The Singapore Bicentennial Experience

Singapore is 54 years old this 2019. 54 years as a country of independence.

The Bicentennial hopes to cover more than 700 years of Singapore’s history. While Sir Stamford Raffles arrived and paved the way for modern Singapore in 1819, Singapore had already been on a journey more than 500 years before that. Those 500 years shaped some of the founding traits that Singapore is proud of such as openness, multiculturalism, and self-determination. As such, getting the chance to experience the Singapore Bicentennial at Fort Canning Park was a big thing. Seeing as how frustrated some people had gotten due to the rather hit-or-miss when booking for tickets online.

The Bicentennial Experience at Fort Canning Park was a great way to have a glimpse at Singapore’s more than 700 years of history. The Experience itself is divided into two main parts, the Time Traveler and The Pathfinder.

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The Time Traveler takes you on a journey through Beginnings where Singapura was under the rule of Sang Nila Utama and his successors. Singapore continued to evolve and despite the challenges that she faced lived through until the Arrival of the British. This occupation became a turning point in Singapore’s history and helped pave the way to what we know of Singapore now. Connectivity shows us around the development of Singapore through 19th-century inventions, the evolution of physical infrastructure, as well as the advent of new ideas of identity and belonging. With the Occupation of Japan during World War II, Singapore came to a standstill and a time of reflection as to their state of dependence. This gave rise to the story of how Singapore came to gain independence through the efforts of the late Lee Kuan Yew in Destiny.

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The visual and aural journey of the Time Traveler can only be described as amazing. It’s no surprise though, Singapore is no stranger to modern visual effects and art. But you really need to experience it to even get an idea of how it feels. The 5 acts differ in both presentation and experience and you will never feel that you are just experiencing the same thing over and over again.

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The Pathfinder, on the other hand, is a free-range of activities that are presented in pavilions just outside the centre (but still within Fort Canning). You are free to take in as little or as much as you want by giving yourself time to wander about. Unlike the Time Traveler where all the acts are timed, The Pathfinder allows you to immerse yourself in whichever pavilion you would like to spend time in. Our favourites had been the Lookout, Reflections of our Past, the Seed Conservatory, and the Observatory. There is also a Food Pavilion just outside of the event space where you can enjoy some local food. But it’s not really that great. You’d honestly be better off making your way to an actual Hawker Center for your grub. Of course, you would still be doing yourself a favour by getting a bite to eat as it can get pretty warm outside.

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Overall, it is great if you can get your hands on tickets to the show. Otherwise, the free exhibition such as the Pathfinder is also a good place to experience a bit of Singapore’s history. Plus, the Fort Canning grounds are just there for you to enjoy as well. There are other Bicentennial events happening around the island. More information can be taken here: https://www.bicentennial.sg.

Enjoy!

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Looking Forward

We welcome the new year with open arms today. As we poured our sparkling grape juice between the three of us, we talked about the year that was. And as we were talking, it occurred to me that this may have been the first time that we really talked about it.

Our New Year welcome dinner
Our New Year welcome dinner

2018 had been good to us. It had its ups and downs for sure, but it treated us more kindly throughout.

Matthew had been able to go to his chosen secondary school after the grueling assessment exam courtesy of the PSLE. And during his time in this new school, we realized that this was the school that we were looking for. Over the course of the year, we attended school events and gatherings. We made sure that we were able to attend parent-teacher sessions and we got to know the teachers well. We attended parent-child bonding activities to help us understand each other better. Through those interactions, the teachers were able to talk about their concerns and we were also able to voice out our own. As time passed, we felt that the way the school managed the way they teach is the right way for Matthew. Although all schools need to comply with the strict academic benchmarks by the Ministry of Education, they are given enough freedom to use different teaching methods. We are thankful that this school gives importance to a child’s potential rather than expecting them to perform at an unbelievable performance standard right off the bat.

Mister Matthew
Mister Matthew

We had good times just roaming around Singapore all throughout the year. We went to the Tampines Eco Green and tried grounding. We also frequently cycled to Pasir Ris Park. This served as our exercise and our bonding time as well. There was no fixed schedule and we went as often as we could. It could be to catch the sunset or to catch the sunrise. Sometimes, it is just to catch good food at the nearby hawker center. We went to a fair and rode the crazy swinging ship. We ate hipster food and drank hipster drinks. We visited the Turtle and Tortoise Museum for the last time before they closed the gates at the Chinese Garden. It was sad that they had to leave that place and we do hope they manage to find a new home soon. We rented a car from time to time just for the heck of it. And we finally got around to go to the places that we had only previously talked about.

Catching the sunrise at Pasir Ris Park
Catching the sunrise at Pasir Ris Park

We managed to go on a trip to Tokyo. And during our stay, we managed to go to places that we didn’t even think we could reach. Often times we got lost or got to a place that was not on our plan at all. We even got to take home souvenirs from nearly all the towns that we visited. A short visit to an aunt and our cousins made the trip a little easier during the first few days. And then a visit to a friend in Osaka also made it into our itinerary. But the best places that we managed to go to this time around were in Tokyo. Akihabara, Tokorozawa, Diver City and Yokohama to name a few. Okunoshima and Kyoto were also memorable places for us. Japan is definitely one of the highlights of 2018.

Welcome to Akihabara
Welcome to Akihabara

I also started teaching Matthew about photography. It’s time he advanced from just pointing the camera and shooting. It’s time for him to understand the concepts behind photography and make a hobby out of it. I can’t stand to just see him sitting on one corner and reading a book over and over. He really needs a more active hobby. And so do I. We do attend anime and gaming conventions now, but I don’t think that counts as an active hobby.

At Paradores Del Castillo
At Paradores Del Castillo

We visited our families in the Philippines at the end of the year. We tried to spend as much time as we could with them. We took them out to eat and to travel around the nearby provinces. We enjoyed our stay there and we had fun. While we also had a lot to eat, Matthew seemed to be the only one to not gain weight.

We had our downs too. But we’d rather not recall those. I think we already learned our lessons from those times. And its better to let those experiences go.

Yes. 2018 had been a good year. And here’s hoping that 2019 brings us more blessings and happiness that we can share.

Revisiting Singapore Zoo

It has been a very long time since we have gone to the Singapore Zoo. The River Safari opened in 2012 and Inuka (the polar bear) was put to sleep in April of this year. And now, in October of 2018, we decided to come back and visit the zoo.

Do not feed the animals
Do not feed the animals

The cool thing about our recent visit is that the commute isn’t as bad as before. Don’t get me wrong, Tampines is still quite a distance from Jurong. However, we no longer took the train from Tampines to Jurong East and then transferring to the zoo-bound bus from the interchange. Instead, there is now a bus that you can take from OTH (Our Tampines Hub) which will take you straight to the Singapore Zoo. The Mandai Express is bus service to the zoo from Tampines, Bedok, and Sengkang. It’s 3 SGD per adult per trip. Children 12 years and below only pay $1 per trip. The service is available on weekends and public/school holidays. Full details are on their website (as well as booking details) at https://mandaiexpress.beeline.com

We expected changes to the zoo since it has been a long time when we were last there. The zoo still looks good. It still has well-manicured gardens, clean enclosures, healthy animals and the facilities are still well maintained. What seemed to be missing though, are animals. Wait, what? A zoo without animals?

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Let me explain. There are animals. But their numbers seemed to have dropped significantly. I only saw one white tiger, a pair of lions, one meerkat, one zebra, three giraffes, a bunch of chimps, two warthogs and then some. I’m just saying, the Singapore zoo that I remember was livelier than this. It’s still a zoo. The habitat is still there and so is the smell. I don’t know if it was just me or if the animals all decided to call it a holiday when we visited but to be honest, it became underwhelming. Yes, there are still portions that will pique your curiosity and places that feel better after revisiting them. But the experience doesn’t feel the same. Maybe I’m getting older or maybe I’m becoming more demanding. Maybe the zoo has lost some of its magic. Or maybe it was just one of those days. I won’t be dismissing the Singapore Zoo anytime soon. It is still a great zoo. And my experience may be different from yours.

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The Singapore Zoo is divided into zones. Depending on how you follow the map (if you decide to follow the map), you will go around and through the different zones before arriving back at the entrance (which is also the exit point). The map is a good enough guide, but one should note that it is nearly impossible to reach all of the zones or see all of the animals. Unless you are just running around and not really appreciating what the zoo offers, you would need to back up and slow down and you would be needing a whole day to see the whole park.

Timon, is that you?
Timon, is that you?

Our route took us through the Treetops Trail where surprisingly, the most interesting thing to see was not in the trees but rather down below in the water where an alligator was minding its own business. We continued on through the Otter enclosure but none of the Otters were there. We figured they were probably at Marina Bay Sands where they take selfies and wefies. We were trying to follow the suggested route on the map so we managed to enjoy the smell of the Malayan Tapis and we saw the White Tiger airing his … belly. We also saw Warthogs along the way and as if taking a cue from The Lion King, a lone Meerkat was on the opposite enclosure. It was supposed to be on guard duty. A few red bottoms of the Hamadryas Baboons later, and we found ourselves in Australasia. In here, the Kangaroos are nowhere to be found. They must have joined the Otters. We decided to move on through the Primate Kingdom after that and hoped that our cousins were hanging out. We were not disappointed as there were dozens of Colobus Monkeys and Patas Monkeys hanging out with Douc Langurs and Crested Macaques. This route led us to the Shaw Foundation Amphitheatre where we stopped by to catch a show with a Sea Lion. After the show, we were hungry, so we headed out for lunch.

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After lunch, we found ourselves walking along the Orangutan Boardwalk. There was a family of Orangutans having a crazy day on the treetops and they kind of reminded us of ourselves. We may have evolved from apes after all. Maybe. We reached the Wild Africa zone shortly and observed some Giraffes eating. They were in the same enclosure as the Zebras who were strangely only eating from a designated area with a bunch of leaves. There were other plant life all around the enclosure but the Zebras didn’t seem to move away from their feeding spot. The grass must be greener there. It took us a while to find the Lions from their pride rock, but there was a pair of them in there. It must have been quite the party the night before as they were pretty much zoned out and couldn’t be bothered. It started to rain then which brought us inside Reptile Garden and RepTopia where there are, well, reptiles. Which included a vast variety of small snakes and desert reptiles. When the rain finally let up, we were only able to venture forward to the Fragile Forest. The Fragile Forest is home to a good number of animals including the Flying Fox and Ring-Tailed Lemur. A variety of birds were also there and if we aren’t wrong, some adorable Mouse Deers. Then it rained again and we were stuck looking through an enclosure of Proboscis Monkeys. I have had my share of the Proboscis that would last me a lifetime after being stuck with them for so long.

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Our trip back to the Singapore Zoo ended with a light snack while waiting for our coach to pick us up and bring us back home. Again, the Mandai service did not disappoint and we were back in Tampines without having to tough it out on the train coming from Jurong East. It had been a nice trip back, and while it would have been nicer if the rain let up much earlier, it doesn’t change the fact that the zoo experience has changed quite a bit. They are continuing to improve and update. During these times, your experiences may turn out better or worse than it should. Don’t let it hamper your enjoyment of the park, another opportunity will present itself soon enough.

Let’s Go (back) to the Toyota History Garage

Back in Odaiba, I wrote about our trip, mainly around the Gundam Base. While in Odaiba, we also managed to visit the Toyota History Garage.

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While the Mega Web is the main attraction here, we didn’t have enough time to go there. And since we were coming from Diver City, the closest attraction that we soon reached was the History Garage as we entered Venus Fort from the side. The History Garage, was actually a surprise as it wasn’t the museum I was looking at the map for. But for it to be there, just as soon as we entered the doors, well, it was an invitation that should not be turned down.

Small wonders
Small wonders

The History Garage is free to enter. Yes, free to enter. With the amount of automotive history inside, you would be surprised that they don’t charge you a single Yen for it. You would also think that since it is by Toyota, that it would be filled with only Toyota vehicles. Again, you would be surprised that it is filled with other manufacturer automobiles. And it’s not just Japanese domestic market cars as well because there is a good assortment of American and European cars in this huge garage.

Grand-daddy of the the Rotary
Grand-daddy of the Rotary

You have cars that have graced the history of the automotive world lined up neatly in a diorama-like setting. It adds to the nostalgia of the already nostalgic vehicles. There are cars that are lesser known to me and cars that already have an iconic status like the Toyota 2000GT in its very recognizable white paint job. There is also a Mazda Cosmo, also in its signature white paint job. There was a 1961 Toyota Corona, a 1966 Honda S600, a 1967 Toyopet and a 1963 Toyota Crown. The license plates on these cars give you the year of the car’s production, and these cars are as mint as they come. There is a BMW Isetta, a DeLorean DMC-12, Lotus Elan roadster, and a Ferrari Dino among others scattered throughout the museum. And that is just on the inside. Outside, you have a Nissan 240Z and a Jaguar E-type convertible.

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While wandering about inside, I was drawn to a set of stairs leading down. It was a pleasant surprise that it led down to a shop selling die-cast toys of various scales and manufacturers. From Tomicas to AutoArt, from 1:64 to 1:8 scale, there is more than enough metal in these toys to build a 1:1 scale car. There are other paraphernalia for sale as well such as tin wall displays and old car number plates. It would have been easy to burn through your wallet and melt your plastic in that shop. Across the shop is the café where you can cool off and just rest your tired feet. But you may not get the chance as you will also soon notice that the Toyota Motorsport Heritage section is on the same level. Here are various Toyotas that have competed in different motorsports around the world. The hero cars here though are Toyota’s rally mainstay, the Toyota Celica. The History Garage is definitely a recommended itinerary for gearheads or even those who have even just a remote affinity with cars.

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Let’s Go to Tokorozawa

When we were on our way to Totoro’s Forest, we happened to pass by Tokorozawa. Looking into it, we found that there is a small aviation museum tucked away in the area. So we decided to take one day to go out and visit the Tokorozawa Aviation Museum.

At the Tokorozawa Aviation Museum
At the Tokorozawa Aviation Museum

The Tokorozawa Aviation Museum is based in Saitama and was the center of Japanese aviation in the early 1900’s. Now it is a museum dedicated to the history of aviation in Japan. It is not a big museum with the displays cramped together in the main hall. But it is a well thought out place. A majority in Japanese, it is a good thing that most of the staff are quite versed in English. The aircraft on display include small planes and helicopters, both civilian and military. You can even hop in on some of these crafts and fiddle around with the controls. You can close your eyes and pretend that you can actually fly one of these, but there is more to it than just imagination.

Let's fly
Let’s fly

There are interactive installations further inside the museum that illustrates fundamentals of flight and aerodynamics. Matthew, being in a secondary school now that prides itself in aviation, had found a place that he can explore to his heart’s content. There are also informative videos and historical dioramas showcasing Tokorozawa and the evolution of aviation in Japan. They were in Japanese and that made it a bit difficult for us to fully immerse ourselves in it. But visually, it tells a lot. There are also flight simulators where you can “fly” a small plane and land it safely on a runway. There is also a gravity simulator that makes you feel the differences in gravitational pull on other planets (and the moon). Up on deck, an air traffic control facility is also present. And while you don’t get to send planes up in the air, the feel of it is really cool. Maybe technology has evolved that most of the equipment shown at the museum is already obsolete, but it is a reminder that we wouldn’t be where we are now if we didn’t start out with simpler things.

Aircraft galore!
Aircraft galore!

Of course, no trip to a museum would be complete without a visit to the museum shop. And the museum shop in Tokorozawa is unique in that it really focuses on aviation stuff. We managed to get a propeller plane powered by a rubber band and a flapping contraption also powered by a rubber band. The flapping contraption flew quite well and we really enjoyed it. Unfortunately, I had misinterpreted the salesperson and thought that she gave us a built one for free and that we had bought an un-built one as well. It wasn’t the case and we ended up giving away the only flapping contraption to some school kids who were on a trip. At least it went to a good cause.

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The Tokorozawa Aviation Museum is a nice place to visit because it is small, out of the way and far from the hustle and bustle of the city. You can relax and quietly stare at the aircraft or outside in the field with the trees and wide grassy field. It is definitely a place to visit with or without kids.

Let’s Go to Totoro’s Forest

We already went to the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka. So we thought we would go the extra mile and get lost in Totoro Forest as well.

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Totoro Forest is actually a nature reserve under the care of the Foundation of Totoro no Furusato. As far as the name goes, it has been used by Hayao Miyazaki used this forest as the model of the forest used for the animated film My Neighbour Totoro. The thing is, this forest is situated in Sayama Hills in Saitama.

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It was a long walk getting up to Totoro’s Forest. And that was just getting to the forest itself. You wouldn’t even know that you were actually inside Totoro Forest until you see some of the signs. Navigating the forest also proved difficult for us since the signs are in Japanese. Needless to say, when we say we got lost in Totoro Forest, we literally got lost inside Totoro Forest. It would have been fine though as inside the forest was cool and actually quite pleasant. It was nice to stay there, but we weren’t actually geared up for camping, so getting lost and not being able to come out of the forest would mean big trouble for us. We also wanted to reach Kurosaki’s house, which is a recreation of the Kurosaki house from Totoro as well. What we didn’t know was that the house was not actually inside Totoro Forest. And following the directions from Google Maps and the one blog with decent directions proved to be futile as we ended up getting even more lost.

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We got to Kurosaki’s house, eventually. And it was closed. Yes, for the life of me, I did not bother looking at the details of the house. I only knew that it would be the house would be perfect for any Totoro fan worth his salt. And because I had been too excited and frustrated getting to the house, I didn’t get to check that the house actually had days that it was closed. For a house that was in the middle of nowhere, I think that made sense. It didn’t make sense that I did not see that though. By the time we reached the house, we were already tired. Our only consolation was the maccha house that sat beside Kurosaki’s house.

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The lady who owns the café was very nice and friendly. And the mochi and maccha is just superb. It is a very tasty treat and almost made us forget that we got lost and found out that the Kurosaki house was closed. Almost. Still, the maccha was refreshing and the mochi was really, really good. Probably the best maccha mochi that I have ever tried. And it turns out that they grow their own tea. In fact, they have their own school all about making tea. It was really a blessing that we made it there. The old lady even called up a taxi for us (because the place is, quite frankly, in the middle of nowhere). We weren’t able to see the Kurosaki house but we enjoyed our time in the forest and we really enjoyed the maccha. Not a bad day at all.

Let’s Go to Asakusa

Asakusa is in our itinerary for this trip. What we didn’t expect, was rain. It was raining for almost the whole day that we were scheduled to go to Asakusa. But you can’t tell the heavens to keep the rain up while you travel. So it was wet.

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As usual, we started the trip getting lost as we got off at Asakusa Station. Obviously, the rain did not help. Part of travelling is being lost, and hungry. While we did have some hits and misses on this trip with our meals, the lunch we had near Asakusa was definitely a miss. You see, we decided to try local and have lunch at a small eatery where a couple of secondary school kids came out from. I mean, if kids eat there, it must be cheap and good, right? Unfortunately, it wasn’t. It was decent, but not good and definitely not cheap. But enough of that.

Nakamise
Nakamise

When we got our bearings straight, we managed to make our way to Nakamise. A shopping street (of all things). According to travel websites, Nakamise has been around for centuries providing temple visitors with traditional snacks, sweets and tourist souvenirs. I’m not really sure if this is still the atmosphere of old Tokyo, but the shops are entertaining in their own right. There are tons of things to buy here. There are T-shirts, keychains, umbrellas, toys, kimonos, snacks and all kinds of knick knacks. The rain didn’t stop us this time around though. Nakamise isn’t that long, but the amount of people and the rain made the trip a bit longer. Nakamise will bring you to Sensoji Temple which is one of Japan’s oldest temples. On the other end of Nakamise is the Kaminarimon, which is essentially a giant Kaminari Gate and is also the symbol of Asakusa. Considering that we travelled from the temple to the gate, it just shows how bad my sense of direction was that day. And no, it does not happen regularly.

Since it was still raining, we managed to sidestep into Shin-Nakamise street. Basically, it is a street running perpendicular to Nakamise street. While it is also a shopping street, it is covered and makes window shopping a little bit more convenient. Add to that the fact that it is surprisingly less crowded than Nakamise and you can have a decent time walking about and taking in the atmosphere.

We must be at Orange Street
We must be at Orange Street

While walking, we also managed to find Orange Street. Another famous street in Asakusa which is, no surprise, painted orange. If it wasn’t raining, we probably would have ended up walking over and looking for historic stores that are supposed to line the street leading up to the old Public Hall. We were about to end our day because, well, the rain doesn’t really help. And then we stumbled across yet another Don Quijote. By far, the most rambunctious one I have seen. And this is where we spent the rest of the day. It had been fun and shopping on the cheap is no longer cheap if you buy too much. Just a thought.

Let’s Go to Odaiba

Odaiba. Gundam Base.

That should have been enough to describe our trip to Odaiba. But it is surprisingly not enough. Odaiba has a lot more to offer than a trip to the Gundam Base and having a look at the 1:1 scale Gundam Unicorn.

Mum's turn with Hello Kitty
Mum’s turn with Hello Kitty

We started our trip getting slightly lost as per usual. The trains in Japan don’t seem to go where you are expecting them to take you. Ok, so maybe they do and I just keep on taking the wrong ones. We reached Odaiba via Tokyo Teleport station. And yes, the station name alone gives you a hint of what you can expect. And no, there were no boom tubes or actual teleporters at Tokyo Teleport. What it is though, is a gateway to a great otaku-science-history experience.

RX-0 Unicorn Gundam
RX-0 Unicorn Gundam

The first stop of our trip was at Diver City. Famous for the Gundam that stands right in front of it. While Diver City itself is filled with different shops, there was once place that was unexpected. A Hello Kitty Café. Since we knew that the trip to Odaiba would be more for Matthew and myself again, we had to give Judy her own time. This is actually where we had tea. And no visit to the Hello Kitty Café would be complete without the kawai selfie with the cat. It was only after we got back home that I found out why there were huggable, near life-size plushies of Hello Kitty at the café. And no, it wasn’t simply because it was her café. Apparently, it’s a thing in Japan where you can have tea without being lonely even if you are alone. Yes, the plushies are meant for you to have tea with somebody even if you are alone. Quirky, yes. And Japanese. After some very nice tasting maccha, we headed for, The Gundam Base.

The Gundam Base
The Gundam Base

The Gundam Base is everything Gundam. It’s probably about the only place where you can buy kits from old to new. Kits from every Gundam series imaginable is available here. And of course, there are the Gundam Base exclusive kits. They are mostly special color and special clear version of the same kits that are available in their standard configurations at retail shops. Now its easy to let your jaw drop at the sheer amount of kit and building tools that are available. Heck, they even allow you to borrow tools so that you can build that brand spanking new kit at the Gundam Base. There is also a sort of mini museum as you enter the Base which showcases the Gundam kits from all the series and from the older designs to the newest ones. They even have the prototype kits on display for you to drool over while you think about when they will actually make it into production. The price though, was retail. And while you can buy the most of the kits at a cheaper price, but you will find that the assortment of kits at the Gundam Base is incomparable elsewhere.

We headed off to the Toyota Mega Web after our tour of the Gundam Base, but the Car History Museum at the Mega Web deserves its own post.

The Unicorn Awakens
The Unicorn Awakens

We had to come back to the Unicorn Gundam for the show though, and seeing the show at night is well worth the trip to Odaiba. Heck, even the wife enjoyed it and the song had been stuck in Matthew’s head for weeks. Odaiba still had lots to offer, and we should probably go back.

Let’s Go to The Ghibli Museum, Mitaka

The Ghibli Museum is one of our bucket list travel destinations and we managed to tick this one off on this trip to Japan. What is the Ghibli Museum (aside from being a museum)? Seriously, if you don’t know Ghibli, then you need to pick up the pace and read on.

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The Ghibli Museum is where Studio Ghibli showcases the work, no, the love and passion that this house has for animation. Studio Ghibli (for anyone still not familiar with it) is responsible for giving us Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro, Laputa Castle in the Sky and a slew of others that were not as internationally acclaimed as the former. The museum itself is a place where there is no right or wrong way to see the exhibitions. In fact, it was noted that Hayao Miyazaki wanted people to feel like children in the museum discovering things as they move along. And even with the number of visitors to the museum, it does feel like a labyrinth of sorts that you can quite easily immerse yourself in and be lost in it. You have static displays showing the work area of Hayao Miyazaki himself as well as some of the other animators. You have drawings, models, books and other sources of inspiration used by the teams. You can actually imagine yourself in the studio with the desks of the animators scattered about around you. Samples and drafts of animations, story boards, photo albums and more. If only they allowed photography inside the museum walls, but unfortunately it wasn’t so.

Oh No! The Soot Sprites are trapped!
Oh No! The Soot Sprites are trapped!

There are also interactive displays where you can see how animations were done before the age of CGI. There is a machine that you can move the lens as you see fit over a single cel of animation to get the effect that you want. I can only imagine how many man-hours it would take to complete a proper animated movie using these ancient tools. And then there are elaborate displays that bring to life the mind, or indeed the world of Hayao Miyazaki. And it is a wonderful animated world. At one point it got so emotional for me that I nearly teared up for no reason at all, I was just standing there watching this world come alive.

The Robot Soldier from Laputa
The Robot Soldier from Laputa

You are only allowed to take photos and videos for personal use outside the main museum. That means the open areas like the gardens and the café and the rooftop. Even with as little time as we had, the trip was worth it. We managed to get some nice photos at the museum and I was particularly happy that we at least managed to get a photo with the Guardian of the Ghibli Museum, the Robot Soldier from Laputa Castle in the Sky. You find this guy after going up a spiral staircase off from the Cat Bus room which is on the other side of the house from Mamma Aiuto, the museum shop. Up on the rooftop, if you walk around, you will also find the keystone cube from the Castle in the Sky among the lush gardens on the rooftop.

The Keystone
The Keystone

At the basement, you are encouraged to queue up for the screening of a Ghibli short film. It is a great time to experience a raw Ghibli movie, and one that will only ever be shown at the Saturn Theater from inside the museum. Our short film was Kemushi no Boro (Boro the Caterpillar). It is unmistakably Ghibli. And when you think about the details that went into this short film, you can’t help but smile. In this miniscule world projected on the big screen, you enjoy the rich audio that seems to have been just grown-ups making up sounds with their mouths. It was so simple but it was so engaging at the same time as your brain tries to break down the different sounds that you hear as you are watching the film. I won’t spoil the film and in case you manage to view a different one when you go there, just know that it is a Ghibli. We went around as much as we could during our time there looking through the different niceties. We climbed stairs, laughed at the art, realised that we were sitting on caterpillar dung, got hysterical every time we recognise something from the movies and had a great time overall.

Supper

We ended the day with a light meal at the Straw Hat Café. The only café at the museum grounds. Every minute was worth it. But it should be said that getting tickets to the Ghibli Museum, can be a frustrating experience. You can only get your tickets online and only on a certain date and by the time the online buying opens, you realise that there are hundreds of other hungry souls waiting for that opportunity to get tickets. If you do manage to score some tickets online, you will still be queuing up at the gate long before your entry time. But again, if you manage to get through all this frustration, it will all go away the moment you set foot inside.