Zen and the Art of Environmental Education in the Japanese Animated Film Tonari no Totoro
Subject Areas: Religious Studies
The animated film Tonari no Totoro (My Neighbour Totoro) vividly depicts the interaction of people, forest spirits and nature in rural Japan. This article analyses the film both in its original Japanese and in two dubbed English versions, in relation to the film’s potential to contribute to environmental awareness. The starting point is a discussion of the limitations of current environmental education, in particular its focus on the abstract, the global, and the technical, at the expense of detailed observation of local ecosystems and the discovery of value within those systems. This is followed by analysis of Tonari no Totoro, focusing on how ecological insights drawn from Zen, Shintō and traditional Japanese culture are subtly woven into the film. The conclusion describes how the visual and linguistic features used in the film have the potential to promote a form of ecological consciousness closely attuned to the local environment.
Author: Arran Stibbe