I posted about my Japanese adventure (/business trip) a while ago (you can read the posts here and here if you missed them) but one thing I omitted from my post on my day off in Tokyo was my visit to the Studio Ghibli shop in Asakusa as I meant to do a separate post on it (partly because I struggled to find it and I was hoping this may help someone else but also because I loved it).
I should explain that the one place I really want to visit in the world more than maybe anywhere else is the Studio Ghibli Museum in Mitaka, Tokyo. However, with only one free day in Tokyo I knew I’d be missing out on so much else by going there, so I resolved to go there when I return to Japan one day. However, in doing my research on what I could do and see on my day off I discovered that there is a Studio Ghibli store in Asakusa, somewhere I was planning on heading to anyway – perfect!
I tried to do my research online first and discovered that the shop was in the Skytree shopping centre – Tokyo Skytree Solamachi. So far, so easy. Until I got there of course. Now, maybe I missed it but although I managed to find a map of the various floors and areas of the shopping centre, I couldn’t find a map of all of the units within the shopping centre. It turns out that there is actually one here (print it off before you go! It’s Unit 80 Donguri Kyowakoku) but without it and faced with several floors full of shops I was left hopelessly lost. I headed first for the fourth floor which was labelled ‘TV characters’ and hoped for the best – nope. I did get a pair of Sailor Mars socks there though, so not too bad. None of the other floors seemed like they would be what I was looking for and in the end I resorted to googling the address on my work blackberry which pointed me to the second floor – Ladies’ Fashion and Miscellaneous Goods.
So, here’s the idiot’s guide, if you’re on the second floor you need to head to the right, past a variety of shops and towards the back of the building. Past a Zara there will be a door leading outside. Head outside and there is a tiny little plaza where the Ghibli shop is located. Alternatively, there are stairs down to it from the plaza area on the fourth floor (head to the right and the back and then down). Thank god for my blackberry as I was about ready to give up and just head straight to the Senso-ji Temple. I’m really glad I didn’t though.
Although there is, of course, a sign up above the door, you really don’t need it in order to know where you are. A giant Totoro greets you at the door, peeping out from behind a tree. Immediately I was giddy and excited and basically reverted to being the me I was at five years old visiting Disney World for the first time, it was a very similar feeling.
Ghibli fans will know how difficult it is to get hold of official merchandise outside of Japan. Unfortunately it doesn’t seem to be the result of a lack of a market, but instead a decision by Miyazaki not to allow their sale. The story goes that in a meeting with those doing the first dub in the US of My Neighbour Totoro, there was a suggestion that the toys would need to be adapted to make them more acceptable to an American market. Apparently Miyazaki wasn’t happy with this and decided that there would be no Totoro merchandise for the US. That seems to have extended to everywhere else too (presumably as it’s all handled by Disney). So, if you’re based outside of Japan, one of the main ways to get hold of official Ghibli merchandise has been to take your chances with the authenticity of goods bought online. To be able to go to a whole shop dedicated to merchandise was amazing.
Walls full of Totoro soft toys greeted me as soon as I stepped in – Susuwatari, Totoro, the Catbus and even a soft toy of Mei cosplaying as the Catbus. I even found this Totoro puppet.
Although the soft toys were an obvious merchandising opportunity, the shop contains every sort of Ghibli branded item imaginable, there was homeware, stationery, pin badges, key rings, scarves, towels, figurines and even watering cans!
Sat on top of a set of bookshelves full of art books was the head and furry front paws of the Catbus. This could only have been better if his eyes had swivelled down to provide a reading light.
Also in the shop is a big tree with a view through to the moment Mei first discovers Totoro. It made me smile but then a little kid rushed up to it and pushed that red button on the tree. The scene lit up , Totoro’s chest started moving up and down and snores reverberated from the tableau. In that moment I thought my little stone heart had melted and might quite possibly explode with delight and happiness.
I spent far too much time and money in the shop and spent the rest of the day making sure I didn’t put my precious bag full of stuff down anywhere and forget about it (which would have been typical for me). I’m not normally one for a ‘haul’, partly because I don’t shop often and partly because I hate the word and I’m not really sure about the whole concept of showing off what I’ve bought but given that I spent a lot of time trying to find out about the stuff available beforehand I thought it might be of interest to someone else.
I picked up a Totoro soft toy for my three and a half year old niece. My boyfriend and I bought her the DVD a while ago and wanted to get a soft toy to accompany it but couldn’t find a genuine one that could withstand a small child and so I brought this little guy back with me. I’m not sure if she’s watched the DVD yet as she, along with everyone else, is a bit of a Frozen fan at the moment. I hope though that she might watch My Neighbour Totoro at some point and find a film with imagination, heart and spirit. After hanging out with this guy for a while it was tough to see him go though.
For my other niece, who was born earlier this year, I found a Totoro rattle. I debated getting a Catbus bib but liked the fact the older niece got the big grey Totoro and the younger one gets something with the slightly smaller blue Totoro. Small children = Totoro?
I introduced my boyfriend to the concept of Studio Ghibli years ago and he subsequently found Porco Rosso on Film4 one day and loved it. Unfortunately it’s not the kind of film that lends itself to merchandise and so the Porco stuff in the shop was limited. However, I did find this mug which I liked a lot because it didn’t seem too obvious and to those not familiar with the film, wouldn’t mean anything – perfect for a grown man who doesn’t need to be toting around a mug with a ‘cartoon’ on. My favourite thing about it is the bottom which references the Hotel Adriano, the hotel in the film run by Gina.
I also found this teeny key ring. I didn’t expect my boyfriend to particularly do anything with it or attach it to his keys but it was so detailed for something so small, I just had to put it in my basket. They had a whole variety of characters but it was little Porco that caught my eye in his flying jumpsuit, goggles and scarf.
I also popped two packs of pencils into my basket; one set of Kiki’s Delivery Service pencils and one set of Totoro pencils. The Kiki’s Delivery Service pencils formed part of my giveaway which was won by the lovely Cat who blogs at More About Cat.