Two Kinds of Movements

The first refers to the anti-nuclear movement and the second refers to moving pictures (i.e. animation). Today we visited Oguma 先生, a scholar and outspoken activist living in Tokyo. Afterward, we went over to the magical Ghibli Museum thanks to the persistence of our professors in obtaining the hard-to-get tickets.

Professor Oguma. a Japanese historical sociologist, answered our questions extensively and was a lot less intimidating than we expected. When asked about his unusual combination of academic and activist, he replied that he does not really identify as either. Another interesting part of our conversation was that he talked about how Japanese people don’t think there is a relationship between nuclear weapons with nuclear energy. He said a lot of foreigners like to relate events in Hiroshima with events in Fukushima, but they are separate events.

Although I wish I was more of a Ghibli fan than I am (I’ve only seen four Ghibli films), I had a great time at the Ghibli Museum! I love art so much. I think my second career choice would be to work in animation if I had a talent for it. Anyway, it was eye-opening to experience the museum’s portrayals of the creative process and food culture with Selinger先生there. She taught a class that included analysis of Ghibli films, so she had great input! I kind of wished we did an academic reading on Ghibli, but then again who knows if I would have finished it by the time we got the museum. Apparently, there was an optional reading about Spirited Away, but I didn’t see it on BlackBoard?

The museum heavily romanticized the creative process and food. As a someone who romanticizes on the daily, I was grateful to hear Selinger先生’s critique on the museum. The main exhibit was basically a walk-through an artist’s studio. The first part contained all kinds of artist drawings, from loose sketches to fully painted watercolors, all over the walls and on the displayed desk. The text that accompanied talked about how you have to keep on trying and put in a ton of work to get the few gems of usable pieces. There was another part about these little green creatures (怪人ジブリブリ) that gather around stressed artists when deadlines have to be met, and it’s not until the last second that creativity strikes and miraculously the work gets done. (I got a keychain of this cute-because-it’s-ugly character, and the text that went with it read “スタジオに発生するいきものでふだんは婆を見せませんが仕事がはかどらないスタッフの冷汗やあぶら汗をしたってまわりに集まってきます” but I forgot to ask for a translation L help?) It was all very beautiful; desks were messy but not too messy, reference pictures of scenery were laminated in giant photo books, shelves were lined with books from all over the world, and paint containers of pretty much every color were perfectly arranged in rows for us to gawk at. It was very much the creative process viewed through rose-tinted glasses. The museum showed a particular way the creative process happens, implying that it should operate that way. There was also a special food exhibit, which was also super beautiful (I love fake food). The various food scenes in Ghibli films are symbolic. Food is romanticized as the thing that unifies different cultures. Characters are able to explore, through food, what another culture is like in a particular way. What I mean by that last point is that Ghibli ignores certain factors like class and the foods’ political histories (e.g. rice riots) in these cultural exchanges.

My trouble with exCHANGE (pun intended). At the Ghibli museum, I bought a couple things at the gift shop… this was great, except for my freak-out moment of figuring out Japanese coins. I froze up, staring at my open palm full of change. Only panicked thoughts ran through my head, like: What denomination did each coin belong to again? Why didn’t I figure this out when I was in line? The nice cashier must have read the confusion on my face because he reached over the register, sifted through my change, and took the appropriate coins from my hand. I was so relieved and thanked him many times in Japanese.

Author: Karen Chan '18

Hello! I just completed my junior year at Bowdoin College as a chemistry major and recently-declared Japanese Language minor. I am from Honolulu, HI so Japanese culture has always been part of my life, but this trip is the opportunity to go beyond my classroom language experience and Japanese-food-eating experience. My interest in this project stems from my science background and my hope to eventually be a pharmacist in a hospital setting. I plan to focus on public awareness of "environmentally-caused" diseases, like Kawasaki Disease.