Billboard architecture and Miyazaki’s ‘Spirited Away’

I didn’t notice this when I first watched Spirited Away, but apparently the architecture of the film was inspired by structures on display at the Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum (Edo-Tokyo Tatemono-en) 江戸東京たてもの園 (map). And the shopping street in the film’s town was inspired by the billboard architecture at the museum.

Here’s a still from the film, from Looks Like! Here’s the Real Setting for Spirited Away!, a post that compares several structures from the film with buildings from the museum.

spirited-away-billboard-architecture-shopping-street

The book, Japanese Visual Culture, by Mark W. MacWilliams, also mentions that apparent inspiration provided by the architecture museum:

spirited-away-billboard-architecture-kanban-kenchiku-shopping-street

And The Anime Art of Hayao Miyazaki, by Dani Cavallaro, mentions signboard architecture as one of several design elements that mark Spirited Away as distinctively Japanese.

the-anime-art-of-hayao-miyazaki-signboard-architecture

Meanwhile, one essay, A nightmare of capitalist Japan: Spirited Away, argues that the film’s architecture is meant to immerse viewers in the harsh capitalistic ethos of the Meii era:

“This mystical town resembles Meiji Japan in terms of architecture, during which time the style was a mix of Western and Japanese. By the witch’s curse, Chihiro’s parents are turned into pigs, and Chihiro must serve as a laborer at the Yuya in order to rescue them…By having Chihiro live in the era of a modernizing Japan, Miyazaki invites the audience to experience what we really were losing as a nation and personally during that period.”

A view of the museum:

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