My Neighbor Totoro Inspires a Line of Traditional Japanese Handicrafts

We sup­pose it’s con­ceiv­able that a gift of a wood­en Totoro fig­urine, hand-carved from a sin­gle block using 50 dif­fer­ent kinds of chis­els, might spark a rev­er­ence for tra­di­tion­al Japan­ese craft and nature in the next gen­er­a­tion…

Or, they may be left wish­ing you’d giv­en them a vast­ly more hug­gable machine-made plushie ver­sion, espe­cial­ly if you can’t help suck­ing in your breath every time they start fum­bling with that exquis­ite­ly craft­ed ¥330,000 yen heir­loom-to-be. (That’s $2341.81 in US dol­lars.)

Of course, direc­tor Hayao Miyaza­ki’s 1988 ani­mat­ed fea­ture My Neigh­bor Totoro has legions of fans of all ages, and some will con­sid­er them­selves quite lucky if they win the lot­tery that grants them the abil­i­ty to pur­chase such a trea­sure.

They’re not only carved by skilled arti­sans in Ina­mi, the city of wood­carv­ing, but the wood is also that of a cam­phor tree — the nat­ur­al habi­tat of the mys­te­ri­ous, mag­i­cal Totoro! (It’s also con­sid­ered holy by prac­ti­tion­ers of the Shin­to reli­gion.)

Still, if it’s unclear that the recip­i­ent will tru­ly appre­ci­ate such thought­ful­ness, you’re prob­a­bly bet­ter off going with anoth­er offer­ing from Stu­dio Ghibli’s Totoro-themed col­lab­o­ra­tion with Nak­a­gawa Masashichi Shoten, a pur­vey­or of tra­di­tion­al Japan­ese crafts.

Per­haps a¥4180 bud vase fired in Ure­shi­no City’s Edo-peri­od Yozan Kiln, fea­tur­ing Totoro or a clus­ter of susuwatari, the pom pom-like soot sprites infest­ing the Kusak­abe fam­i­ly’s new home, who also play a part in Spir­it­ed Away.

Maybe a tiny Totoro bell amulet, mold­ed by crafts­men in Odawara, cel­e­brat­ed for the qual­i­ty of their met­al­work since the ear­ly 1500s, when they out­fit­ted samu­rai with weapons, armor and hel­mets?

What about a Totoro-embla­zoned trea­sure box from Yat­suo, made of sten­cil-dyed hand­made washi paper? There’s noth­ing inher­ent­ly wrong with stash­ing your acorn col­lec­tion in an old Altoid’s tin, but this ves­sel comes with his­toric pedi­gree:

As one of the lead­ing towns along the trunk road, Yatu­so flour­ished through … pro­duc­tion of wrap­ping paper for the nation-wide famous “Toya­ma Med­i­cine”. At its gold­en age, from the Edo Era to the begin­ning of the Mei­ji Era in the 19th cen­tu­ry, many peo­ple were engaged in paper­mak­ing by hand­work in their homes. Yat­suo Japan­ese paper was expect­ed to be unbreak­able because it was used as pack­age for expen­sive med­i­cine and at the same time it should look bril­liant. It had to be thick and stout so that it could be imper­vi­ous to water and the label print­ed on the sur­face would not be smeared.

The list of Totoro-inspired tra­di­tion­al crafts is impres­sive. A rep­re­sen­ta­tive sam­pling:

Chusen-dyed tenugui hand­ker­chiefs and t‑shirts…

Dish­tow­els made from five lay­ers of Kayaori fab­ric that “was intro­duced to Japan dur­ing the Nara peri­od and is said to allow wind to pass through but keep mos­qui­toes out”…

Tiny Ari­ta ware acorn plates that reward mem­bers of the clean plate club with a view of the Cat­bus 

View the col­lec­tion and learn more about February’s lot­tery for a chance to pur­chase a Cam­phor wood Totoro here.

Hands-on fans may pre­fer to cul­ti­vate an appre­ci­a­tion for tra­di­tion­al Japan­ese hand­i­crafts by attempt­ing a DIY Totoro.

Via Spoon & Tam­a­go/Colos­sal

Relat­ed Con­tent 

Stream Hun­dreds of Hours of Stu­dio Ghi­b­li Movie Music That Will Help You Study, Work, or Sim­ply Relax: My Neigh­bor Totoro, Spir­it­ed Away & More

A Tour of Stu­dio Ghibli’s Brand New Theme Park in Japan, Which Re-Cre­ates the Worlds of Spir­it­ed Away, My Neigh­bor Totoro, and Oth­er Clas­sics

Build Your Own Minia­ture Sets from Hayao Miyazaki’s Beloved Films: My Neigh­bor Totoro, Kiki’s Deliv­ery Ser­vice & More

– Ayun Hal­l­i­day is the Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine and author, most recent­ly, of Cre­ative, Not Famous: The Small Pota­to Man­i­festo and Cre­ative, Not Famous Activ­i­ty Book. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

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  • S says:

    Some­times I feel about Miyaza­ki as the char­ac­ters from out of town in Parks and Recre­ation felt about L’il Sebas­t­ian: I don’t total­ly under­stand why his works inspire such devo­tion and some­times I feel a lit­tle left out watch­ing from the out­side, but ulti­mate­ly I’m glad there’s a cul­tur­al touch­stone that brings so many peo­ple togeth­er.

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