Hayao Miyazaki has spent over US$2 million to save the forest where Totoro was born, but needs more help.

Studio Ghibli director Hayao Miyazaki is known for imbuing his movies with big themes that include the importance of conserving the environment, but he doesn’t just talk the talk, he walks the walk too.

One place he likes to walk the walk — literally and metaphorically — is Sayama Hills in Tokorozawa, Saitama Prefecture. The 81-year-old director, who’s been residing in Tokorozawa for the past 52 years, credits the forested area for the creation of one of his most iconic characters, saying “If we didn’t live in Tokorozawa, Totoro would never have been born.”

The director has such a soft spot for the area that he’s been working hard to preserve it, turning it into “Totoro’s Forest” and even encouraging the local government to get on board with the preservation project. Never one to rest on his laurels, Miyazaki is keen to continue expanding the forest, and to do that, he and the city are now asking the public for help, with a crowdfunding campaign that offers a very special reward for contributors.

The campaign, which is part of the “Kitaakitsu/Kamiyasumatsu District Urban Green Space Conservation Project” currently being run by Tokorozawa City, aims to conserve the “Kaminoyama” green area (about 1.5 hectares, pictured in colour on the right in the image below) and the “Akitsu no Mori” green area (about two hectares, pictured in colour at the bottom of the image below).

In order to “preserve precious greenery”, one percent of Tokorozawa City’s individual municipal tax revenue has been allocated to purchase the above-mentioned 3.5 hectares of land from landowners, but unfortunately this is not enough to prevent residential land development and the loss of green spaces.

Tokorozawa City is spending 1.8 billion yen (US$12.8 million) on the project, with Miyazaki donating 300 million yen ($2.1 million) of his own money towards the cause. However, the projected costs are estimated to be 2.6 billion yen ($18.5 million), which is where the crowdfunding campaign comes in.

Contributions towards the campaign, which aims to raise a total of 25 million yen, are set at 25,000 yen ($178.04). In return, supporters will receive five reproductions of background art used in the Ghibli movie My Neighbour Totoro.

The background art scenes (clockwise from top left in the image above) are listed as:

  • Large camphor tree and shrine
  • Large camphor tree
  • Totoro’s home
  • Zelkova tree-lined road
  • Matsugo Fields

▼ The set includes one frame that fits all the artworks, allowing you to change the framed art according to your mood.

Contributors will receive the “large camphor tree and shrine” inside the frame while the remaining four artworks will be sealed in plastic, with plain paper in between each one to protect them.

To help drum up interest for the campaign, Studio Ghibli producer and co-founder Toshio Suzuki wrote this message, published on the campaign page.

▼ “Kaminoyama is where the concept of ‘My Neighbor Totoro’ was born. We ask for your cooperation towards crowdfunding.”

As the birthplace of My Neighbour Totoro, preserving the area is of vital importance to not only the studio but also its fans. While the campaign is limited to people within Japan, as the background art can’t be shipped overseas, there’s been an overwhelming amount of support from local fans, with 86 percent of the funds raised as of this writing and only 36 sets remaining.

Once the campaign reaches its goal, the city will use all the funds raised to purchase land for the urban green space conservation project in the 2023 fiscal year. Preserving and maintaining the green areas in and around Totoro’s Forest is an ongoing project, however, so it’s highly likely that this isn’t the end of the crowdfunding campaigns and Ghibli offers coming our way.

After all, preserving the environment for future generations is a never-ending endeavour befitting Miyazaki, the never-ending man.

Source: Campfire Japan/tokorozawa_koenka
Featured image: Studio Ghibli
Insert images: Campfire Japan/tokorozawa_koenka
● Want to hear about SoraNews24’s latest articles as soon as they’re published? Follow us on Facebook and Twitter