A city in Japan has launched a crowdfunding campaign to help preserve a stretch of pristine forest that inspired Hayao Miyazaki when he was creating his classic hand-drawn animation My Neighbor Totoro.
The city of Tokorozawa, located about 20 miles northwest of Tokyo, has set out a plan to raise 2.6 billion yen ($19 million) to purchase a 9-acre patch of woodland known locally as the “Totoro Forest.” The area, home to about 7,000 aged oak trees, will then be set aside as a nature preserve for local residents and visiting anime pilgrims.
“The area is one of the places where director Miyazaki developed his ideas for Totoro after strolling there,” a local official told Tokyo’s Japan Times newspaper. My Neighbor Totoro, released in 1988, famously tells the story of a professor’s two young daughters and their adventures with a cuddly but enigmatic forest spirit named Totoro in postwar rural Japan.
Miyazaki’s beloved Studio Ghibli is lending a hand to the forest preservation campaign. Participants who contribute 25,000 yen ($185) to the Tokorozawa city effort will be gifted with prints of Totoro background artwork from Ghibli. Initially, just 1,000 sets will be available for donors within Japan, but organizers said more could be made available if demand exceeds supply. Officials say they expect the crowdfunding exercise to only cover a small portion of the land purchase, but they hope the effort will generate publicity and enthusiasm for the new nature preserve.
Miyazaki’s works, from Princess Mononoke to Spirited Away to his most recent feature The Wind Rises, are suffused with a reverence for nature and the more connected, agrarian lifestyle that once characterized Japanese culture.
Studio Ghibli’s first theme park, located within 494 acres of natural parkland in Japan’s Aichi Prefecture, around 90 miles east of Kyoto, is set to open in November. The 81-year-old animator is also at work on what he says will be his final feature, How Do You Live, an anime adaptation of the 1937 Japanese novel of the same name by Yoshino Genzaburo. Miyazaki’s longtime producer Toshio Suzuki said the director is creating the film for his grandson as his way of saying, “Grandpa is moving onto the next world soon, but he is leaving behind this film for you.”