Tuesday, March 12, 2013

"From Up on Poppy Hill"

The New York Times has reported that Studio Ghibli is about to release a new animated film, "From Up on Poppy Hill." Studio Ghibli was co-founded by Hayao Miyazaki who was responsible for "Spirited Away," "Howl's Moving Castle," "My Neighbor Totoro," and other wonderful movies. His son, Goro Miyazaki, has directed the new film.

"From Up on Poppy Hill," which is based on a 1980 graphic novel, is set in Yokohama in 1963, a significant time and place—the year before the Tokyo Olympics and at the very beginning of the Japanese economic boom. The story concerns a "budding romance between high school students."

I want to see the movie for several reasons. The Yokohama of 1963 is not that different in sights and sounds from the Yokohama I knew in 1957/58. One reason I like visiting the Shin-Yokohama Rarmen Museum because it reminds me of a Japan now long gone. I suspect that Japanese audiences of a certain age will watch the new film awash in nostalgia.

I have friends in Yokohama. One of my best memories is simply walking around their neighborhood, seeing the local temple where their then pre-schooler went to class, having dinner at their house. The last time I was in Japan we spent time in Yokohama's Chinatown (the largest in Japan, and pictured above) and went to a Yokohama Bay Stars baseball game. Friends and I had a picnic lunch on the entirely modernized bayside park and visited the new art museum. I have a sense that Yokohama suffers by being so close to Tokyo, but it offers its own pleasures.

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