TAMANA, Kumamoto Prefecture--A quaint Japanese-style home has led to the inevitable collaboration of sorts between one of Japan’s most renowned Meiji Era (1868-1912) novelists and the world’s most acclaimed animation filmmaker.
The Maeda family villa, located in Tamana, Kumamoto Prefecture, is said to be the inspiration for a house in Hayao Miyazaki’s latest and final animated feature, “Kaze Tachinu” (The Wind Rises).
Since “Kaze Tachinu” hit theaters in July, the number of visitors to the villa has been gradually rising.
The movie pulled in more than 10 billion yen ($101 million) at the Japanese box office as of Sept. 11 after Miyazaki announced it would be his last major film.
The historical villa is known as the setting for famed Meiji author Natsume Soseki’s (1867-1916) early masterpiece “Kusamakura” (The Three-Cornered World). Miyazaki is known to be a big fan of Soseki’s writings.
In the winter of 1897, Soseki, who taught English at the No. 5 High School in Kumamoto under the old education system, is known to have stayed at the estate once owned by Kagashi Maeda (1828-1904) during a hot springs trip with colleagues.
Maeda was an activist for the freedom and people's rights movement during the Meiji Era. The inspiration for the heroine of “Kusamakura,” Nami, is said to have come from Maeda’s second daughter, named Tsuna.
According to a Studio Ghibli publicist, Miyazaki visited the Maeda family villa in 2010 as part of a company-sponsored trip for employees.
The animation filmmaker was inspired by the home to create the house where “Kaze Tachinu” protagonist Jiro Horikoshi and its heroine, Naoko, who were newly married, lived, according to the publicist.
Yoshihiro Oyama, a staff member of the Kusamakura Koryukan museum, located near the villa, who served as a guide to Miyazaki and the Studio Ghibli staff when they visited, said the world-renowned director eagerly examined every nook and cranny of the house.
Oyama also said he believed it was natural that Miyazaki would visit the house.
“I felt the world-class filmmaker’s visit here was a historical inevitability,” he said.
Miyazaki is such a great admirer of Soseki that he named the protagonist of his previous work, “Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea” (2008), Sosuke, after a main character from Soseki’s novel “Mon” (The Gate). It is also said that the filmmaker depicted some scenes in the movie based on British painter John Everett Millais’ representative work “Ophelia,” to which Soseki referred in “Kusamakura.”
“I was happy to find that the color tone and the design of the door of the room where Jiro and his wife resided was very similar to those in the villa,” said Yumi Yoshikawa, 52, another staff member at the Kusamakura Koryukan.
One of the visitors, Yukari Sakamoto, an apprentice craftswoman of Yamaga "toro" ceremonial lanterns from Yamaga, Kumamoto Prefecture, said she decided to visit the house after seeing Miyazaki’s latest work.
“The villa bears a great resemblance to the home that emerges in the movie in terms of atmosphere,” said Sakamoto, 44. “Because I learned ‘Kusamakura’ was also set here, I’m now thinking of reading the book again.”
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