First, a little update on what’s happening in Japanese politics [and a big thanks to The Dissolve for sorting this all out]. According FP Passport [via Gordon Campbell], Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe,
has tried to reframe Japan’s role in World War II: He’s questioned “whether it is proper to say that Japan ‘invaded’ its neighbors” and questioned the 1995 official apology to “comfort women,” the conscription prostitutes provided to Japanese troops during the war. Abe is currently pushing for a revision of the Japanese constitution that would not only ease the country’s prohibition on military aggression, but would also enshrine the Emperor as the head of state and compel “respect” for symbols of Japan’s pre-war heyday.
Miyazaki does not share Abe’s zeal to return the country to it’s pre-World War II values and transform the Self-Defense Forces into a standing military (the SDF is currently engaged in international peacekeeping). In a recent interview for the film, Miyazaki says,
“If I had been born a bit earlier, I would have been a gunkoku shonen (Militarist Youth),” Miyazaki writes… But instead, he grew up in a family in which his father went from building airplane components during the war to opening a jazz club to cater to American soldiers during the postwar occupation. Removed from the “hysteria” of the war years, Miyazaki writes, he “had a strong feeling in my childhood that we had ‘fought a truly stupid war’.”
Entering into this political arena has brought the ire of nationalists and Abe supporters against the acclaimed filmmaker. Additionally, the film may not only be anti-militarism. Per Dawn.com:
“The time shown in the movie resembles the present,” said film commentator Ryusuke Hikawa, referring to the 1923 earthquake that devastated Tokyo and the 1930s Depression – parallels to the 2011 earthquake and tsunami and Japan’s long-stagnant economy.
“After the quake there was turmoil and Japan began heading towards war. It is possible to feel some similarities … The economy was bad and psychologically it was a situation of having to do something big, and that’s how things got nationalistic.”
The economic stagnation makes sense, but Miyazaki based the movie off a manga he did in 2009. Of course, it’s possible he made some changes for the animated adaptation, but the 2011 earthquake could be a coincidence, and the intended goal was to critique Japan’s current economic stagnation, which has lasted for decades.
Japanese critic Yuichi Maeda believes that in order to dispel any ambiguity, The Wind Rises must be read along with Miyazaki’s essay. Personally, I’m fascinated by how this controversy will develop, and I’m eager to learn more about it since my current understanding of Japanese politics is limited, and my memory of my college Japanese History courses is a little hazy (sorry, Professor Dicenzo).