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The Hidden Meaning In Miyazaki's Spirited Away

Disclaimer: This may ruin your childhood.

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Via wallpapers.brothersoft.com

Okay so this one kind of blew my mind when it was pointed out to me, but even though Spirited Away seems like it's a fun-loving, family movie about a girl who gets lost in a spirit world and needs to find her way back to save her parents, it's actually about prostitution. Crazy right?! Don't believe me? Well here is the evidence.....

Via neatorama.com

Let's start with how Chihiro ends up in her situation in the first place-- her parents' mistakes. Chihiro's parents eat something they aren't supposed to and turn into greedy pigs. Many theorize that this symbolizes a debt that her parents owed. This debt is most likely referring to Japan's recession in the 80s, where the older generation indulged in the "bubble economy's" hedonism without consciences, forcing their children to pay to price. If this is to be believed, then it's not too obscure to assume that Chihiro's parents practically sold her to the bath house to repay their own debt.

People theorize that when Chihiro returns to her parents at the end of the movie, it indicates that the debt has been repaid.

Via universediscourse.wordpress.com

Okay so now let's talk about the bath house in which Chihiro works at. The writing above the door says ゆ, which translates as "yu," meaning hot water. Even today, bath houses in Japan use this symbol to indicate the building is indeed a bath house. So it makes sense that Miyazaki uses this symbol for the bath house. However, during the Edo period in Japan, many bath houses were used as brothels.

Via giphy.com

This only may not be very convincing on it's own, however the prostitutes that worked at these brothels, or bath houses, were called Yunas, or "hot water women". And can you guess what the bath house Madams were called? Yubaba, or "hot water older woman". Sound familiar? Well it should, since it's the name of the woman that owns the bath house that Chihiro works in.

I also feel I should point out that most of the workers in the bath house are female while the customers all seem to be male....

Via giphy.com

The argument becomes more compelling when taking into account the fact that Chihiro is forced to change her name to Sen when she starts working at the bath house. This was common practice for prostitutes working in the bath houses; they usually changed their names from their real ones to a shorter "bath house" name. The fact that Yubaba changes Chihiro's name to Sen is also important. The kanji for the name Sen-- 千 --also means 1000, possibly hinting at Chihiro's worth in the bath house.

Via history.sffs.org

With all this in mind, Chihiro's interactions with No Face suddenly become less innocent and more cringe-worthy. Remember how he continually followed her around, offering her tokens and gold? Well, essentially he is trying to buy her virginity.

His identity also comes into play, representing the numerous "no faced", no named men that enter the brothels anonymously, pay for the Yuna's "services" and then leave.

variety.com / Via georgiaballauthor.com

If you still don't believe me, then maybe you'll believe Miyazaki himself. Miyazaki confirmed in an interview with PREMIRE magazine in 2001 that Spirited Away is indeed about prostitution. He is quoted saying, "I just think that the sex industry is the best thing to represent the reality of today's Japanese society. Now, the sex industry is everywhere in Japan. And the number of young girls who look like whores is increasing."

Take what I have to say with a grain of salt or take it to heart, it's your choice. Put either way, there's no denying the beauty and sophistication that is predominant in all of Miyazaki's films, especially Spirited Away.

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