NOTE: I would like to point out that this is my fourth or fifth time trying to write this. Each time, I’ve attempted to write my thoughts out, I find out myself writing a completely different post. Here’s hoping this goes smoothly.
I’ve been fascinated with literature of all kinds ever since I was a little girl. I can’t remember the title of the first story I really fell in love with, but I do remember it was about a fox and his swamp band, and they ran into some trouble with some shady crocodiles. As simple as that story was, I remember thinking about that book for days. I imagined myself as the lead singer of the band, getting captured by crocodiles, and celebrating a victory with my animal friends. (I think Kindergarten Kat even had a crush on Mr. Fox.) At this point, I can’t remember how much of what I’m remembering is the actual plot or what I made up on my own.
For years after, I indulged myself many books, jumping from Nancy Drew to Encyclopedia Brown to Artemis Fowl and anything written by Garth Nix or Brian Jacques or Ted Dekker. I read the classics in high school and fell in love with Charles Dickens and Shakespeare, but something was missing. Sometimes I picked up a book and thought, “Well, that was good, but it could have been better.” I wanted to do better. I wanted to pour my passion for reading onto a page. I don’t remember when I started writing. I feel as if it has always been part of my life, but the oldest primary document I have in my care is an Applebee’s napkin with some scrawling for some sort of character idea. A literary masterpiece? Not at all. It’s hardly passable for fanfiction, but that marks my beginning, maybe a moment in time where I vowed to write at least one great story, not part of a fad but something that would stand the test of time and become a literary masterpiece after I died.
I wanted people to see this world blossoming in my mind. But somehow, I’ve never been able to accurately describe it. It has always been beyond my ability. I have binders filled past their maximum capacity with ideas and sketches and short stories which completely unlock the mysteries of the inner-workings of my mind, but I could never share any of them. They’re not my vision. As I entered college, I found myself writing less and less. The passion still existed. I felt it itching, but many papers, jobs, people, and my own fatigue kept me from writing. My journals remained empty.
But about a week and a half ago, I went on a trip.
I’ve gotten that reaction a lot. During Golden Week, I traveled all over Tokyo in a few short days, but on my first day, I found myself in the Mitaka ward; it certainly wasn’t heavy on tourist traffic. I was just visiting the Ghibli Museum, home of the art of my favorite Japanese animator, Hayao Miyazaki. (If you haven’t heard of the name, perhaps you’ve heard of some of his work, including Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro, and Howl’s Moving Castle). We arrived two hours early on a bright orange bus called the cat bus. (Sadly, it wasn’t actually like the one from Totoro.)
As we neared the museum itself, the foliage grew bigger, thicker, and greener, and I felt as if I had shrunk to the size of a pixie. The greenery wrapped about a building sunken into the ground, the walls rising out of the depths into the clouds. Gazing down from above, a metal guardian eyed the spectators with cold eyes. Watching from below, eyes etched in glittering stained glass beckoned everyone passing to view their story. I longed to go beyond the metal bars inside, but we still had two hours to kill.
We found ourselves at a crossroads of some sort, many of the paths leading through social areas deeper into the shaded foliage. We glanced at each other, and with that look we decided not to care where we went. We chose a path, and we walked, the promise of a café, zoo, or aquarium beckoning us. We traveled through the park, the canopy overhead protecting us from the sun’s rays, past people riding bikes and school children in green and pink hats. We walked until the world become silent except for the crunch of stones underneath our shoes.
Red peeked through the trees. The wind carried the smell of incense and the pond’s gentle mist toward my face. Nearby a bell rang, summoning spirits to answer a traveler’s prayer. The trees overhead swayed with the breeze, moaning underneath the weight of their age and wisdom. I became vaguely aware of the spell cast upon me; I thought I could fight it, but as I approached the gates of the Benten shrine, any power I had disappeared. My feet wandered through the gates of their own accord, and I swear my heart stopped. I had practically found the gateway to Narnia, an ancient sect of the Templars, a gathering of Ents. I waited, and I waited for Howl to sweep me off my feet, for Princess Mononoke to fly through the trees, or a Laputa to sail through the clouds above the creaking trees.
Somehow, the magic never wore off. Every tree seemed a bit greener on my trek back. Every step I took hurt my feet a little less. Every breath made me feel more alive, as if I hadn’t really been living for a long time. This place was fantasy I lived in my mind. It breathed with me. It wrapped its spell around me and captured my heart. It imprisoned me, and I know that if I ever want to be free, I have to return. It’s just like that time spent wondering about that fox picture book.
Getting lost in a different world for the first time in a long time reminded me that my world still exists. It still wants to be told. It still has to be told, and it has helped me start writing again. Magic exists in this world. Miyazaki has certainly created it, and it has consumed Mitaka. And now I hold a piece of that magic.
And some of it followed me home.