Monday, August 29, 2016

Flashback: Cute Shit: SuA Bean Coffee, The Ghibli-Themed Café in Pyeongchon

Wouldn't you know it, there was one other Ghibli-themed Korean experience - also from almost exactly 3 years ago - that I somehow never shared on this blog, despite my prolific posting about cute cafés there.

Maybe at the time I decided that it wasn't that impressive and was too focused on posting about my many weekend trips around the country, I don't know; either way, here it is now, though I don't know if this café even exists anymore.

Shabby chic ahoy!

There were little toys placed all around the café, and spotting them in the nooks and crannies while enjoying coffee and tea was a big part of the charm.

... and also placed here and there were images that had obviously been printed and cut out by hand! It reminded me of being a teenager and doing this kind of thing with my room.

Most cafés in Korea have novels, comics, and photo books you can browse while sipping your brew.

Much like in Japan, the average person lives in a very small, cramped, and unwelcoming apartment where it's also not possible to invite people over because there is simply no space for anyone else, so café culture has exploded in popularity in both countries. It's a comfortable, spacious, warm and welcoming place to relax. That's also why you end up with cat and other animal cafés, too - while a lot of people have cats, a lot of people aren't allowed to have pets in their building or don't have time to care for them.

This Totoro painting (and Porco Rosso plane..!) was of course the centerpiece.

Otherwise, the place was pretty simple.

Man, I miss this: having enough to buy drinks at cafés. 
Not only that, but to get two or three! Oh well.

This is a delicious, traditional type of cold summer tea called sujeonggwa - 
it's cinnamony and sweet.

This, at least a few years ago, was the most ubiquitous Korean café menu item: essentially a huge slice of white bread or the entire cube-shaped loaf topped with tons of whipped cream and other sweet toppings such as honey, caramel, and chocolate sauce.

I know it's messy, but look at the cute Totoro dishes!

The images revealed themselves as we stuffed our faces 
(and yes, I did make myself pretty sick eating all this bread).

But all in all it was delightfully decadent, quaint, and adorable.

Plus, to top it all off, we went from Pyeongchon to nearby Uiwang (these are suburbs just south of Seoul) to the favourite family-owned restaurant of my coworkers at the time to have hot pot bibimbap, hyemul pajeon or savoury seafood pancake, and makgeoli.

According to the date stamp on my photos, this was apparently the same day we met a few others there, and the owners brought us an order of tofu and kimchi for free. 
Ahh, good times!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Flashback: The Mucha and Studio Ghibli Layout Design Exhibitions at Seoul Arts Center

The Ghibli Expo reminded me of the other Ghibli exhibition I saw three years ago in Seoul, the first of its kind to ever take place outside Japan, and going back over my posts, I was surprised to see that I apparently never shared the pictures on here or included this particular event in any other post.
There were so many original sketches and animation cells in this exhibit that I had kind of hoped to see something similar in Roppongi on Friday and was a little disappointed when the very few sketches and hand-written notes displayed, upon taking a closer look, turned out to be photocopies.

Of course, with this exhibition no photos were allowed either, but Korea isn't as stringent and rule-obsessed as Japan, and this was the last day of both the Ghibli Layout Design and Alphonse Mucha exhibitions at Seoul Arts Center, so the place was a complete madhouse. They couldn't have kept track of the throngs of visitors closely enough to have kept photos from being taken even if they wanted to. And now that it's three years later, hopefully no one finds this, decides it's a problem, and asks me to remove it.

There were so many people that you had to take a number to get in and wait, and when I saw that I somehow had #53 when they were on #3000, I felt like Beetlejuice in the otherworldly waiting room for people in limbo. But, it actually ended up moving along faster than I would've thought.

They had an entire wall dedicated to visitors' fan drawings and doodles!

The original Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away drawings were the most pleasant, I thought; seeing all the ornately detailed tree roots and leaves like this as well as the cluttered desks and other surfaces filled with papers and magic tomes - that's the Ghibli magic, I guess. 
That warm homey feeling the films have.

Sorry I had to turn the contrast up so high on this one; it was pretty dim in there and I still had to be fairly stealthy about it, so all of these were taken quite quickly.

While seeing the original sketches for those classics was extremely pleasant, the painted backgrounds for Ponyo were totally breathtaking. They had some that were as long as entire walls. I wish I could've gotten more photos, but that area was more open and was actually being monitored (by staff who were so thinly-spread that I was still able to get several more quick, stealthy shots), and honestly I don't know if this post will stay up lol.

Glorious, right?

At the end there were a number of sketches and cels for The Wind Rises, which was released that year, shortly after this exhibition.

The Mucha exhibit wasn't as packed as the Ghibli one, especially since I was going into it right at the end of the day (and, again, on the last day of both). But that also meant I wasn't able to sneak any photos at all of the original, iconic posters we all recognise so readily.

The walls and gift shop were decked out to the nines, though. I almost blew 30 bucks on an umbrella but decided against it, since I already have a few, including a fairly similar Degas one.

And finally, on the outside of the Arts Center was a giant cutout of Howl's moving castle, as well as several little Totoro ones in the landscaping features. I wish you could see it better, but it was so dark, and the only dim lights were yellow! Boo! But I loved these exhibitions and miss making enough to visit such things without having to think much about it, as I lamented in the other post I've just dug up. Le sigh. Until next time, Seoul.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Cute Shit: The Ghibli Expo

Let's take a break from this new series about the time I spent in Romania 5 years ago and enjoy a little Ghibli interlude, shall we? Yes, we shall. 

I met NiQui and Rejon at the spider on Friday night to finally hit the Ghibli Expo, the latest in what I can imagine is a longer-than-I-realise series of wildly successful pop art exhibitions put on by the Mori Art Museum in Roppongi Hills and aimed directly at our demographic.

At the very beginning of the year Hannes and I went with our friend Patrick - who was visiting and staying with us before returning to the States from Seoul for good - to the Takashi Murakami one, and a couple of months ago, a former coworker of mine was visiting from Sydney, so we hit up the Sailormoon one together:

So as I was saying, for this most recent one that everyone and their mother's gone to, we met at the spider, and even though it's starting to cool down slightly - almost imperceptibly - it's still pretty muggy and awful out. But we had ourselves a really nice time.

I mean, the view alone is pretty much worth the price of admission.
Knowing I'd definitely end up going to this thing, I had been hoping it'd be at night.

As with the other exhibits, of course, there is no photo-taking allowed except in a few designated and of course heavily crowded spots, but NiQui and I managed to get a couple of the large round room of Ghibli merch somewhere in the middle of this thing before a small woman who appeared out of nowhere stopped us:

-heavy creeper breathing-

Designated Photo Spot #1: The Adult-Sized Catbus

It was basically a race against time to get pictures, and the staff/curators left this entirely up to the paying visitors, assigning no one to do it for us. So a natural system of asking people or trading with them quickly sorted itself out. 
I said in a recent post and about a well-researched and heavily critical book I'm reading about Japanese society that echoes and elaborates upon all of my major complaints about it that the country has "almost no redeeming qualities", but that doesn't stop me from appreciating this type of nostalgia bomb exhibit or this natural sense of orderliness and cooperation. Of course, these types of things are great, and it's these subtle cultural nuances that drew me in in the first place.

The exhibit's finale is the art museum's high vaulted ceiling space (not quite an atrium but basically like that), which has been filled with cutouts of the realistic and fantastical aircraft that are a recurrent Ghibli motif, with the crown jewel being of course the illuminated, moving airship from Laputa: Castle in the Sky.

It hovers over a luminaria-like city that is really very simplistic but wonderfully textured and soothing to watch as it glows and fades.

such pleasant. many pleasant. wow
Seriously though, I said at the time that I wanted it attached to my ceiling as a light.

To top it all off, at least on this particularly busy night, they had live music.
We didn't stay to appreciate it because it was so crowded and after a busy day we were all pretty much dead on our feet, but this woman you can see at the bottom right had a lovely voice - one of the other characteristic aspects of all these beloved films.

"The End!"