Thursday, March 24, 2016

Tama Hills and Environmental Consciousness in Japanese Anime Films

In 1994 Studio Ghibli produced Pom Poko, (directed by Isao Takahata) a trippy animated film about a community of magical shape shifting raccoons desperately struggling to prevent their forest home from being destroyed by urban development.  The movie draws heavily on traditional Japanese folklore (especially the reputed power of the raccoon's testicles), but the setting is the 1960's rapid conversion of the Tama hills rural farmland into planned suburbs of Tokyo (called Tama New Town).

In 1995, Studio Ghibli came out with a very different film.  Whisper of the Heart is a realistically-animated love story about a teenage girl who loves reading books, and the boy who had previously checked out all of the library books she chooses.  It was set in a peaceful suburb in the hills of West Tokyo.  Specifically, the Tama hills.

Development of Tama Hills, as depicted in Pom Poko.

Scenes from Whisper of the Heart:
Walking along Tama Hills, above Tama River.

Walking along Tama River, toward Tama Hills.
It is difficult to describe the cognitive dissonance these two films create.  The first, a story of animals defending nature against human development, and the second, a human-centered love story set in that very development.

Tama Hills (Tama New Town), Tokyo.  Yes, those are golf courses on the hills.  There is an amusement park, too.

The main character, Shizuku, in Whisper of the Heart even composes a song, set to the tune of "Country Road".  She and her friend Yuuoko sing it together.

"Konkuriito roodo, doko made mo
Mori wo kiri, tani wo ume
Uesto Toukyou, Maunto Tama
Furusato ha, konkuriito roodo

Concrete Roads, to everywhere
Cutting forests, burying valleys
West Tokyo, Mount Tama
My home town is a concrete road...

(both laugh)"

(transcribed by

Teenage lovers from Whisper of the Heart, overlooking Tokyo from Tama Hills.

It is possible to visit many of the locations that were used in Whisper of the Heart.

Young raccoon lovers from Pom Poko, overlooking Tokyo from Tama Hills.

More information about locations that inspired Japanese animated films.

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