It took months to get tickets to the Ghibli Museum, but the Saturday finally arrived. Our family headed out to this “home of animation” not knowing what to expect:

Ghibli Museum (三鷹の森ジブリ美術館 Mitaka no Mori Jiburi Bijutsukan?, Mitaka Forest Ghibli Museum) is a museum featuring the Japaneseanime work of Studio Ghibli, and is located in Inokashira Park in Mitaka, a western suburb of Tokyo, Japan.

The museum is a fine arts museum, but does not take the concept of a usual fine arts museum. With many features that are child-oriented and a sprawling and occasionally mazelike interior, the museum is a playfully created place. Centered around the motto appearing on the museum’s website “Let’s become lost children together” (迷子になろうよ、いっしょに Maigo ni narō yo, isshoni?), or “let’s lose our way together” as it is translated in the English leaflet. It has no set path or order of viewing. While the museum brochure contains a variety of languages, the signs within the museum are in Japanese only.

Unfortunately, I missed that last line. It is a very cool museum, with a very “Gaudi” feel to it.



One of our first stops was the roof top garden. I remember watching the Iron Giant with the kids years ago.


A very serene and beautiful garden.


Inside is stuffed with interesting drawings and the history of animation from around the world. However, you are not allowed to take pictures and there is zero English to be found.

It is a real shame and very frustrating as we wanted to learn. So much in front of you and not accessible. In some ways like all of Japan.


Still, it was a beautiful day, in a park with some beautiful architecture.

SUMO (Part 1)


Skipped blogging this week as I was in San Francisco with 90,000 other people attending Dreamforce which was flat out amazing. There is a world of change happening and it is very exciting times in our industry.

Before I flew out we knocked another one off the ‘Tokyo Top 10’ and went out to a Sumo match at the Ryogoku Kokugikan, the sumo hall.

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We were in a box about 6 rows up in the 2nd section which were spectacular seats. Now the definition of a box is very different in Japan than in Canada, where a box is a huge space with a bar and food. A box in Japan is a small area about 1Mx1M with 4 mats and a fellow pops in and out serving you food (bento boxes, etc.), green tea and beer, etc. This was definitely a time where being a bit smaller would have helped.

The seats were spectacular and the whole Sumo process was fascinating, steeped in history, tradition and well defined process. The match is fought in a dohyo, which is the sumo ring. The dohyo is 18 feet square and 2 feet high and is constructed of a special form of clay. Over the dohyo is a roof resembling a Shinto shrine with four giant tassels in each corner signifying the seasons of the year.

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Play the “3 of these are not like the others” game and spot my family (smile).

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A sumo match at the core is pretty simple, you win by forcing your opponent out of the inner circle or making something other than the flat of the foot touch the dohyo.

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However getting to this point is far from simple …

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Most books that have some type of Top 10 Tokyo list include Meiji Shrine near or at the top. We decided to travel there on the weekend and were not disappointed. Built to commemorate the life and times of Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken, the monarchy that opened Japan to the west and began modernizing the culture. A few items that I took note of:

  • Emperor Meiji turned Japan from a patchwork of medieval city states into a country, pulling Japan from the feudal era to pseudo-democracy (real democracy would take longer – but it was a start).
  • Empress Shoken is well known for her work to move women’s rights forward and established the Japanese Red Cross.
  • The Emperor’s views on embracing the rest of the world played a significant role in forming the views of Emperor Hirohito. Hirohito quoted this poem from his grandfather when trying to convince the Imperial Conference to pursue diplomatic action prior to WWII:

Across the four seas, all are brothers.
In such a world why do the waves rage, the winds roar?

The most amazing thing about the shrine is the park that surrounds it. Walk in and the city drops away, a beautiful forest of 120,000 trees surrounding the complex. Most people go straight for the central shrine; instead we walked around the side paths which meant that we avoided the larger crowds.

I now know what the torii at the main gate symbolizes:

A torii (鳥居・鳥栖・鶏栖?, lit. bird perch, /ˈtɔəri./) is a traditional Japanese gate most commonly found at the entrance of or within a Shinto shrine, where it symbolically marks the transition from the profane to the sacred (see Sacred-profane dichotomy).[1] The presence of a torii at the entrance is usually the simplest way to identify Shinto shrines, and a small torii icon represents them on Japanese road maps.[note 1] They are however a common sight at Japanese Buddhist temples too, where they stand at the entrance of the temple’s own shrine, called chinjusha(鎮守社?, tutelary god shrine) and usually very small.



Down the path from the main entrance are two racks of ‘offerings’ to the Emperor and Empress. On the right side are beautifully decorated barrels of sake, donated each year for generations.



I particularly liked this barrel.



The left encases barrels of wine from France with the following explanation and poem:



How they keep the reds at 13C in this heat is beyond me (smile).