The fairy-tale worlds of Hayao Miyazaki: what inspires the great master? (6 photos)

31 December 2023
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Hayao Miyazaki was born in Tokyo on January 5, 1941, at the height of World War II. Over the course of his fifty-year career, the animation director has created beautiful, complex, and critically acclaimed masterpieces. And he continues to tirelessly do what he does best. We invite you to immerse yourself in the world of Miyazaki and try to understand what influenced his work.

Hayao Miyazaki's films are inspired by Japanese folklore and Shintoism

Shintoism is a traditional religion of Japan, based on the belief in kami - spirits that inhabit everything around. In Miyazaki's stories, spirits and deities often interact with people, such as in Spirited Away.

The main character, Chihiro, finds herself in the other world. This reflects Japanese belief in which the boundary between the human and the divine is fluid and permeable. Baths in the anime film serve as places where gods and spirits come to rejuvenate, reflecting the Shinto practice of purification and honoring the kami.

The plots are imbued with pacifism, humanism and love of nature

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Some of Miyazaki's films, such as Princess Mononoke and My Neighbor Totoro, reflect his deep reverence for nature and address environmental issues.

In the film "Princess Mononoke" the director showed the struggle between the gods of the forest and people who are depleting natural resources, which is a direct reflection of the environmental crisis caused by human progress and industrialization.

His work also often features idyllic, pastoral landscapes that are threatened by human stupidity.

Hayao's experiences of the horrors of war and his dislike of militarism influenced the plot of Howl's Moving Castle, which contains anti-war themes.


Hayao's father, Katsuji Miyazaki, was the director of a factory producing aircraft parts during the war. His passion for aviation was reflected in many works, including “The Witch’s Delivery Service” and “Porco Rosso.”

In the fantasy Witch's Delivery Service, young Kiki takes to the skies on her broom, symbolizing her journey to independence and adulthood.

Porco Rosso is about a pilot during the First World War. Even in Spirited Away, Chihiro flies on the back of Haku, the dragon. It is in such meticulous, small details that one can truly grasp the depth of Miyazaki's inspiration.

Literature and Imagination

Hayao created worlds and stories that reflect his philosophy, dreams and ideas. Although the storytelling is deeply personal, the stories often touch on themes from existing books.

For example, “The Little Prince” is one of the master’s favorite books and he does not hide the fact that he drew inspiration from it. And the film "The Boy and the Bird", which will premiere in early December, is based on the 1937 book of the same name by Genzaburo Yoshino.

Theme of growing up

Growing up is one of the main themes of Miyazaki's work. Young heroes find their place in the world through adventure and self-discovery. “Spirited Away,” “My Neighbor Totoro,” and even the upcoming “The Boy and the Bird” are prime examples of this.

Hayao is convinced that children should think freely and positively. After the release of Ponyo on the Cliff, he officially declared: “We must protect our children from nationalism.”

Despite the fact that the main goal of the anime genius is to influence children for the sake of a wonderful and better future, his masterpieces are warmly received by people of different generations.

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