I turned, gazing about me, spotted this scene and thought instantly of Hayao Miyazaki

I turned, gazing about me, spotted this scene and thought instantly of Hayao Miyazaki

Hello, and yes, I’m still working on the Japan photobook I talked about in my last post.

I wanted to highlight this photo I took the very first time I went to Iwakuni castle. It’s on the top of the mountain ridge above Niziki River and looks far beyond the city of Iwakuni and off to the sea. This tree could very well be the highest thing around, except for the castle.

Though my 5-month job turned out to be in Japan purely by chance, I felt grateful to have a fledgling background in things Japanese through my daughter. Miss T introduced me to Japanese anime and taught herself two dozen words in the language simply by watching so many subtitled shows and listening to the native speakers and singing along with the theme songs.

She would insist sometimes that I watch with her. Sometimes I did.

She introduced me to Studio Ghibli and the incredible stories woven by Hayao Miyazaki, who directs many of the movies from that studio. ย One of the things that drops my jaw in wonder during his films is the use of landscape in animation. It had never occurred to me, before I became better educated, how animation can be an art form for actual art. Not just some crude figures scrawled onto a page to help tell a story, but – for example – that an animated film could pan across a wide field while wind rustles the grass in waves (this blew me away in the movie Spirited Away). I began to pay much better attention.

So, as I stood beside the castle, and turned and gazed and tried to soak up Japan, my eyes framed this animated shot and I recognized it. Not really, of course, but I recognized that the landscapes Miyazaki brings to me are not fanciful as they seemed to me before, having never seen this gorgeous country. Rather, through his work I have seen real landscapes drawn from real Japan. He (and obviously the vastly talented artists with him), can see the art in real life and make it come to life on screen. So watching his work was teaching me about Japan all along. It’s nice to know that.

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