May 19, 2024
Ghibli Characters inspired (4)

9 Studio Ghibli Characters inspired by Folk Legends

Shintoism and Japanese folklore have always been an endless source of inspiration for artistic works in the Land of the Rising Sun. For the two talented directors of Studio Ghibli, Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata, Ghibli Characters inspired by Folk Legends .They are also essential materials for creating legendary animated films.

The Ghibli world is a harmonious combination of magic, authenticity, humanity, and the art of cinema, with characters imbued with the mystical essence, expressing the beauty and depth of Japanese folklore. Below are 9 characters from Studio Ghibli said to be based on entities from Japanese mythology.

1.Shikigami in the film “Spirited Away”:

In a scene from Spirited Away, the dragon Haku is surrounded by a group of paper figures. They may look fragile and harmless, but when they gather together, they swarm Haku, attacking fiercely and injuring him. These paper figures are known as Shikigami.

Ghibli Characters inspired (1)
Ghibli Characters inspired 

Shikigami are creatures in Japanese folklore originating from Onmyodo, the yin-yang tradition. They are free spirits summoned by Onmyoji (yin-yang masters) to fight or fulfill the orders of their controllers.

2. Yamauba in the film “Spirited Away”:

Yubaba is believed to be inspired by Yamauba (Mountain Crone), also known as Onibaba (Demon Hag), a yokai from Japanese folklore. Yamauba is a type of kijo (female demon) or mountain witch, originally a human but transformed into a monster due to deep-seated hatred.

Ghibli Characters inspired (2)
Ghibli Characters inspired 



3. Mizuchi in the film “Spirited Away”:

The character Haku’s original name is Nigihayami Kohaku Nushi – the river spirit Kohaku. When the river is filled in, he wanders aimlessly, loses his place, and ends up in the Spirit World. Haku is a river spirit, so he can transform into a silver-scaled dragon with a blue mane. This is a symbolic image associated with rivers in Japanese belief. Haku is based on Mizuchi, a water deity that guards large rivers and lakes. Mizuchi is a mythical creature resembling a snake or dragon, hence also called a water dragon.

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Ghibli Characters inspired 

4. Oshira-sama in the film “Spirited Away”:

Oshira-sama is a plump and fair-skinned deity in Spirited Away. He has the appearance of a white radish but is often believed to be a silkworm. Behind him are small silkworm holes for breathing, and under the red hat, there are mulberry leaves. Additionally, Oshira-sama is the name of a deity representing the ancestors of weaving and agriculture in the Tohoku region of Japan.

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Ghibli Characters inspired 



5. Bakeneko in the film “My Neighbor Totoro”:

Catbus is a cute character in the form of a large cat, always smiling, and its body is a bus with many windows. It is said to be inspired by Bakeneko, a species of supernatural creature originating from cats with unusually long tails. This mysterious creature has many strange abilities, such as shapeshifting, speaking human language, dancing, and even controlling human minds.

Ghibli Characters inspired (5)
Ghibli Characters inspired 

6. Obake in the film “My Neighbor Totoro”:

Many believe that Totoro is based on Obake. It is a mysterious creature in Japanese folklore, capable of shape-shifting. The term “Obake” is commonly used when referring to yokai with shapeshifting abilities.

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Ghibli Characters inspired 



7. Tanuki in the film “Pom Poko”:

The cute and cheerful Tanuki from director Isao Takahata are actually mythical creatures with the ability to create illusions and transform, particularly fond of transforming into humans, imitating human lifestyles. They often mimic human vices such as gambling, alcohol, stealing, cheating, and lying.

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Ghibli Characters inspired

8. Kodama in the film “Princess Mononoke”:

Kodama is a character residing in the large trees of the Western Forest where Princess Mononoke lives. They are small forest spirits usually living in large groups, with a cute appearance resembling human-like heads with shaking heads. According to beliefs in Japan, Kodama are spirits inhabiting tree trunks, responsible for maintaining the balance of nature and protecting the green forests. Kodama also exist in the form of sound, their echoing voices resounding throughout the mountains and forests.

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Ghibli Characters inspired 


9. Yatsukamizuomitsuno in the film “Princess Mononoke”:

In Princess Mononoke, Shishigami is the supreme god of the Western Forest, representing life and death. Shishigami has two forms: during the day, he appears as a golden deer with a human-like face and large antlers, while at night, he transforms into a giant spirit known as Daidarabotchi.

Ghibli Characters inspired (9)
Ghibli Characters inspired 


In Japanese mythology, Shishigami’s embodiment is the god Yatsukamizuomitsuno. The Nagahama Shrine in Shiname province worships this deity, who possesses great power to create planets, grant immortality, and control the growth or withering of trees and plants.

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