Josh’s birthday, and the day we’d pre-booked tickets for the Studio Ghibli animation museum. We get the metro out to Kichijoji because I’d heard there are a couple of good shops and eateries there. Right opposite the station is a large network of covered-over streets of market-cum-shops selling not very exciting things like toiletries and homeware. Happily stumble across another branch of Loft and duck in for more cute stationery. Also spot a Namco videogame arcade on the basement floor, noted for later.
We find a great little restaurant for lunch called Japanese Vegetable Kitchen, which felt very Zen with its white walls and dark wood surfaces. Ate steamed and fried veggies accompanied by a tray of rice, pickles and miso soup and unlimited free roobois tea for something like £7 a head; left feeling very refreshed. The owner is lovely too with excellent English. Japanese hospitality in restaurants is friendlier than anywhere I’ve ever been; you get a million hellos on the way in and goodbyes and bows on the way out, and as a veggie they did their best to find me something suitable to eat almost everywhere we went.
The Ghibli museum is housed in Kichijoji Park so we take a nice walk through it, spotting a pretty lake and temple in the middle (and lots of huge colourful spiders in their webs). Get a bit lost but find the museum eventually. Sadly no photos are allowed inside but it’s really charming. The first room contains stunning 3d dioramas and zoetrope type animations set off by strobe lights; hard to explain exactly but the effect is amazing. It also has a huge intricate film projector running slides of Ghibli films. Upstairs are some rooms designed to look like Ghibli’s workshop, packed with books and paint pots and the walls covered in half-finished sketches. There’s a room dedicated to the new film (all the notices are in Japanese only so we didn’t get what it’s called) with more sweet interactive animatronics. You can then take a spiral staircase up to the roof where there’s a giant metal robot sculpture. Finally we watch a short animation that’s exclusive to the museum. Even if you aren’t particularly a Ghibli fan (I haven’t seen any of the films all the way through) it’s a really lovely and captivating museum.
We walk back to Kichijoji afterwards to check out the Namco arcade. It has tons of grab machines full of cute characters (I won two cute tubby kitten toys) as well as Mario Kart, Guitar Hero and Street Fighter. We wasted several Y100 coins and an hour or so having a good play. Some of the Japanese kids are amazing to watch on the dance machines, they go so fast, they must spend their lives practicing. There are also Guitar Hero style games involving big drums and DJ turntables which the kids play amazingly fast.
It starts to rain as we head back, so we decamp to the hotel to pick up umbrellas and decide to stay local for dinner, heading up to a Nepalese restaurant called Sansar as recommended on the Bento website. We find it down a little side street (almost missed it, it’s very small). The owners are Nepalese and are very friendly; we talked in patchy English about where we came from and about how popular their food is with locals (Japanese like it mild, apparently). We both go for set meals, and the plentiful food is awesome – an unusual mix that tasted like both Thai and Indian, not too spicy but full of flavour. The bread in particular is absolutely amazing – naan like melty, buttery croissants – I’d walk back to Tokyo for more! We are the only people in there on a Saturday night; if it was in London I’d be tempted to go weekly.