-girl uniforms recall the earlier work “Air Doll.” then, a later shot reaches heights of poetry when a bag of stolen oranges breaks apart and rolls in the streets.
The film won the Golden Palm at this year’s Cannes festival
Masterfuly directed by Tsukamoto, Killing manages to make a Shakespearean tragedy in Japan that lasts under 2 hours. It’s an austere, harshly beautiful film about what it takes to survive in difficult surroundings. After a mesmerizing opening where we watch gleaming samurai sword forged out of glowing embers, we meet the characters whose lives will be overwhelmed by the events of the story.
The setting is rural Japan during the Edo period. Mokunoshin Tsuzuki is a samurai with no master, but he maintains his swordsmanship by sparring with Ichisuke, a farmer’s son. Just from the way the farmer’s sister Yu’s looks disapprovingly at Tsuzuki, we can sense the danger that will soon appear, even though the film begins during a time of peace.
An older samurai master arrives in the village, impressing the younger men with his skill at fighting. He is laidback and restful, seeming to fear nothing. He soon recruits the young men, much to Yu’s dismay, who alone can see the violence and death that will inevitably descend on their quiet village.
The ronin’s arrival is followed by a rampaging gang of outlaws. While the samurai follow a code – and look clean and handsome – the robbers are filthy, dressed in rags and lacking any element of civility.
The violence comes fast but there are moments of beauty, as when the young men watch fascinated as a ladybird climbs up a tree, “leading to heaven,” as Tsuzuki puts it.
After the outlaws attack the farm, Ichisuke challenges them, and is beaten badly. But this leads to even worse violence, which is filmed in rapid cutting, blood-spraying action. After Ichisuke is murdered, the younger samurai vows to avenge his death, even as the older samurai advises against it. The sister howls in despair to match the pounding soundtrack, and the killing of the title begins. I said that the story was Shakespearean, which is not overstating things. But the film’s revenge element made me remember the Clint Eastwood classic “Unforgiven.”
Killing is showing as part of the Gala presentation.
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.