How Studio Ghibli Nearly Got Me Arrested in Japan
I’ve always been a model citizen. Not a church boy, but just enough so my moral compass feels I’m benefitting the world in some fashion. I don’t steal, do drugs, I’ve absolutely consummated before marriage but never cheated. My morality makes me an elitist at times, but it also means I do whatever it takes to find mutual ground with someone before I lose my patience and become the living embodiment of Mount Vesuvius.
So, if there was one flaw in my plan to stay calm and talk it out it’s this: I fucking suck at Japanese.
Yet, I’m drawn to the language so heavily. My girlfriend and I are huge Studio Ghibli fans and own a decent chunk of the movies, but am well aware of how incredibly expensive it is to ship goods from Japan to Perth.
Enter: Don Quijote.
Don Quijote is a chain of megacomplexes scattered throughout Tokyo, and is home to the best and worst Japan has to offer. Looking to buy a Naruto costume? Why not also purchase a bright-pink, glittery dildo conveniently located on the opposite shelf? There’s nothing the store with the dopey penguin mascot doesn’t stock.
Journeying with my friends, I waltzed into the corporate flea market and, after splintering from them, decided to find something Studio Ghibli-related as a gift for my girlfriend.
Halfway through my ascent up the eternal staircase linking the seven storeys of the Shibuya branch, I realised I did not even know which floor I was after. My smartass brain kicked in and said work from the top down, and so the Never-ending story continued.
Floor seven housed luxury goods: Armani shoes and Prada handbags all decadently laid out in security casing cheap enough to be pick-locked by a 2B Pencil. Nope, not here; let’s go down to floor six. Whitegoods and cleaning products? Yeah, nah.
Floor five, things got promising. Suitcases, trainers and pleather belts, but alas, we weren’t there quite yet. Floor four I found my home: gifts, costumes and personal goods. Yes, the pink glitter dildo is on the same floor as my Ghibli crap. Neat.
After humming it over, all while trying to not to do my best mosquito and glance at the bright pink light in my peripheral vision, I decided on a Howl’s Moving Castle and My Neighbour Totoro diorama in a nice hard-plastic case. After making my way down from Heaven on floor four, I was informed I had to Ctrl + Z my last move and backtrack to floor six for the tax-free counter.
From all my bible studies at my private school, I thought the ruling was the higher you go, the closer you are to heaven. To my surprise, the more you ascend in Don Quijote, the closer you are to Hell… and I was about to be greeted by Satan.
I handed the diorama to the man behind the counter with a nod and a “konichiwa”. A drop of his eyebrows caused my back to spasm in only the way it does when I’m concerned. What cardinal sin have I committed?
“Where you get this?” he asked firmly.
“It was on level shi,” I replied promptly, two floors below the counter I was purchasing at.
“Where you get this?”
This time it was firmer and more ticked off. I repeated again. Level four.
“Where. You. Get. This?”
Cool, second day in Tokyo and I’m already copping the dumb-ass tourist vibe.
Thrice more he questioned me before I interjected to end his broken record.
“Okay, I bought on level four. It was on a shelf. I’m happy to pay if it’s for sale. If not for sale, I won’t buy.”
I showed him my wallet and plonked my passport on the counter to show I wasn’t fucking with him.
He was still pissed.
On his walkie talkie, he summoned somebody else with conviction equivalent to a judge’s final decision. I looked around Don Quijote to see who was coming. Will the man’s boss come down from his suited office on secret level eight, or is a burly individual from security going to pop out from the jungle of narrow corridors and JB Hi-Fi shelving?
It was the latter. Times two.
On reflex, I reached for my passport and grabbed the thin air. The shop attendant, with horns growing from his head, seized it before I could. Shuffling backwards, I took a deep breath.
“Where you get this?” he asked again in front of his cross-armed henchman.
I reiterated that I’d grabbed it from the floor below, and wished to pay for it.
The same question was repeated twice more to which, in fear, I did not reply.
The attendant spoke gruffly into his walkie talkie, this time with the voice of Akuma (devil), with my only understood word being keisatsu – police.
With the situation unfolding, hot air rising and 75 per cent humidity, my back and forehead became their own portable onsen.
Five minutes later, the most unimposing police officer appeared from the warrens of Don Quijote. Clad in a yellow shirt, penguin cap and walkie-talkie; the five-foot-two officer had in her hands two little boxes. My mind instantly went to thinking this was a Pandora’s Box metaphor but, it was just the dioramas I had wanted to purchase.
Once more, he beckoned me, asking, “This what you want?”
Absolutely sir, but wasn’t mine bigger?
Turns out I had grabbed a pre-made model they had placed in a hard-plastic casing. That’s what I get for surpassing my own hubris and thinking they all came like this. It was this defiance of logic which got me into this mess in the first place and the probable reason the attendant then ordered me to wait in line again for a whole 25 minutes more.
After an eventful 90 minutes in the store, I departed Don Quijote: a shaking, cesspool of sweat who’d nearly been arrested over four-by-four centimetre Studio Ghibli dioramas with a monetary value of $65 AUD.
I realised my friends had said, “Fuck this,” and left without me. So then began the task of re-telling the story about the dildo and the devil.