Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Kitaro goods shop
Tokyo is a weird place. It's a huge city spread out over many square miles and built up with towering skyscrapers. The commuter system can get you pretty much from anywhere in the city to anywhere else, but the rides may be between 5 minutes and two hours depending on your route, and may require several transfers. And you'll never be able to visit everything that you'd want to, even if you knew that it existed beforehand. Places that you did visit may be closer than you thought they were.
I say this because when I last went to Inokashira Park, home of the Studio Ghibli museum, it took at least 1 hour, and I had to take 2 trains and a bus. So, to me, that park was a long ways away and I never expected to be able to find it on my own. Now, couple this with Jindaiji, a large shinto shrine grounds lined with gift shops, soba restaurants, and a Buddhist cemetery. Jindaiji is actually quite close to Inokashira Koen by bus and had been part of the day trip to Inokashira. Connected to Jindaiji is the Rose Garden. The Rose Garden is a famous conservatory that routinely displays varieties of roses on its open grounds, and has a large green house, and an almost Greek amphitheater seating area at one end. I'd been to the Rose Garden twice, along with Jindaiji itself. But, it was such an involved process to get to that I thought I'd only see it on special occasions.
(Map of Japan)
However. A couple months ago, I was riding my bike along the Keio train line, trying to figure out how to go the 3 miles from my apartment to Chofu. It's easy enough if you're on the train, but the streets are all windy and it was tricky by bike. At one point I got detoured away from Chofu and as I tried doubling back I found myself up in some hills overlooking the area. Coming down the other side of the hill, I rode past a big bus stop area in front of some old wooden buildings and tourist signs. I didn't want to stop at that point, so I kept riding on. Then, 2 weeks ago, one of the people I'd met while riding along the Tamagawa asked if I'd like her to show me some shrine called Jindaiji. I didn't know what the name was at that point and I said "sure". After spending 30 minutes wandering around the twisty little roads again, I'm suddenly speeding right back down that same hill behind Chofu in front of that same bus stop.
This time, we went into the shrine grounds, and I suddenly realize that I've been here before. My partner tells me about this "famous rose garden" I can reach by following a specific path out to the back, and I get this suspicion that I know which one she's talking about. The next day, after studying google maps, I ride back out on my own, taking a more direct route, and sure enough, I'm following the bus route that would take me to Studio Ghibli and Inokashira Koen. I take the turn off that I'd taken from the smaller bus stop before, and now I'm at the green house. A couple of blocks later, I'm at the gift shops and the other, bigger bus stop at the back side of the hill from Chofu. Total trip time from the apartment - 25 minutes.
(The deck for drinking tea can be seen in the back at the left.)
Why do I care? Because one of the gift shops is a goods shop dedicated to "Gegege no Kitaro", and this is what I recognized when my cycling partner brought me here two weeks ago. Turns out that the earlier bus trip to Jindaiji took so long simply because of the times required for the transfers.
(Kitaro and his father are in da House.)
I love "Kitaro", a simple ghost story series by Shigeru Mizuki. It originally ran in Shonen Magazine in the 60's, and is still a TV anime on Sunday mornings. A live-action movie version also aired on TV just a few days ago, so this title is still going strong. Interestingly, there was an event at the Parco department store chain last year that combined Kitaro and Astro Boy on the same t-shirts and posters, and these goods are still available at the goods shop here.
(Post box, notice the tiny footprints...)
The goods shop features statues of the various characters, a little tree house that Kitaro lives in, the ghost post box that delivers letters from children asking Kitaro to help save them from evil ghosts, and a little display room up on the second floor. The display room has some of Mizuki's artwork, paintings of ghosts, masks and a map of the country covered in little figures of ghost monsters representing each of the major cities in Japan. A set of sliding doors exits out onto a deck where you can relax and drink tea.
I ended up getting a bottle of "Gegege no Kitaro" water, which tastes like regular water but costs 40% more. I'm thinking of getting a t-shirt to replace an existing one once the holes get too big and is ready to be thrown away (probably the Soul Calibur shirt I was wearing when I wiped out on my bike that same day on my way home from this trip). I may also get myself a bottle of Kitaro beer, but at 600 yen ($6), I'm hesitant as to whether it's worth the money.
(The sign says "t-shirts Festival")
Getting to Jindaiji requires going along some busy streets with narrow shoulders, and now I'm a bit gun-shy. It'll probably be a while before I go back out. But, now that I know how close it really is, I expect that it won't be too long before my next visit.