Hayao Miyazaki Film Food — Part One: SPIRITED AWAY

Hayao Miyazaki's movies are widely known for their warm colors, cute pets, brave characters, attractive storyline, and incredible attention to detail. But one of the most significant parts of any Miyazaki film is actually the food. Miyazaki uses food in specific ways to bring characters together, build their relationships, and add depth to the story. This week we're running a series of articles exploring the food in his films.

The first of these five editorials focuses on the food of Spirited Away.

In Spirited Away, Chihiro and her parents are moving to a new house. On their journey, they find a secret place which was so beautiful and had lots of delicious food. Usually, people don't just eat a stranger’s food because it is rude. I guess Chihiro’s parents were really hungry, though, so they decided to eat first and pay later. Miyazaki does a really good job presenting those foods — large amounts of roast chicken, soup dumpling, pastries piled up like mountains. Unfortunately, those foods were prepared for ancient gods, and they tend to make people pay when they are wronged. Chihiro’s parents ate the food without paying first, so they are turned into pigs. To save her parents, Chihiro has to work for the bad witch.

Chihiro is a brave young girl. Although her parents are turned into pigs, she does not give up and works really hard to save her parents. At the beginning, nobody likes her because she is a human. However, after people see her kindness and hard work, she makes friends. People share food when they are trying to be nice to someone. Chihiro’s friends do the same thing. Stuffed buns are one of the most popular foods in Asia. Usually, the buns are stuffed with meat and vegetables. In the movie, the bun is different because it is stuffed with sweet red beans. In China, red beans mean that you miss someone. Chihiro is only a little girl. Although she needs to be brave in front of others, she must miss her parents so much.

On a summer evening, Chihiro sits in a sweet little house and is surrounded by her friends. There are cookies and cheesecake. They drink hot tea and talk about the amazing experiences she has had. After all of her difficulties, Chihiro finally has a moment when she can relax and talk to her friends. For Miyazaki, food is the most comforting thing. Once again, he prepared hot drinks and desserts for his little character. After this relaxing moment, Chihiro is cheered up and prepared for her final test.

Food helps drive the main themes of the movie. First of all, don't eat other people’s food without their permission. More importantly, love your families, your friends, and even your enemies because "love is the key that opens the gate of happiness" (Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr). How do you show that love? That's easy. Share your stuffed buns and teas and cheesecakes and cookies. After all, what is more important than a joyful, loving, delicious life?

By: Tommy Wiliams, Catherine Wilson, and Yifan Zhao