When it comes to Ghibli movies, My Neighbour Totoro is arguably one of the animation studio’s best-known and most loved releases. The storyline, the atmosphere and the colours in the film all help to create a magical world that we yearn to visit again and again.

While fans might enjoy the film at any time throughout the year, real fans know that May is the month to watch Totoro. Like a favourite fruit coming into season, this Ghibli film has ripened and is at its peak watching period now, all due to some clever tricks that director Hayao Miyazaki worked into the story.

Every year from May 1, Japanese fans begin tweeting about Tonari no Totoro, as the film is known in Japan. The main subject of their tweets involves the two young sisters in the movie. Can you recall their names?

▼ Four-year-old Mei and 12-year-old Satsuki are the embodiment of spring.


Miyazaki took great care when choosing the names of the two main characters for his film. Mei is, quite deliberately, a homophone for May. Less well-known amongst English speakers however, is the fact that Satsuki is also a traditional term for the fifth month of the year. A fine day in May is still commonly referred to as satsuki-bare in Japanese.

Adding more intrigue to the story of the month and the girls known as May is the fact that Miyazaki had originally intended for there to only be one girl in the movie, a seven-year-old girl called Mei. Gasp!

▼ The original Mei had features of both sisters combined into one little girl, which had fans questioning whether this was actually their mother encountering Totoro when she was younger


For storyline reasons however, Miyazaki decided to split the original main character into two girls. This is the real reason why both sisters have names connected to May, as they are essentially one person.



At this time every year in Japan, there are tweets from seasoned lovers of the film announcing “It’s the month of Totoro!” and “Mei and Satsuki’s month has arrived!”.

At the same time, there’s a new generation of Totoro fans scratching their heads, with tweets like, “What? Satsuki and Mei are connected to the month of May?” and “I’ve only just realised now and it all makes sense!”.

The relationship between the two sisters is one of the most endearing memories from the film. Now that we know their real background, and the fact that they’re two halves of one whole, it makes us love the film just that little bit more.


And now that there’s a seasonal connection to their world, this will definitely be on our annual movie-watching list. Happy Totoro month, everyone!

Source: Naver Matome
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