Spirited Away - Japanese Animated Film

Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi

Spirited Away - Canadian DVD cover
Spirited Away - Canadian DVD cover. Flickr user Amal FM

Hayao Miyazaki's critically acclaimed movie "Spirited Away (千と千尋の神隠し)" won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature Film at the 75th Annual Academy Awards ceremony.

"Spirited Away" the adventures of a 10-year-old girl, Chihiro, who is accidentally thrown into a "spirit" world. While working at a bathhouse catering to spirits and gods, she tries to rescue her parents from a spell that transformed them into pigs.

It is the highest grossing film in Japanese box-office history, surpassing "Titanic." When it was shown on TV this January it had the highest audience rating ever for a movie. 46.2% of Japanese households tuned in to watch it.

I was impressed with this film and enjoyed it very much. Since it is deeply rooted in Japanese culture, I almost felt homesick, too. Unfortunately most theaters show the English dub version. I wish the people could enjoy the sound of Japanese with the original Japanese dialogues. However, the job has been done sensitively, it doesn't seem to ruin the atmosphere of the film. Also, reading subtitles might distract viewers from an amazing work.

Here are some aspects of the Japanese language that you can learn from the film.

What Does the Japanese Title Mean?

The Japanese title is "Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi." (See the Japanese writing below.) "Sen (千)" and "Chihiro (千尋)" are the names. "To (と)" is a particle which connects nouns. It translates into "and." "Kami (神)" means "God" and "kakushi (隠し)" is the noun form of the verb "kakusu (to hide)." "kamikakushi (神隠し)" means "spirited away."

How the Name "Chihiro" Is Turned into "Sen"?

When Chihiro is forced into slave labor at the bathhouse which Yubaba rules, she writes down her name, Ogino Chihiro (荻野千尋) in the contract. (In Japanese the family name comes first.) Here is the kanji characters for it. Yubaba steals three characters from her name. The one character left (the third one) becomes her new name. The reading of this kanji character is "sen (千)" as well as "chi." Click here to learn more about this character.

What Do Some Japanese Characters in the Movie Mean?

The character written on the curtain at the front gate of the bathhouse is the hiragana "yu." It means "bath." The kanji character for "yu" is also seen on the chimney of the bathhouse. The bathhouse is called "Aburaya (油屋)." ("Abura" means "oil" and "ya" is the suffix used for a store.) The kanji sign "Aburaya" is seen above the gate of the bathhouse. The flag on the bathhouse also has the kanji character for "abura (油)."

The Theme Song - "Itsumo Nandodemo"

Here is the lyric of the theme song “Itsumo Nandodemo (いつも何度でも)” for the movie. “Itsumo” means “always”, “nandodemo” means “any numbers of times”. Click this link to listen to the song.

呼んでいる 胸のどこか奥で
いつも心躍る 夢を見たい

かなしみは 数えきれないけれど
その向こうできっと あなたに会える

繰り返すあやまちの そのたび ひとは
ただ青い空の 青さを知る
果てしなく 道は続いて見えるけれど
この両手は 光を抱ける

さよならのときの 静かな胸
ゼロになるからだが 耳をすませる

生きている不思議 死んでいく不思議
花も風も街も みんなおなじ

yondeiru mune no dokoka oku de
itsumo kokoro odoru yume o mitai

kanashimi wa kazoekirenai keredo
sono mukou de kitto anata ni aeru

kurikaesu ayamachi no sonotabi hito wa
tada aoi sora no aosa o shiru
hateshinaku michi wa tsuzuite mieru kedo
kono ryoute wa hikari o dakeru

sayonara no toki no shizukana mune
zero ni naru karada ga mimi o sumaseru

ikiteiru fushigi shindeiku fushigi
hana mo kaze mo arashi mo minna onaji