The director Hayao Miyazaki has been called `the god of anime` and `Japan`s most successful film-maker`. He`s been compared to Walt Disney, has won an Oscar and has even earned the respect of my two nieces. Yet he is not well-known in the UK or US.
If you are not familiar with anime or his films, they are worth watching for the unconventional spectacle and story-lines alone.
My favourite Miyazaki film is Crimson Pig. It`s the story of a porky pig who pilots a bounty hunter plane over the Adriatic sea during the early 20th century. I hope to see a Tom Cruise re-make in the near future.
Miyazaki has a wonderful imagination. Visiting the museum of his Studio Ghibli company this morning, I saw evidence of where his ideas begin. Cuttings of flora and fauna, an old map of the Kremlin and a book of Greek myths were displayed haphazardly amongst the complete works of Shakespeare and drawings of a pig pitching a baseball.
Miyazaki also travels for inspiration. The primeval forests on the volcanic island of Yakushima inspired one of his films. Trips to Wales in the 1980s during the Welsh miners strike inspired another.
The modern museum building itself is fascinating although deliberately disorienting. “Let`s Lose Our Way Together”, stated the pamphlet.
In contrast, the anime making process itself is shown as being relatively simple, yet mesmerising. An exclusive viewing of Treasure Seekers, a 9 minute Studio Ghibli anime, capped off a fantastic visit.
If I haven`t convinced you of the value of a museum visit, the Kichijoji area next to the Ghibli Museum is also worth a trip. It`s consistently voted the best place to live in Tokyo and is much-loved by Inside Japan tour leaders.
NOTE The museum is popular so you have to make a reservation or ask Inside Japan to make a reservation for you.