Friday, February 12, 2016

Interview with Hayao Miyazaki

Anime giant Miyazaki says Japan should not revise Constitution
Anime director Hayao Miyazaki responds to questions from the media in Tokyo on Jan. 28. (Mitsuyoshi Amata)

The Asahi Shimbun  February 12, 2016 

World-renowned anime director Hayao Miyazaki feels that even with all the conflict in the world today, Japan should not rush to revise its pacifist Constitution.

That was just one topic Miyazaki spoke about during a news conference in Tokyo in late January.
The 75-year-old cited the difficulties experienced by those who survived World War II as the main reason he was opposed to the Constitution being revised.

Excerpts of the interview follow:

Question: What are your thoughts about recent moves to revise the Constitution?

Miyazaki: Since moving into the 21st century, I believe various events unthinkable under the former framework are occurring in various parts of the world. Now is a time when conflicts between various groups are becoming much more visible.

Amid such circumstances, there has emerged in a much more obvious manner the feeling within ourselves that Japan should simply isolate itself again. That has arisen even within myself as I have come to feel that I just want to spend my time quietly in some corner.

There are some people who say it is wrong to have such an attitude. With all that, I have more recently often ended up saying, "Since I am a person from the 20th century, I have no clue of what is happening in the 21st century."

But I feel that we are facing a world where tensions and contradictions of a much higher level are occurring.

For that reason, I believe we have to keep our eyes open so that we do not proceed down the wrong path.

Q: What do you feel about constitutional revision?

A: Let me make it clear that I am opposed to it. My wife is three years older than me, which means that during World War II her father was forced to go to the Asian continent because he was detained for 15 months as someone holding the wrong ideology. For that reason, my mother-in-law really had a very difficult time taking care of her five children who remained in Japan during the war.

There are many people who had similar experiences. As long as such people are still living, we cannot say, "Let's abandon the pacifist Constitution."

I absolutely cannot say that in my own home. For that reason, I am opposed to changing the Constitution. Even if Japan has to change it, it should be the last nation in the world to do so.

Q: What are your thoughts about resuming operations at nuclear power plants?

A: I feel there is no future unless we come up with an entirely different way of thinking that would not depend on using nuclear energy or relying on oil. Regarding nuclear power plants, we should try to do our best without resuming operations.

Q: The Okinawa prefectural government and central government are in a standoff over Henoko (the site in Nago, Okinawa Prefecture, where U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma is being relocated). The central government is pushing ahead with constructing a U.S. military base there, but what do you think should be done in the future?

A: I would say, "Stop it."

There are just too many bases in Okinawa.

The next issue is that there is no place in Japan where an alternative base can be constructed.
Another issue is that China does not have the capability now to deploy a huge force to the east. I believe it will not have such a capability for quite a while.

I honestly believe that arguments about the Chinese navy strengthening its capabilities (as a reason for the Okinawa bases) are just wrong. In fact, it is almost laughable to try to stir up a crisis in that region.
What is more dangerous is a military that is not under control. The Chinese military is not under control. Unless efforts are made through joint training exercises to teach them the rules, I believe there is the danger of a military confrontation erupting over some worthless matter.

The waters around Henoko should be left untouched. That would be much better for the people of Okinawa. But those who want to reclaim the land will just go ahead and do so. Beyond that, there will be a need for a strong political decision and persistence.

Q: How should sanitariums for Hansen's disease patients be preserved for future generations?

A: I only feel that the sanitarium (National Hansen's Disease Sanatorium Tama Zenshoen in Higashi-Murayama, western Tokyo) should be left as is because it makes for a very enjoyable walking course. Various people should think about how best to preserve the facility. Unless persistent efforts are made to preserve the facility, once all the residents die, the health ministry will almost certainly tear down the structure and turn it into an empty lot.

The city of Higashi-Murayama is thinking about retaining this important venue as a museum or park. I am one who favors that approach.

Q: Did you have any hesitancy about having (Hansen's disease patients) appear in "Mononoke Hime" (Princess Mononoke)? Could you also explain why you decided to have them appear?

A: The demon who suddenly attacked the village turned into a monster after it cursed itself after being shot by lead bullets. The main character in the movie battles that demon to protect the girls of the village. But as a result, he ends up with a large bruise. That bruise is out of the control of the young hero and also slowly destroys his own body. Through that, I gave the hero a fate in which he had to always have within him an extremely irrational element. That is very similar to Hansen's disease.

Because I created such a hero, I also could not avoid having Hansen's disease patients appear in Tataraba (Irontown in the English version) where various people of all kinds have gathered.

But I felt very hesitant at that time. I never consulted with (friends of the residents of the Hansen's disease sanitarium) about (having such patients appear in the movie).

So I made the movie but held a huge fear about what their response would be once they saw the movie. Therefore, I was hugely relieved when (such patients) were happy after they saw the movie. But I also felt that we could not just feel reassured so that is why the movie ended without the bruise being completely healed.

Q: How should this issue be taught in the future?

A: I believe we will always make repeated mistakes. I feel we make mistakes even when we feel we will not. I believe we have to be humble whenever we feel that we are right.

Q: Isn't it also an issue of how to transmit the issue into the future?

A: There is a museum (next to National Hansen's Disease Sanatorium Tama Zenshoen), but since curators have begun working there more videos that residents formerly did not want to have released have been made available. They have also published photo books. I feel there has been a gradual move to open up. Since (the museum) has the most to say (about the history), now anyone who goes there can see for themselves.

They have also held periodic exhibitions and some have been very moving.

There have been a number of very moving accounts of how former residents have re-entered society.
At the same time, among the accounts of how difficult it was to go on living, there are also elements that go beyond simply Hansen's disease but touch upon the same problems that many young people must face when they gather in urban areas, such as isolation and a sense of helplessness.

The museum has made a great effort to focus on such areas because even I felt such emotions when I was much younger, even though I did not have Hansen's disease.

For those reasons, I always go whenever there is a new exhibition. I am encouraged by how it has gradually opened up.

Q: This year marks the 20th anniversary of the abolishing of the Leprosy Prevention Law, but what are your thoughts about those recovered patients who even today are unable to return to their hometowns?

A: We cannot say who is wrong. It is not easy to come up with an answer to the difference between those who reveal their condition and those who try to hide it. There have been some people who have returned to their hometown and been accepted by many people.

When the central government apologized and admitted the Leprosy Prevention Law was a mistake, there were many people who secretly shed tears of joy. I have one acquaintance who did just that. Similar things happened all over Japan at that time.

Q: There is a tendency in society to try to put a lid on various issues, but what should society do regarding that?

A: We have to divide up the work. Although I feel that we should get rid of nuclear power plants, I cannot simply ignore my work in order to collect signatures for a petition. The same thing can be said for Hansen's disease.

I cannot be at the head of such a movement. It is impossible to become totally involved in such issues.
I mean that we should not neglect the field of work we are engaged in, which for me would be creating movies.

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