Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Fuji, Cherry Blossoms, and Tuberculosis in The Wind Rises

Consider the associations emanating from Naoko Satomi: Horikoshi met her during the Great Kanto Earthquake, Japan’s greatest natural disaster in modern times (and the single most sustained depiction of violence in the film). Horikoshi courted her with paper airplanes, thereby associating them with his airplane designs. He puts the final touches on his design at night while holding her hand as she sleeps, or tries to, beside him. She’s also associated with Mount Fuji and with cherry blossoms. For all practical purposes she’s Lady Japan.

And she’s tubercular. She’s doomed. In one of his interviews Miyazaki noted that at one time Tokyo was the most tubercular city in the world [1]. Why make your Lady Japan tubercular unless, unless, you want to say that Japan is doomed. So when, in a great romantic gesture, Horikoshi marries her knowing that she’s doomed, well, who can fault him for that? It would be churlish to do so. Except that this is a movie and the characters in it are doing more than act out imaginary lives.

These characters aren’t symbolic in any crude way, nor is the story strongly allegorical. But it surely has an allegorical and symbolic dimension. And in that dimension, when Horikoshi pledges himself to Satomi, he’s pledging himself to a moribund mythos of Japan. He’s a kamikaze pilot painting cherry blossoms on the Zero he’s going to ride to his death.

[1] Hiroyuki Ota, “Hayao Miyakaki: Newest Ghibli film humanizes designer of fabled Zero”, Asahi Shimbun, August 4, 2013: http://ajw.asahi.com/article/cool_japan/movies/AJ201308040009


  1. I found her disease in the story interesting in another way. The mother in My Neighbor Totoro is in a hospital located in a city that had many facilities for tuberculosis patients, from what I have read that included Miyazaki's mother.

    1. Yes, another thread. And of course his father's company made tail assemblies for Zeroes.