How Japanese Religion is Depicted in Spirited Away
This can be seen as foreshadowing of what will happen further in the movie, when Choir is somewhat arced, or challenged, to leave behind her naivety and fear for courage and bravery to be able to handle what is to come in her future. The movie begins with a scene very similar to The Wizard of Oz – a turbulent trip followed by a strange Journey through spiritual and emotional growth, where the main character is in limitability. Choir and her parents take a wrong turn and follow a very rough secondary road to what they thought would be their home in the distance.
This is what I believe to be the beginning of the display of Japanese religion, here statues, idols, and religious structures are seen. They end up at what appears to be an old abandoned shrine. This shrine is surrounded by tiny house-like structures, which the mother states are “spirit houses” for the spirits to live in. Everyone exits the car and decides to explore this abandoned area, which the father states might be an old theme park no longer in business.
The family begins to enter a tunnel leading into the abandoned building. The travel portrayed by the family walking through a physical structure could be seen as the pathway between two orals, old and new. As the family goes through the shrine and emerge on the other side, they begin looking for food that they have smelled. When they find it, the mother and father sit down and begin eating, encouraging Choir to also try it.
She feels something is not right, so while her parents are gorging on food, Choir explores the rest of the area. This is very symbolic individuals need to make the journey of spiritual growth on their own. She comes up on a huge bathhouse where she meets Master Haiku. The bathhouse is symbolic in Shinto religion, which refers jack to rural Shinto tradition of villagers and rural people to call upon the Kim (or spirits) to come out and bathe in their village baths.
There is also symbolism in meeting Master Haiku, as he states “has known Choir since she was very little” – similar to what we see in the relationship displayed in Christianity or Hinduism between God(s) and the individual. It is after meeting Haiku that Choir begins her journey through this spirit world. Shortly after meeting Haiku, darkness falls and Choir sees that she is becoming transparent. Haiku finds her and tells her to eat food of this world” so she doesn’t disappear. This “food” was displayed in the movie as only a small berry.
This berry is extremely symbolic, showing that one must take in (even Just small) pieces of the spiritual world to remain whole, or present, and to prevent from becoming transparent within the spiritual world. This could also suggest that without taking in “food” from the spiritual world, one simply becomes transparent and without substance within the real world. Haiku gives instructions to Choir as to how to survive this lamina Journey and leaves her. Choir is quite frightened but Haiku tells her that she will be reunited with her parents soon.
This is another example of foreshadowing, as we do not know for certain at this point that Choir will be reunited with them, but it is clear to Haiku that she will definitely be reunited. Choir continues her Journey, begging for a Job in the bathhouse to prevent being turned into an animal or vegetable. This references the Shinto belief that everything in life is gift giving – human, animals, and vegetation. But in order to experience the Kim in all vegetation and animals, one has to be pure of heart and mind in such a way that is difficult to attain.
This is present in our everyday lives, as we are aware and involved with animals and vegetation, but it is possible that we do not experience the Kim of these things because our hearts and minds are too engrossed and polluted by worldly events, possessions, and unnecessary things. To be able to experience this Kim, we must cleanse our spirits and minds, Just as Choir moved through the various parts of the bathhouse beginning in the very dirty AOL area, and moving through various cleaner parts of the bathhouse.
During her time in the bathhouse, Choir meets many new characters. The black ghost-like creatures are the souls of the dead of those who had regrets or worries. This is symbolic, showing that the person must be present-focused in their lives to avoid this punishment. “No Face” is another character met within the movie. This character initially shows selfishness and behaves like a tyrant; growth of this character is seen very parallel with Choir and toward the end of the movie, No Face learns to be kind ND genuine and helps Granny to knit a harridan to keep Choir safe.
Through the various tests that Yuba (the Witch of the bathhouse) puts Choir through, Choir is able to purify and cleanse her heart and mind in such a way that she grows spiritually and emotionally as a person. Through this growth, she is able to help Haiku remember his true identity. Although Choir was given an alternate identity (“Seen”) during her time at the bathhouse, she is also able to remember her own name, and is ultimately reunited with her parents.
Once they have all returned to the car, Choir is the only one who remembers the Journey, though physical traces of dust and leaves on the car show that they have been gone for quite some time. Another Japanese cultural and religious perspective is seen in the fact that this is a very family-oriented movie. Everyone starts out together as a family, separates for some time while Choir learns to make selfless choices for the good of reunifying her family, then reunites at the end with Choir having gained the attitude that she will try to adjust to the new life for her family.