A deep dive into the politics of Hayao Miyazaki

Hayao Miyazaki is one of the world’s most famous animators, producing Studio Ghibli who created critically acclaimed animated films like My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke, and Abducted as if by magic. The man does not hesitate to teach anti-war and environmentalist sentiments in his work, the films often delving into animism and the promotion of empathy for other beings. A closer look at his work shows even more, an exploration of Miyazaki’s thoughts on industrialization, the value of labor, and modernization.


Fans don’t have to just watch and perform the films, as Miyazaki has been open about his political views in interviews. He is actually quite critical of politicians and cynical about the nature of capitalism, patriotism and the Japanese Constitution. In a 2013 interview with Neppu, Miyazaki described his political journey, from childhood to adulthood.

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Miyazaki’s young life

Protagonists of the tomb of the fireflies.

Due to the time he was born, Miyazaki lived deeply rooted in the aftermath of war. He was born in 1941, four years before American bombs fell on Hiroshima. In his interview, Miyazaki described that even as a child he thought war was stupid. He said, “I came to really hate Japan, thinking I was born in a country that did stupid things.” As the war ended when he was very young, Miyazaki said he remembered the airstrike that burned down his town. He also remembered feeling humiliated when Japan lost the war. He read a lot of war books and studied war stories, such as The machine gunners. It was around the time he read this book that Miyazaki said he realized that if he had been born earlier he probably would have been a patriotic military boy. He explained that people didn’t really know what war was until they were on the verge of death, which is why so many volunteers volunteered.

Miyazaki’s father produced parts for warplanes during WWII. Miyazaki described his father as a nihilist and a realist, which influenced the way Miyazaki viewed war and Japan. Apparently, right after the war, Miyazaki’s father immediately befriended Americans and invited them to their home.

Growing up, Miyazaki said he never wanted to sing Japanese songs and was ashamed of the imperialism of his homeland. However, in his 30s, he re-examined Japan after traveling around Europe a bit and found he loved it, but not in a way that a patriot could claim. He loved the environment and the nature of the islands. “I thought Japan would be a really beautiful country,” said Miyazaki, “if there was no one there”. He grew up to believe that the earth had tremendous power.

Miyazaki political ranking

Screenshot of The Wind Rises.

Miyazaki thinks that too many politicians lack strong opinions or a historical conscience. “They determine policies without real study of the problems, but rather with spontaneous ideas or by listening to people who say superficial things,” he said. He also likes certain aspects of Article Nine of the Japanese Constitution, the one which renounces that the Japanese people can wage war or use force to settle international disputes to some extent.

Japan has self-defense forces and Miyazaki said he was impressed with the way they help people during disasters. He believes that self-defense should be Japan’s goal, never to start a war, especially since their country has many nuclear power plants. He mentioned that he used to admire neutral countries like Sweden and Switzerland, but reality has shown that even these nations have armaments. He also believes that Japan should apologize and make amends for some past acts, such as what happened with the Comfort Women, who were sex slaves of the Imperial Japanese Army during WWII. In terms of territorial disputes with other nations, Miyazaki believes in dividing territory or managing land collaboratively.

Miyazaki also has a lot of thoughts on the economic structure of Japan, believing this to be the most important thing to change. “We lose the sense of reality when we work for the numbers,” Miyazaki said. He disapproves of the market-driven system, believing that it denies a mind that makes things truly ours. Miyazaki wants a world where people know how to sew, make a fire and cook their own food and find peace and meaning there rather than what the economy sees as unpaid work. Miyazaki hates that the economy takes over people who experience “real things” when they usually work and then have to decompress work each day in a cycle.

Screenshot of the castle in the sky.

In her interview, Miyazaki said people should focus on interesting jobs, spending time with friends and family instead of focusing too much on the future. As an example, he described the joy of opening a daycare center for this job. He said that while the future may be bleak, new lives should be celebrated and loved. On that note, he mentioned that Japan should let its population decline. He believes the adequate population for the county is 35 million, compared to the country at 100 million at the time of the interview.

Miyazaki’s political positions do not exist only in the Japanese bubble. He was also a staunch opponent of the United States’ war on Iraq. In fact, he didn’t come to the United States in 2003 to get an Oscar for Abducted as if by magic because of this post. He told the Los Angeles Times that he didn’t want to visit a country that was bombing Iraq. It is for this reason that Miyazaki did not think the American public would like Howl’s moving castlebecause the war in this film mirrored the war with Iraq.

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Politics in his films

Little girl sleeping on Totoro.

Studio Ghibli films, due to their fame, have been widely studied for their messages, symbolism, and themes. Those who have studied the themes and messages of the films are probably not surprised by Miyazaki’s policies. the Grave of the Fireflies showed the cruel degradation of children’s lives after a bombing in WWII. Princess mononoke showed a war between man and nature and showed how it condemns both sides. Pom poko told the story of the city’s development through the eyes of raccoon dogs that went extinct when their resources were taken from them.

Almost all of the films show Miyazaki’s love for his own unique Japan, which sees the sacredness of the land, a land without overcrowded cities. He also shows clues to his ideal economy, one that romanticizes cooking, cleaning, and creating art. His films show a vision of what things could be, and due to their popularity, it is safe to assume that many people find comfort and entertainment in such a world that perhaps exists.

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