Stalking Miyazaki

I needed something to do today, on my last full day in Japan.

I did get a task from my wife – “go buy me a new gadget”, which was not a simple task, but one which I have accomplished, the new gadget even being something she’s probably forgotten she asked for, and also something that she’ll just have to wait until I get home to find out about.

I needed something more challenging. Something like finding the front door of Japan’s most prestigious anime studio, Studio Ghibli.

The wikipedia entry for Koganei, Tokyo, says the following:

“The famous Studio Ghibli has its studio near the Higashi-koganei station.”

I can now report that this is 100% true. I can also attest to the fact that it is incredibly well hidden – I had the address and it still took me three hours to find it. Granted, it took me two hours of wandering before I even got in the right neighborhood – Japanese street layouts not being what you’d call intuitive – but even once I was in the right neighborhood, on the right block, I still walked past it twice.

The neighborhood around Studio Ghibli is, well, exactly what I would expect. It’s full of small backyard farms and playgrounds, with a few tiny apartment buildings. Some of the streets have dirt paths, under trees, instead of sidewalks, and you don’t have to go too far to find a small river with the biggest damned koi I have ever seen.

It’s IN Tokyo, but it feels incredibly rural.

Its presence is announced by the following small sign:

I didn’t see this sign until after I’d decided that the building it was in front of MUST be the right one, by the process of eliminating all other buildings in the area as possibilities. Here’s what the front door of Studio Ghibli looks like:

This does not exactly leap out at you when you’re passing by; it hides behind foliage. It looks more like a quiet private residence whose inhabitant loves gardening.

Here’s a corner view:

If you’re standing in front of the building, looking in to the lobby, you can see more signs that you’re in the right place – a giant nekobus, a hanging sign that looks taken straight from the window of Guchokipanya bakery, framed animation cels on the walls…

I used to drive past Disney Feature Animation, in Los Angeles, on the way home from work. That building is huge, capped with a massive wizard’s cap from Fantasia – you can see it for miles, but to get to it you’d have to pass through gates and armed security and all manner of measures designed to keep the riff-raff away from the studio.

Getting into Studio Ghibli would involve swinging open a small cast-iron gate and knocking on the front door.

Somehow, that was enough to keep me politely at bay; I took my photos and left.

If you ever i feel like repeating this little pilgramage, I will say this to you, because half the fun of hidden places is in the finding of them:

“The famous Studio Ghibli has its studio near the Higashi-koganei station.”

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