Hayao Miyazaki, the Oscar-winning creator of many of Japan’s best-loved animated films, on Monday denounced Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s plan to expand the role of the military and urged him to make a clear apology for World War II.
Miyazaki, 74, often explored the themes of pacifism and environmentalism over half a century of film-making until he officially retired in 2013. His comments come as Abe is poised to ram legislation through parliament as early as this week to allow Japan to defend other countries, amid concerns over an increasingly assertive China.
“I think we are going in completely the wrong direction,” Miyazaki told reporters in a wood-paneled room at his studio complex in western Tokyo. “It’s impossible to stop the expansion of China through military force. We have to find another way and I think that’s the purpose of having a pacifist constitution.”
Miyazaki’s views chime with those of many ordinary Japanese, with media polls showing a majority against the passage of the new defense legislation. Forcing the bills through parliament would likely further damage Abe’s falling public support, potentially undermining his control of his ruling party.
Miyazaki won an Academy Award in 2003 for the film “Spirited Away,” but didn’t attend the ceremony, later saying he hadn’t wanted to visit the country that was bombing Iraq. He received a lifetime award from the Academy last year.
“The Wind Rises,” Miyazaki’s last feature-length movie before retirement, was a fictionalized account of the life of Jiro Horikoshi, designer of the Mitsubishi Zero warplane used in the attack on Pearl Harbor that drew the U.S. into the war. The film depicts Horikoshi as an aeronautics enthusiast dismayed at the use of his creations for war.
Miyazaki urged Abe to make a clear apology to China in a statement to be issued next month to mark the 70th anniversary of the war’s end.
“It must make clear that the war of aggression was a mistake and our deep regret that it caused great damage to the people of China,” Miyazaki said. “There are many people who want to forget that, but it must not be forgotten.”
This year, Miyazaki became one of the representatives of a fund backing a campaign against construction of a new U.S. military facility on the southern island of Okinawa. About 50,000 people have donated to the Henoko fund, raising more than 380 million yen ($3.1 million) since its establishment in April. His voice broke as he said no apology could be sufficient for Japan’s poor treatment of the people of Okinawa.
“I am against the construction of a base on reclaimed land at Henoko,” he said. “It’s like building a target.”
People across the nation demonstrated at the weekend against Abe’s security legislation, which would enshrine in law his reinterpretation last year of the constitution. An Asahi newspaper survey published Monday showed 56 percent of respondents were against the passage of the bills, with 26 percent in favor.
The issue divides artists as deeply as the rest of society.
Nobel Prize-winning author Kenzaburo Oe has spoken in defense of Japan’s pacifist constitution. On Abe’s side is author Naoki Hyakuta, whose best sellers include a novel about kamikaze pilots, who has publicly denied that the Nanking Massacre took place.