“It’s tough being a Japanese god today”: Hayao Miyazaki’s Obsession Made His Oscar Winning Studio Ghibli Movie Possible Despite Risking His American Fanbase

Hayao Miyazaki's fascination with bathhouses resulted in a film that transcended language barriers

"It's tough being a Japanese god today": Hayao Miyazaki's Obsession Made His Oscar Winning Studio Ghibli Movie Possible Despite Risking His American Fanbase


  • Hayao Miyazaki risked alienating American audience with the setting of his film.
  • Hayao Miyazaki was fascinated with bathhouses as a kid.
  • Stage production of Spirited Away is coming to London Coliseum next year.
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Arguably the greatest animation studio in Japan, Hayao Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli is responsible for 8 of the top 15 highest-grossing animes in the country, and the animation landscape owes a lot to Miyazaki. But among all of their acclaimed works, 2001’s Spirited Away remains the most important release in Miyazaki’s illustrious career, which held the top spot at Japan’s box office before being dethroned by Demon Slayer.


Often considered one if not the greatest animated films of all time, Spirited Away is responsible for introducing America to Studio Ghibli’s brilliance, even earning an Academy Win for Best Animated Film. But Miyazaki did initially risk losing his American audience following the main setting for the iconic film.

Also read: “It’s a dangerous way”: Despite Making Legendary Movies Like Howl’s Moving Castle, Hayao Miyazaki Does Not Like Waiting for Scripts

Guillermo del Toro praised Hayao Miyazaki
Hayao Miyazaki

Hayao Miyazaki Reflects on His Fascination With Bathhouses

While the concept of parents taking baths with their kids might be odd to Americans, it’s pretty common in the Japanese culture, in which it’s considered an extremely common social activity. Bathing also holds an important place in Japan’s history, often seen as a healing ritual for the body and the spirit.

As a kid, Hayao Miyazaki developed a deep fascination for bathhouses. Reflecting on his experience, Miyazaki expressed his fascination with the place, explaining that as a kid, he often wondered what was behind the closed door next to the bathtub.

Spirited Away (2001)
Spirited Away (2001)

This resulted in the acclaimed filmmaker writing a story around the bathhouses, involving a young man the same age as Spirited Away‘s Chihiro, but the concept was unfortunately rejected. But Miyazaki was adamant about telling his story, eventually resulting in the creation of Spirited Away, as he imagined bathhouses as the perfect place for the fading gods of his homeland to socialize.


He told Animage Magazine (translated),

“It would be fun if there were such a bathhouse. It’s the same as when we go to hot springs. Japanese gods go there to rest for a few days, then return home saying they wished they could stay for a little while longer. I was thinking that it’s tough being a Japanese god today,”

While the practice might be exclusive to Japanese culture, this didn’t stop Spirited Away from breaking the language barrier, becoming one of the most beloved films of the 2000s.

Also read: “They don’t immediately react”: Hayao Miyazaki was Asked to make One Change by his Co-Workers in $395M Movie to Make it More Relatable

Spirited Away
Spirited Away (2001)

The Stage Adaptation of Spirited Away Coming to London Next Year

Created by director John Caird in 2022, the stage adaptation of Spirited Away is being brought to London at the largest West End theatre, London Coliseum, next year, which will run for 12 Weeks. Per NME, Caird said,

“I am proud and delighted to present the original Japanese stage production of Spirited Away at the Coliseum Theatre next year. We had a wonderful time creating the show in 2022 and I’m so happy now to be spiriting away a British audience into Hayao Miyazaki’s magical world.”

Also read: Studio Ghibli Executive Debunks Hayao Miyazaki’s Retirement But Shares One Major Concerning News for ‘The Boy and the Heron’

Spirited Away: Stage Adaptation of Studio Ghibli Classic
Spirited Away: Stage Adaptation of Studio Ghibli Classic

With Miyazaki back to working on his next project, fans can’t expect what Studio Ghibli has stored next for the lovers of the medium.




Written by Santanu Roy

Articles Published: 1456

Santanu Roy is a film enthusiast with a deep love for the medium of animation while also being obsessed with The Everly Brothers, Billy Joel, and The Platters. Having expertise in everything related to Batman, Santanu spends most of his time watching and learning films, with Martin Scorsese and Park Chan-wook being his personal favorites. Apart from pursuing a degree in animation, he also possesses a deep fondness for narrative-driven games and is currently a writer at Fandomwire with over 1000 articles.