Review of “The Fujimi Highland Is Fascinating” (2002/2004)

Text

Miyazaki Hayao (writer).

Read in 2021.

Read in Turning Point.

The archaeology and history of Fujimi Kōgen, a part of landlocked Nagano Prefecture on central Honshū, near the Yatsugatake Mountains; a place about 100 km from downtown Tokyo.

Apparently a transcript of a long 2002-04-02 lecture to the public in a middle-school gymnasium, originally titled “A Rebirth of the Highland Jōmon Kingdom”, retitled for publishing in 2004. Miyazaki does an amazing job popularizing Fujimori Eiichi’s work on humanizing the Jōmon people (12,000–300 BCE), intelligently comparing misconceptions about the neolithic population of Japan to European racist misconceptions about Neanderthals. Like Victor Ambrus of Time Team (1994), Miyazaki supplies his own fine watercolour illustrations as he demonstrates, and communicates, a surprisingly thorough understanding of the subject matter.

The particular case of Fujimi is not of special interest to me or to historians, but this is well worth reading if you ever doubt whether Miyazaki actually has a functioning understanding of the past. In a way, it’s his answer to The Story of Yanagawa’s Canals (1987).

In one of his anecdotes bringing the past to life, Miyazaki describes how a local headman instructed his children to pretend at poverty, as a strategy for dealing with government; he compares this to his own work with the labour union at Toei, where, he says, he would exaggerate the workers’ plight. This is odd, given how Miyazaki would lament the unlivable wages of Japanese animators well after leaving Toei.

In an aside, the director explains the origin of the name Okkotonushi in Princess Mononoke (1997); it’s very metal. In another aside, he explains the choice of laminated larch for the timbers of the Ghibli Museum, using up the wood that was planted throughout the region to replace its diverse original forests.

References here: Turning Point: 1997–2008 (2008/2014).

Japanese production non-fiction text