Research. The Spirit’s that Inhabit Miyazaki’s World’s.

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Studio Ghibli’s stories have memorable characters all unique in their form and origins. From The Radish Spirit and No Face in Spirited Away (2001) to The Kodama in Princess Mononoke (1997).

The Kodama


Kodama. Acquired from: [Accessed 3rd January 2016]

The spirits poses qualities of their heritage, other times not. The Kodama from Princess Mononoke inhabit the trees, they wonder the forest floor and make clicking noises as they turn their bobbled heads.

If a tree falls in the forest, and someone hears it, is that the plaintive cry of a kodama? Because that is what ancient, tree-worshipping Japanese people thought. The Japanese have always known that some trees were special. For whatever reason—maybe because of an interestingly shaped trunk, or a sequence of knots resembling a human face, or just a certain sense of awe—some trees were identified as being the abodes of spirits.

The oldest, 古多万, is ambiguous to say the least. The word breaks down into 古 – (ko; old) – 多- (da; many) – 万 (ma; 10,000). Because ancient Japanese had no writing system, when the Chinese writing system was adopted kanji characters were often selected for sound rather than meaning. Unrelated symbols were jammed together to approximate the pronunciation of existing Japanese words. This is the most likely explanation for the use of 古多万.

But this combination is unsatisfying, and in later years 木魂 (木 ; ko; tree – 魂 ; dama; soul) was adopted as well as木魅(木 ; ko; tree – 魅 ; dama; soul), and now in modern times木霊 (木 ; ko; tree) – 霊 ; dama; spirit) tends to be used. There is little difference between木魂, 木魅, or 木霊, all being variations of the term “tree spirit.”

Another kanji used for kodama, 谺, also means echo. In ancient times, kodama were said to be kami, nature dieties that dwelled in trees. Some believed that kodama were not linked to a single tree but could move nimbly through the forest, traveling freely from tree to tree.

Still others believed that kodama were rooted like the trees themselves, or in fact looked no different from other trees in the forest. Woe betide any unwary woodsman who took an axe to what looked like a regular tree, only to draw blood as he chopped into a kodama. A kodama’s curse was something to be feared.

Acquired from: [Accessed 3rd January 2016]

The Forest Spirit.


Miyazaki, H. Forest spirit. Acquired from: Accessed 3rd January 2016]

The Deer God “Forest Spirit” is protector of the forest and is the God of life and death. His body gives as well as takes life, it is destructive and can steal the life of everything he touches. The design was inspired from Yakul except for the fact the spirit possess tree like antlers and a humanoid face.

The Forest spirit is life itself, wherever the God walks grass and flowers bloom and then, another ingenious and poetic illustration. In recognising and accepting the cycle of life and death, and dis-identifying with form, we can see all living things share the One Life or Consciousness.

In Tolle’s attempt to explain: When the lion tears apart the body of the zebra, the consciousness that incarnated into the zebra-form detaches itself from the dissolving form and for a brief moment awakens to its essential immortal nature as consciousness and then immediately falls back into sleep and reincarnates into another form. When the lion becomes old and cannot hunt anymore, as it draws its last breath, there is again the briefest glimpses of an awakening, followed by another dream of form.

It is then very interesting how the Deer God changes into a large formless entity at night, isn’t it? The words “the dream of form” suggests at night in our dreams is when we have awoken from the “dream of form” and returned to Consciousness or Life. Princess Mononoke is Hayao Miyazaki’s message for man and nature live together in harmony because we are all One Life.

Acquired from: [Accessed 3rd January 2016]


Yakul. Acquired from: [Accessed 3rd January 2016]

The Radish Spirit

raddish spirit

Miyazaki. Radish Spirit. Acquired from: [Accessed 3rd January 2016]

Not much is known of the Radish Spirit, he merely appears in a few short sequences throughout Spirited Away. He is described as being not liked by other spirits and remains either on his own or with other members of his clan.

Why I bring up this design is merely the relation between an actual radish and the characters design. Simple yet effective, you gain an instant essence of the characters heritage and identity.



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