Where did the story take place?
In Tokorozawa City, Saitama prefecture. Miyazaki lives in Tokorozawa, which is now a bedroom community of Tokyo. Tokorozawa used to be a farming community, surrounded by Sayama Kyuuryou (Sayama Hills). There are still some natural areas left, and there is a group of people who are trying to preserve what’s left by buying up the land. It is called “Totoro no Furusato (Totoro’s Home) National Trust Movement”, and uses Totoro as a symbol character.
Miyazaki donated watercolor pictures of Totoro to be used in pamphlets, membership cards for contributors, T-shirts, and so on. Miyazaki also donated about $3 million to Tokorozawa city so that the city could buy up some land which was about to be developed.
When did the story take place?
It was loosely described as the latter part of the 1950s. Miyazaki set the time as “when televisions were yet to be brought into homes”.
1958 is the exact year using evidence within the film. In one of the hospital scenes a calendar is visible with the month of August. In the 1950s only 1952 and 1958 start on a Friday.
Ghibli has used the picture you’re talking about repeatedly, even though it has the “old” concept. They even used it on some of the movie posters. This must have really confused people when they saw the film.
What is the rope on Totoro’s tree?
It is called Shimenawa, made of rice straw and paper ribbons. It signifies that this tree is sacred, part of the nature worship aspect of Shintoism (the native religion of Japan which has elements of nature and ancestor worship) and traditional Japanese cultural beliefs. When the father and the girls bow to the tree, he is literally thanking the spirit of the trees and the forest for protecting Mei.
The Totoros are, in a sense, the physical embodiment of the spirit of the forest and trees. You can also see an old abandoned Shinto shrine under the camphor tree and a Torii (a sort of gate for a Shinto shrine) at the entrance to the hill.
What does the girls’ father do for a living?
He is a university professor in archaeology. He has to commute to the university in Tokyo.
What is wrong with the girls’ mother?
Although it is never mentioned directly in the movie, she has tuberculosis. This is mentioned in the graphic novel version of the story. Since the story is set in the 1950s, TB fits well with the time period.
What is the drawing of a crab in Satsuki’s letter to her Mom?
It’s based on the Japanese folk story, “Saru Kani Gassen (Monkey-Crab Battle)”. In this story, a crab plants a persimmon seed, and hovers over the garden every day, waiting for the persimmon to sprout. Satsuki says that Mei is acting exactly like the crab, drew a picture of a crab who looks like Mei, and named it “Mei Gani” (Mei Crab). Since this would make no sense to American children, the dub changed it to “Mei drew this picture for you”.
What is the little road shrine where Satsuki and Mei took refuge from the rain?
In Japanese Buddhism, there is a tradition of building small shrines by the side of the road. These are often erected as a memorial to a child who died, and the figure is that of Ojizou-sama, a sort of patron deity of children in Buddhism. Satsuki and Mei put their hands together, bow, and ask the Ojizou-sama for permission to stay there till the rain stops.
Also, when Mei is lost, she sits down next to a row of Ojizou-sama statues: that is Miyazaki’s way of telling the audience that Mei is safe, for she is being watched over by these deities.
Why do some of the pictures in the gallery show O Totoro at the bus stop with a girl that isn’t Mei or Satsuki? Who is that girl?
She’s not Mei or Satsuki, but a combination of both of them. Miyazaki’s first concept for the movie included just one 6-year old girl. Those pictures are from the original concept.
Many of the early watercolors in “The Art of Totoro” have just this one girl. Before they actually started production, however, Miyazaki decided to split her into two sisters, one older and one younger than the original girl he had in mind. This is shown in the two girls’ names. “Mei” is a “Japanized” version of the English word for the month of May. “Satsuki” is an old Japanese name for the fifth month of the year (May).
Continue to READ – Totoro FAQ Part 1
(Information Source: totoro.org , totoro society, over the internet)
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