We catch up with No Face, Mari Natsuki, who voiced the character of Yubaba, and legendary producer Toshio Suzuki at the limited-time exhibition.

Back in January, Studio Ghibli made the grand announcement that it would be opening a brand new exhibition in Tokyo to honour the beautiful calligraphy and words of wisdom from the studio’s co-founder and producer Toshio Suzuki.

Called the “Toshio Suzuki and Ghibli Exhibition”, the event promised to wow visitors with special exhibits from Ghibli movies and an awesome themed menu, which had us impatiently counting down the days to the event’s 21 April grand opening.

In the end, we were lucky enough to get a sneak peek of the whole exhibition before it opened to the public, and joining us on the day were some very famous faces.

▼ Left to right: No Face, Mari Natsuki, Zeniba, and Toshio Suzuki.

Mari Natsuki is a singer and voice actress who voiced the characters of Yubaba and Zeniba in the 2001 anime film Spirited Away, and these characters take centre stage at the new exhibition with a host of related merchandise and a giant display in their honour.

The exhibition is being held in a hall on the grounds of Kanda Myojin Shrine in Tokyo, which lends an otherworldly air of spiritual magic to the event, and just like at a shrine, there are omikuji fortunes here, located in the main exhibition room.

▼ The omikuji are located next to the two-faced display of Yubaba and her older twin sister Zeniba.

Visitors receive their omikuji fortunes by shaking a number out of these wooden holders, in the same way you would at a shrine.

There are two sets of wooden drawers beside the giant Yubaba/Zeniba display, with one holding the fortune paper slips for the red “Love Omikuji” and the other containing the “Fortune Omikuji“.

Opening the drawer that corresponds to the number drawn out of the wooden holders reveals your fortune, which you can take home with you.

No matter what level of luck is displayed on your fortune, each one contains beautiful calligraphy penned by Suzuki himself!

If you don’t mind waiting in line, you can head over to the mouths of the characters to pull out your omikuji fortune.

Inside each character’s open mouth, you’ll be able to see two rows of wooden tags with tassels attached to them.

On the blue side, Zeniba has blue tags which correspond to the “Better Fortune” numbers.

In Spirited Away, Sen and Lin (Rin) use a tag from the foreman to connect up the bathwater and fill the tub at the magical bathhouse. Yanking on the rope allows Sen to make hot water flow into the huge bathtub in the movie, but yanking on the tags inside the open mouths at the exhibition gives you a totally different experience.

Check out the video below to see what happens:

Walking around to the back, you’ll be able to pull on a red tag inside Yubaba’s mouth, which will reveal your omikuji fortune number, along with with a special phrase for you to enjoy.

Pulling on a “Love Omikuji” tag here (all numbers are written in Japanese kanji) will let you know which numbered drawer to open to receive your fortune.

After enjoying the interactive omikuji experience, you might get extra lucky with an appearance from No Face, who might just slink out from the shadows and grace you with its presence, which is equal parts cute and creepy at the same time.

This Ghibli-approved No Face makes you feel like you’ve entered the world of Spirited Away, as its silent face stares out at you, expressing a surprising amount of emotions depending on the angle of the mask. Add to that a mound of realistic hair, a pair of creepy claws, and a hunched slide when it walks, and you’ll have even more respect for Sen, who wasn’t afraid to befriend the spirit despite its frightening countenance.

Another highlight of the exhibition is the Spirited Away bathhouse, which comes with a special display of lights and sounds that make it seem as if all the characters are really inside the miniature building.

The scene goes from day to night, and will have you wishing you could shrink yourself down and walk across the beautiful arched bridge and into the building.

There are a number of other Ghibli references around, including this little Totoro figure drawn by director Hayao Miyazaki, which contains the kanji characters for Toshio Suzuki’s name.

There’s a giant soot sprite, drawn by Suzuki with a giant calligraphy brush…

And an image of Yubaba on a wooden plaque at the entrance to the exhibition. The words “Toshio Suzuki and Ghibli Exhibition” appear on the plaque, written by Suzuki.

The entrance to the exhibition makes you feel as if you’re entering the world of Spirited Away.

Inside, there are more Ghibli surprises, including a wall of characters that appear as stickers on messaging app Line.

And a collection of posters from some of the studio’s most famous films.

There are also production notes, which give you a behind-the-scenes look at the making of anime classics like Princess Mononoke.

Suzuki’s calligraphy, however, is the main highlight that binds together different aspects of the exhibition, and his beautiful works can be seen spread out across a number of different rooms.

While some of the works have a traditional Japanese look to them, others show a more modern, western influence.

There’s even a piece written in honour of the Never-Ending Man Hayao Miyazaki documentary that screened on public broadcaster NHK in 2016.

Suzuki’s calligraphy also appears in front of giant posters from some of Studio Ghibli’s most beloved movies.

Given that the event is entitled “Toshio Suzuki and Ghibli Exhibition”, there are a number of displays dedicated to the producer and his illustrious career.

There’s a room filled with nostalgic items that helped to nurture Suzuki’s creative mind from a young age, after his birth in Nagoya, Aichi Prefecture, in 1948, three years after the end of World War II.

▼ There’s a cosy cinema room that screens classic films from this post-war period.

And you’ll also find a wall of Animage magazines, which Tokuma Shoten began publishing in July 1978. Suzuki’s professional career started at Tokuma Shoten, when he joined the company shortly after graduating from university. He then went on to become an editor of the Animage anime and entertainment magazine when it was first created, which led him to meet future Studio Ghibli co-founders Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata. 

▼ Hayao Miyazaki’s manga, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, was serialised in Animage from 1982 through to 1994.

One of the most touching pieces you’ll come across at the exhibition is this photo of Suzuki with his fellow studio co-founders, Miyazaki and Takahata, who sadly passed away at the age of 82 in April last year.

Some of the exhibits are prohibited from being touched or photographed, but it’s hard to be upset by this when the prohibited signs come with cute cats and little “nya” (“meow”) expressions.

Once you’ve walked through the exhibition, you’ll exit through the gift shop, which has a wide variety of goods, including some exclusive merchandise created especially for this exhibition.

Yubaba appears on a number of goods, including tenugui cloths and keychains.

▼ And there’s even a purse and kokeshi doll created in her honour!

Shinto goods like ema plaques and omamori protective amulets adorned with images of Ghibli characters are also on sale at the gift shop.

Some of the most sought-after items in the range include an ema in the shape of a shikigami, as seen in Spirited Away, and wooden tags that resemble the ones used to operate the bath in the movie.

▼ There are No Face face masks

▼ Stationery and alarm clocks…

▼ And a mini replica of the house from the movie My Neighbour Totoro.

On the ground floor of the exhibition hall, you’ll want to stop by the cafe for a taste of some very special themed meals, including the Hakumai no Onigiri (“white rice rice balls”), which is a clever nod to the character of Haku in Spirited Away.

Each set, priced at 864 yen (US$7.71), contains three rice balls moulded on the grounds of the shrine with a wish to uplift those who eat them, in the same way that Haku’s rice ball helps Chihiro gather strength in the film.

▼ One rice ball is salt-flavoured, while the other two will contain mystery ingredients that will only be revealed to those who eat them.

There’s also the Makkuro na Kuro Goma Ohagi no Ocha Set (“Dark Black Black Sesame Rice Ball Sweet Tea Set”), which retails for 864 yen and features a round sweet that resembles the “makkuro kurosuke” (“soot sprites”) from Spirited Away.

And for dessert, there’s the “Tonari no Kakigori” (648 yen), which pays homage to the film Tonari no Totoro (My Neighbour Totoro). Made with spring water, the shaved ice dessert is created in the Ujikintoki style, with matcha syrup and sweet adzuki bean paste, and adorned with a leaf and acorn sweets, to recreate the magic of the forest seen in the film.

Other exclusive exhibition goods can also be purchased on the ground floor, including cans of nori seaweed “chips”, in plum or sesame flavours…

▼ Bottles of sake produced in collaboration with Kanda Myojin Shrine…

Sake cups


▼ Tins of candy and boxes of yokan sweets

And biscuits that allow you to devour Suzuki’s penmanship, with one even decorated with the word “Barusu” (rendered as “balse” in English) in bright blue. As fans will know, the characters from the Ghibli film Castle in the Sky say the word “balse” in a Spell of Destruction to bring down the floating city of Laputa.

The sought-after beer bottles featuring labels written by Suzuki can also be purchased at the store on the ground floor.

There’s plenty to see, do, drink, eat, and purchase at the exhibition, so be sure to fill your handcrafted Totoro wallet with some yen and head out to Kanda Myojin Shrine during the event period, which runs from 20 April to 12 May.

However, if you want to avoid crowds that make the shrine one of the busiest places in Tokyo once a year, you’ll want to visit before the annual Kanda Matsuri festival takes place on 11-12 May.

Event information
Toshio Suzuki and Studio Ghibli Exhibition / 鈴木敏夫とジブリ展
Venue: Kanda Myojin Cultural Exchange Center “EDOCCO” at Kanda Myojin shrine hall
神田明神 文化交流館「EDOCCO」内 神田明神ホール
Address: Tokyo-to, Chiyoda-ku, Sotokanda 2-16-2
Dates: 20 April-12 May 
Hours: 10:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m. (last admission 5:30 p.m.) ※ operating hours are subject to change
Admission: TBA

Photos © SoraNews24
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