Family Landscape – Brother of Hayao Miyazaki (1990)
By Miyazaki Shirou
Four brothers, all boys.
Hayao Miyazaki. Born on January 5th, Showa 16 (1941). Blood type O. He was born into an ordinary family, the second son of four brothers, all boys. And I’m the youngest, the fourth son. Now, Hayao Miyazaki has become a well-known “celebrity”, but for me, he’s still just one of my three older brothers. To begin with, male siblings aren’t sentimental. In the more than 20 years before Hayao left home after graduating from university, we lived under the same roof, but I have no recollection of having a close conversation with him. Come to think of it, I don’t have much memory of talking with my father either. It might be the same in any family, but in our case, including our father, I think the five men each acted on their own.
I don’t know much about my brother, even as his younger sibling, but I think I’ll try to trace my memories as they come to mind. Somehow, a human portrait of Hayao Miyazaki might emerge. Knowing him means knowing my other older brothers, knowing my parents, knowing the Miyazaki family, so it seems like an interesting task for me too.
I had never given it much thought before, but looking back now, I realize that there were three people who had a great influence on us brothers. The first was our mother. The second was our father. And the third was the eldest son.
Our mother passed away at the age of 71 on July 27, Showa 58 (1983). I hope you associate her with Dola, the female pirate in “Laputa”. She was often ill, so she didn’t have the physical vitality, and I’d like to believe she was a bit more of a beauty, but her mental strength was certainly akin to Dola’s.
The greatest influence our mother had on us five men, ironically, was that she was bedridden for almost nine years, starting from Showa 22 (1947). It was a spinal caries, a severe illness at the time, caused by tuberculosis bacteria entering the spine. The first few years were spent in hospital, and then followed by a long, long convalescence at home, during which her body was fixed in plaster, and she had a tough nine years where only her neck and hands could move, regardless of spring, summer, autumn, or winter.
Chores were divided among the four boys
Our father is currently 74 years old. Blood type O. He is still active in Eifukucho, Suginami Ward, Tokyo. Eifukucho is the town where we’ve lived since Showa 25 (1950), and most of my childhood memories were made here. The father in my childhood memories always cherished my mother and would always talk to her about his company when he came home from work. At that time, it was not unusual for middle-class and higher families to have housekeepers, and many different housekeepers came and went from our home. However, when they suddenly quit, there were times when we couldn’t find another housekeeper for months. Those times were tough. The four boys, with the eldest son as the leader, would share the housework. I was still small, so I was mainly in charge of shopping and heating the bath. I remember Hayao also prepared meals. Of course, on Sundays, our father would lead the way and cook. His specialties were always things like “dried horse mackerel”, “flavored dry fish”, “kusaya” (fermented fish), and “tatami iwashi” (dried sardines), and if it was miso soup, it was usually tofu cut into small dice. Thanks to that, all the food I ate back then is still my favorite.
Our father, who must have held quite a position and title at the company, did housework at the head of his four sons at home and took care of our sick mother. To me as a child, that’s what a father was, and we all seem to have taken on that way of life without realizing it.
The father himself now lives alone in Eifukucho, but he avoids relying on the care of his eldest son and his wife, who live behind him, and does everything from cooking to cleaning to shopping on his own. He is in good health, both physically and mentally.
Speaking of cooking, Hayao is surprisingly picky. It was about five years ago in the summer, when I went to a relative’s cottage in Kobuchizawa, Nagano Prefecture owned by my brother. It’s called a “villa”, but actually it’s just a small hut on the edge of a rural village, far from the image of a villa. It was after “Nausicaa” had finished, and we were discussing what to do next, with the editorial staff of “Animage” and some freelance directors. On the first night, I showed off my specialty, “mixed rice”. It’s generally called “kayaku rice”, and in the Miyazaki family, we’ve always called it “flavored rice”. Toshio Suzuki, the editor-in-chief of “Animage” at the time, and Mr. Kameyama, who was an editor at the time, and I went shopping. Both of them, being shopping novices, bought a lot of unnecessary things, so I selected what we needed with a sharp eye and made sure they paid for it with the editorial expenses.
Now, my specialty “mixed rice” is a dish where I cut chicken thigh, Shiitake, Enoki, and Shimeji mushrooms, carrots, and fried tofu into small pieces, simmer them in soy sauce, sake, salt, and MSG, then mix them into pre-washed and drained rice and cook it. The challenge lies in the seasoning and water level. If there’s too much liquid, you won’t get that wonderful savory smell of burnt soy sauce, and if there’s too little, the rice loses its gloss. The electric rice cooker in the hut was rather big and slightly off in its functioning.
Nevertheless, I somehow managed to cook it, and we had a pleasant dinner. Rice freshly cooked in the countryside tastes great. Everyone ate heartily. For young freelance directors who hadn’t had rice for about a week, the gusto with which they ate was astounding. At that time, my elder brother Hayao casually remarked, “When you cook the ingredients first before cooking the rice, it seems to extract more flavor from them.”
The eldest son was born in July of Showa 14 (1939). We brothers have a two-year gap between the first and second sons, and then a three-year gap between each subsequent sibling. I believe many people with similar experiences can relate to this – having a two or three-year difference often means you go to elementary school, middle school, and high school together. In our case, we all attended the same schools from elementary school to high school. To be precise, only my elementary school was different because it was newly established at that time.
When everyone goes to the same school like fish trailing each other in water, various things happen. First, you’re immediately compared with your elder brothers. The times when comparisons are made usually coincide with times of scolding or lamenting.
“You should learn from your elder brother, he was much better,” they would say. From the second son to the fourth son, all of us brothers had left our footprints in every school we attended.
Speaking of how we called each other as siblings, when an elder brother called a younger one, it was always just by name. But when the younger ones called the elder ones, the second son, Hayao, was “Hā-chan”, and the third son, Hiroshi, was “Yuta-san”. When it came to a quarrel, “Hā-chan” turned into “Hachi-guso”, “Yuta-san” turned into “Yu-guso”, and my “Shirō” turned into “Shi-guso”. The eldest son, however, was always “brother” at any time, curiously enough.
The eldest son wielded immense power over us younger brothers. After all, he was formidable in fights. He was the so-called “bancho” (gang leader) in elementary, middle, and high school. He was athletic, good at studies, and filled with leadership and energy. Walking on the path carved out by such an eldest brother, the second son, Hayao, trudged along.
The older brother, Miyazaki, tended to be introverted and frail, with sports not being his strong suit. His interests were reading books and drawing. In today’s world, he would seem like the perfect target for bullying. On the other hand, no one ever thought of doing such a thing, as he was under the overwhelming protection of his eldest brother. This was the case in both middle and high school. Although their personalities were completely different, both were apparently intelligent. If they had studied properly, it was said that they were sure to get into the University of Tokyo. But unfortunately, the eldest son spent all his time in sports and fights, and the second son was absorbed in reading books and lost in thought.
Eventually, the eldest brother, who was not at all fitting, entered Gakushuin University and spent his days playing rugby, while the older brother Miyazaki followed him into Gakushuin. It can only be thought that he followed him. Perhaps Miyazaki was more influenced by his eldest brother than I thought, or maybe it was completely the opposite. In any case, it seemed to me that, as had been the case up until then, he was tracing the same path that his elder brother had walked.
The Path to Art
A strong and sensitive mother who, while battling illness, watched over her husband and children from her sickbed. A father who perfectly balanced work and family life, taught his children to be independent, and showed them the insignificance of superficial patriarchy and pretentiousness through his own actions. The eldest son who ran around with his own strength, always a step outside of such parents.
Hayao Miyazaki grew up under the strong influence of such people. By the way, I wonder when he decided to pursue the path of art. As a high school student, he might have already made up his mind to become a manga artist. He was drawing short manga stories with black ink and light ink that seemed very much like that. I remember laughing with my parents and siblings, saying things like, “The lines are dead,” “The expressions are all the same,” or “There’s no movement in the drawing.”
From that time, he was studying serious drawing under the guidance of his retired middle school teacher. He seemed particularly focused on sketching and croquis (quick sketches). He himself seemed to want to proceed to a university with an art department, but his father opposed it, suggesting he attend a regular university and spend four years considering his path. Consequently, he gave up on the art university. The result was that he ended up attending Gakushuin University, like his elder brother, though for him, any university might have been fine. I think he had decided to devote those four years to studying art in earnest.
After entering university in 1959, he was particularly systematic in his study of art. In addition to sketching and croquis, whenever he had free time, he would go to Inokashira Park Zoo in Musashino City to observe and sketch animals. Believing that one must understand the skeletal structure to draw animals, he frequently drew animal skeletons and muscular structures, much like Da Vinci. I remember being oddly convinced by this approach.
He had declared to those around him that he would become a manga artist, and it seemed that his parents didn’t oppose this too strongly. Rather, they may have been optimistic, thinking his mind would change during his university life and he’d become a salaryman.
On reflection, the Miyazaki family doesn’t seem to have a lineage of salarymen. Our father, while he might technically be classified as a salaryman, didn’t feel like the “dependable” type. He was hot-tempered, often changing jobs, and it seems he even dabbled in running a bar. The eldest son found working for others disagreeable and runs his own company, the second son is a manga artist, and I, the youngest son, work for an advertising agency, a rather flexible industry. The third son is the only one who is a proper salaryman, continually moving around the country. Looking around our extended family, there aren’t many salarymen. There’s a mix of architects, doctors, café owners, and a bunch of other jobs that are hard to classify.
The Miyazaki bloodline seems to lack a certain quality of submission to others. It’s highly unlikely that my elder brother Hayao ever considered becoming a “salaryman”. Throughout his university life, his thoughts and passion for the world of art seemed to grow. The art teacher he studied under was not only famous as a painter but was also a wonderful person, and even as a child, I could clearly see my brother’s admiration for him.
While studying art, my brother was also heavily involved in the Children’s Literature Research Association at the university. Here, I believe he learned to delve deep into the human mind and developed his perspective on children and human beings. His desire and passion to become a manga artist accelerated even more. Despite that, he must have had significant anxiety about whether his skills would really work out. He, too, must have had doubts about the future dreams he had as a young man. It wasn’t that he had an unyielding spirit and tenacity that drove him to fulfill his dreams without any hesitation. Like all young people, he must have been frantically drawing pictures to escape from his anxiety and impatience.
He was not the brooding young man, head in the clouds, full of jargon and theories, as some people imagined. He was bright, diligent, and had a strong focus. He had a strong sense of justice, was reluctant to compromise, and was the kind of person who would thoroughly think through one issue.
Speaking of which, it’s a peculiar thing about siblings. All four of us have similar traits in different ways. It’s not that someone is exactly like someone else, but parts of A and B are similar, parts of C and D are similar. For example, the eldest and youngest sons like sports, the second and youngest sons like drawing, the third and youngest sons like music, the eldest and third sons are hot-tempered, the second and third sons are hard-working types, the second and youngest sons are dreamers, and the second and youngest sons are drinkers.
The people we quarreled with were also largely fixed. The eldest was in a separate category, the second son Hayao’s counterpart was the third son, and my counterpart was mostly the third son as well.
The ones who often talked with our mother were Hayao and me. I, who didn’t know the countryside, often listened to my mother’s childhood memories in her rural hometown and imagined the nature of Yamanashi. For her, I seemed to have been a pitiful youngest child from the time I became aware of the world because I was bedridden, so she often spoke to me. I really enjoyed those times. Hayao had more complex conversations with our mother. She was an amazing person who knew everything from politics and economics to culture and art, and could discuss these topics more than equally with her high school and university-aged sons.
During the 1960 Anpo protests that shook Japan, he was in his second year of university. He was not radical, but it seems he did participate in demonstrations. And he often discussed the Anpo issue, ideologies, economics, and such with our mother. I think he was rational, not an egocentric dogmatist. In later years, she often remembered his adolescence and told us that among her four children, he was the purest one.
Hayao, upon graduating from university and finding employment at Toei Animation, quickly left home to live in a boarding house, and then married a co-worker before our eldest brother did and settled down on the outskirts of Tokorozawa. It was as if becoming independent as soon as possible was essential for pursuing the path he had chosen.
Establishing oneself was essential, as if it was indispensable for walking the path they’ve chosen.
Now, as I go back and read what I’ve written so far, I notice that the third son’s presence seems a bit thin. I’ll touch on him a bit here. As the youngest brother, I had to pay some regard to each of my older brothers. While I mentioned that the four boys each had similar aspects, when looking at them in total, it seems the third son was most different among them. Born in January of Showa 19 (1944), blood type O, he is a diligent type but short-tempered. I don’t know about now, but in his student days, as far as I knew, he was a show-off. Maybe that’s why his wife is the most beautiful one. He’s stubborn and doesn’t compromise his beliefs. That’s why he often clashed with my oldest brother. In any case, the two never agreed and always ended up fighting whenever they opened their mouths. I think he hated superficial romanticism and hypocrisy to the extreme. The fights in our house were fierce. Wrestling matches were a daily occurrence, the shoji and fusuma (Japanese sliding doors) were always being torn, and there was even a time when he drew a Japanese sword and ran out into the garden. Especially during the nine years when our mother was bedridden, the fights were particularly brutal. I think it was because our mother couldn’t keep an eye on us. Conversely, we never fought in front of our mother. The three brothers were all very assertive, never conceding to each other, full of competitive spirit.
The house was filled with men everywhere you looked. If a young woman were to step into our house, she’d probably feel dizzy from the overwhelming masculinity. None of the sons grew up the way the parents had hoped. Their personalities were simply too strong, for better or worse.
“Tonkatsu”, “Kusaya”, “Beef Tsukudani”
Now, I’ll write about food again. It’s interesting to talk about food because a person’s character often seeps through. As far as I know, Hayao Miyazaki has three favorites: “Tonkatsu”, “Kusaya”, and “Beef Tsukudani”.
Firstly, let’s talk about Tonkatsu. It was when I was about to enter elementary school, so my older brother Hayao must have been in the fifth or sixth grade. In our house, Tonkatsu was considered a special treat. Since our mother was bedridden, we would get Tonkatsu from a butcher shop where they deep-fried it for us, and it cost 30 yen per piece. It was an era when croquettes cost five yen each and Menchi-katsu was 15 yen. Hayao loved the fatty part of Tonkatsu so much that he would get a special order of 100% fatty Tonkatsu deep-fried. He enjoyed it, floating it in a sea of Worcestershire sauce, which was somewhat repulsive to the rest of us.
I don’t know whether he still loves the fatty part of Tonkatsu or not, but there’s no doubt he loves Tonkatsu itself. And he must have a heap of shredded cabbage, Worcestershire sauce, and white rice.
Also, I can’t forget how we served beer, salted beans, and a special 50 yen Tonkatsu to the doctor who came to our home for a monthly check-up on our bedridden mother. The color and thickness of the meat was totally different from ours. My brother and I anxiously anticipated what would happen if he left any, but the doctor always finished it beautifully.
Next, the “Beef Tsukudani” passed down in the Miyazaki family. Whether it’s beef lean cut into small rectangles, 1 cm by 2 cm, or ground beef, it’s simmered in soy sauce. Ginger and a slight taste are the only things added. It’s truly delicious. If you put it on hot rice, you don’t need anything else. You could easily finish three bowls of rice with just this side dish. And this flavor is still alive in each of our homes, even though the four brothers live separately now.
Finally, the third favorite is “Kusaya”. Do you know what “Kusaya” is? It’s a type of fish, usually mackerel, soaked in a fermented brine and then dried. It’s so smelly that it’s called “Kusaya”, which means smelly. If you were to cook it in an apartment or condo, the smell would not only stick around for two or three days, but you’d definitely get complaints from your neighbors. It’s that smelly.
Even so, when you grill it, bear with the heat, tear the flesh into small pieces with your hands, soak it generously in MSG and soy sauce, and eat it, it’s indescribably delicious. Truly delicious. Not just my older brother Hayao, but everyone in the Miyazaki family adores it to death. In the current Tokyo, where houses are densely packed in narrow lands, it’s nearly impossible to eat “Kusaya” at home. Given that Hayao now lives on the outskirts of Tokorozawa City in Saitama Prefecture, he may surprisingly still grill and eat it. I’m utterly envious.
Above are his three favorite foods, as far as I know. All of them were given to the children by their thoroughly downtown-born father just because he liked them and wanted to eat them. The influence of a father is something to be reckoned with. His love for soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce remains exactly the same. While I, for one, have been relentlessly walking the path of a gourmet since becoming a working adult, Hayao has not changed at all, neither now nor in the past. “Tonkatsu”, “Kusaya”, and “Beef Tsukudani” have firmly influenced the formation of his character. The fact that these three items do not appear in his anime, I can only think it’s because it’s a hassle to explain them. In any case, if things continue this way, I, as a covert anime fan, am secretly worried that Hayao Miyazaki might end his short life due to high blood pressure.
On a side note, as a classic example of a child imitating his father, here’s a story about the eldest son. In our home, with its downtown atmosphere, when it came to sushi, it was considered stylish to start with “Kohada” (gizzard shad). We were often told to eat “Kohada” and “Tamago” (egg) first when we went to a sushi restaurant. That’s what made us true Tokyoites. The eldest son, whose character is relatively simple, still eats “Kohada” when it comes to sushi. It’s fine that he eats it, but the problem is, he eats only “Kohada”. When he goes to a sushi restaurant, he eats all the “Kohada” they have. “I ate all thirty pieces,” he brags, going beyond simplicity into sheer madness. I hope Hayao has not been influenced by this madness….
Thoughts for the Children
Have you noticed that a beautiful girl always appears as the protagonist in the so-called “Miyazaki anime”? Not just beautiful girls, but ones with strong individuality and presence. Clarisse from “Lupin the Third: The Castle of Cagliostro”, Lana from “Future Boy Conan”, Nausicaa from “Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind”, Sheeta from “Castle in the Sky”, and Satsuki from “My Neighbor Totoro”. These girls, at times stronger in spirit than boys, and at other times encompass a motherly warmth. They are not princesses merely for decoration and separated from the world, they are the kind of girls who, no matter how dire the situation, never get beaten down and look at things straight on with clear eyes and strong will. I believe these girls make “Miyazaki anime” shine.
I have a feeling I understand why they always remain the heroines of Miyazaki anime. I don’t know whether Clarisse, Lana, Nausicaa, Sheeta, or Satsuki are his ideal women. Having grown up in a household full of men where the mother is bedridden, I don’t know whether he has poured all his thoughts about women into these heroines. But for all that, I love them too.
It’s awkward and embarrassing to praise one’s own family, but I think his strength lies not in his drawing skills, his storytelling abilities, or in creating cute girls, but when you get down to it, it’s his consistently earnest and gentle view of all living creatures, including humans. Moreover, it’s not an easy gentleness. He ponders to the end and encapsulates his convictions in his works, so they carry conviction. Because he expresses in his own words that he has built himself, they carry force. I think he is not interested in girls, but in humans.
“When I came to know Nausicaa, I was reminded of a heroine in Japan. I think she was in the Konjaku Monogatari. That girl, known as the princess who loved insects, was a noble’s daughter. As she grew up, she would hop around in the fields, moved by the sight of a caterpillar transforming into a butterfly, and was seen as an oddball by society. In the era of The Tale of Genji and The Pillow Book, a noble’s daughter who adores insects without losing her grace was definitely not acceptable. As a child, I was very concerned about her future. Without submitting to societal constraints, running around in the fields and mountains following her own sensibilities, moved by grass, trees, and flowing clouds, how did she live her life afterwards… In my mind, Nausicaa and the princess who loved insects have somehow become the same person.”
This is a passage he wrote titled “About Nausicaa” at the end of the first volume of “Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind.”
Of course, he didn’t become interested in the princess who loved insects simply because she loves caterpillars. He thought about the era in which she lived, empathizing deeply with the daily joys, sorrows, and way of life she experienced. “Without submitting to societal constraints, running around in the fields and mountains following her own sensibilities….” I think this part directly expresses his thoughts for the children of the world. At the center of his thoughts, there are always “children.” He perceives “children” as hopeful entities filled with infinite possibilities. That’s why I see his works always as cheering songs for children who suffer under societal constraints. And at the same time, he is very cautious. He tries to convey experiences similar to the impressions he had as a child, but he never tries to force adult values onto children. I love that passion and caution of his.
A few years ago in the fall, my elder brother, Hayao, and I took a trip to Kyushu. It was a trip that I had begged for as part of my company’s work, and it was the first time we had a long talk just between the two of us. I mentioned to him that I had been showing my seven daughters various pictures and photos in hopes they would come to like plants and flowers, but they didn’t seem particularly interested, which troubled me. He suggested that children don’t get interested in things when they are forced upon them, and that maybe before teaching the kids, I should try drawing pictures of flowers and grass myself. Doing so, he argued, would naturally spark a stronger interest in the children. He also mentioned that his wife, when taking a walk around their neighborhood, often picked wild grass from the roadside to sketch and look up in a picture book, and had done so over a hundred times.
Upon returning to Tokyo, on the first holiday, I took my daughter for a walk. We found a small Persicaria longiseta flower in the sunny part of the late autumn brown scenery. I started sketching it when we brought it back home. Seeing this, my daughter quickly started to draw it as well, not only remembering the name of the flower but also becoming always eager to sketch whenever I started drawing a wild plant. In winter, when there were no wild plants, we even stole a single flower of Camellia sasanqua protruding onto the road from someone else’s garden, running away while laughing out loud. It was exactly as my elder brother said. I think his words at that time very well reflected his way of thinking about children.
I’ve been writing just as I think, which may be annoying to my elder brother, Hayao. I should be prepared for the next time we meet.
Finally, “Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind” was a film jointly produced for the first time by Tokuma Shoten and the advertising agency Hakuhodo six years ago. My elder brother, as the original creator, screenwriter, and director, and I, purely by coincidence, participated as a member of the Nausicaä project on the Hakuhodo side. We ended up working together on the same project as brothers.
The production staff was decided, and just three days before the final rally party held in Asagaya, Tokyo, at the end of July 1983, our mother passed away without knowing that her sons were going to work on the same project. She had fought her illness until the end, living for 71 years. The following year, Nausicaä was a hit. I genuinely regret that she couldn’t live just one more year.
Three years after Nausicaä, my elder brother created “Castle in the Sky.” After the preview, I felt as if I understood. Maybe it was a clumsy but heartfelt farewell he sent to our mother through the film.
On the other hand, in “My Neighbor Totoro” last year, there was just a sense of joy in being able to fully express the world he had nurtured for a long time, which was refreshing. As for me, I was reminded of the old house in Eifukucho 35 years ago by the dilapidated Western-style house in the film, and I remembered my sickly mother from the past when I saw the kind mother in a kimono who was recovering in a hospital in Shichikokuyama. Of course, Hayao didn’t want to evoke such nostalgia. Rather, he was afraid of being taken that way.
The film won many awards, and Hayao Miyazaki became a bit more famous. I wonder what our mother would have said if she were alive.
“You’ve finally relaxed a bit, and you’re doing better,” she might have said. To me, Hayao is still nothing more than the second eldest of four brothers, and we meet once a year at New Year’s to have a drink.
Shiro Miyazaki – After graduating from the Faculty of Law at Keio University in 1970, he joined Hakuhodo. He has been active as an account director. He participated in joint film productions between Tokuma Shoten and Hakuhodo such as “Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind” and “Arion”. He is the father of two children and a typical doting father.