With the death of Studio Ghibli creative force Isao Takahata and the films he worked on still fresh in minds of anime fans, the shrine that served as the basis of one of Studio Ghibli’s most famous movies is in trouble thanks to city redevelopment.
The town of Komatsushima, in the Tokushima prefecture, is the center of this controversy with its Kincho Shrine to Tanuki. The shrine was first developed in the 1950’s by money donated by a film executive who wanted it built based on Tanuki folklore. It was that basis in the mythology of the Japanese raccoon/dog that helped it be referenced in the 1988 Studio Ghibli film, Pom Poko. The film about a group of magical Tanuki (Japanese Racoon Dogs) who can shapeshift as they try to stop a development project as their homeland’s area of wilderness slowly disappeared to man’s modernization.
The Shrine faces city planners who are thinking more about tsunami safety. The shrine sits on private property, but that land sits in the middle of municipal parkland on the island of Shikoku. The city is looking to redevelop much of the area on the Island to strengthen measures should another Tsunami take place. The Tsunami of 2011 killed many and destroyed a lot of property all over Japan and much of the Pacific area of the World, including the area on Shikoku Island where the shrine sits. Under this plan, the Shrine and the area around it would be flattened and turned into a parking lot.
However many people are against the idea and want to save the shrine as well. Local residents do not want to see the shrine go and have made it known to the planners. Anime fans around the world have voiced their displeasure as well over the proposed idea through online communication and have voiced their opinions on keeping the Tanuki shrine as well. Earlier this year, an online petition was stated to save the shrine, even if the land is redeveloped, and it garnered over 2,000 signatures.
Interestingly, even the city planners overlooking this issue don’t want the entire site flattened. Many have also said they want to save the shrine as well and have also said that despite the idea of leveling the shrine was part of the early plans for the area, it’s not something that can just be voted on and carried through with since it sits on private land. The owners of the land would most likely have to willingly hand over the shrine itself before anything like that would happen. No word on if the actual landowners have weighed in on the issue or if a deal has been proposed as of yet.
“The shrine itself is private property,” a member of the city’s development bureau stated to many who follow the story, “and so it can’t be torn down by unilateral decision.” With that word coming from someone within those working on the project, it seems for this plan to go forward it is going to take a lot of work and negotiation. But that there are people willing to keep the shrine and its spot in anime history from imitating art. We will have to see if the plans are altered to save the shrine or if the Tanuki will have to say goodbye like those in the movie did. Then again, it hasn’t exactly been confirmed if members of the planning board overlooking all this were all actual humans and not shapeshifting raccoon dogs either, so there does not seem to be a clear answer as of yet over the situation. Despite the certainty of their true forms, there will have to be some magic from the planning board to save the shrine.
Source: Japan Today.