The film Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi is a Japanese animated film. It was written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki and produced by Studio Ghibli in 2001. Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi is a fantasy film that addresses several themes and carries various messages. It is full of Shinto beliefs and symbolisms. Shinto elements can be found throughout the film, from character design to simple acts such as crossing a tunnel/bridge to reach another realm and eating that realm’s food in order to stay in it. This paper will focus on some of the themes presented in the film as well as some of its main characters.
There are two themes within the title of the film, one of them is Kamikakushi. Kamikakushi is an old Japanese folk belief that literally means, “to be hidden by a Kami/deity”. The closest English translation is “Spirited Away”. It was used as an explanation to sudden disappearances of young people. The term was used when people –usually villagers- searched for the mysteriously missing people for a long time and had not found them. It gave the family of the missing people a reason to justify their disappearance and to end the fretful search. Kamikakushi also offered a reassuring belief to the family members that the missing person has not demised in an unfortunate accident but instead he is on a journey in the realm of spirits and he might even come back one day. Thus, it is clear that Kamikakushi was used for the sake of families of the missing people. Some anthropologists hypothesized that Kamikakushi is actually a cover for insanity, elopement, or even murder. (komatsu 2002, 217).
The film begins with Chihiro in the midst of relocating to a new town. She appears to be sul...
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...smaller and less friendly, the film ends on a positive note; it gives hope that Haku and Chihiro will meet again someday. Of course, there is no guarantee that they will meet in the human world.
As it is seen from all the above, Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi contains a lot of Shinto beliefs and imagery. It provides a wonderful example of how the modern and technological can still carry folk beliefs and customs within it. It is also a very effective tool of teaching adults and children alike about the lushness of the Japanese tradition over the technological world of animation. It provides a new take on the concept of Kamikakushi and the characteristics of Yamauba, tsuchigumo, and Nigihayahi. One must keep in mind that all “original” concepts and beliefs are not set in stone. They are constantly morphed to be time appropriate and remain cherished by the Japanese.
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