May 25 to 30 is Studio Ghibli Week at Polygon. To celebrate the arrival of the Japanese animation house’s library on digital and streaming services, we’re surveying the studio’s history, impact, and biggest themes. Follow along via our Ghibli Week page.
Hayao Miyazaki, co-founder of Studio Ghibli and one of the most revered figures of animation, is a humanist artist. He’s created of some of the most touching, gentle, and hopeful films in the animated canon. He’s also an outspoken idealist with no obvious inhibitions about expressing his opinion, and in a daily series for Ghibli Week, we’re highlighting some of the things the reclusive director has famously disdained.
So far we’ve covered Miyazaki’s distaste for Harvey Weinstein, otaku, procedurally-generated animation, and one of the foundational figures of manga itself. And today, in our final installment, we’re adding one more to the list:
Hayao Miyazaki hated learning to drive.
Before the founding of Studio Ghibli, and before he became a household name, Miyazaki published Hayao Miyaazi Image Board Collection, a book of sketches, concept art, and even a few personal stories with doodles. In one of those stories, he describes why he decided to learn to drive.
Kotaku uncovered this image from the book in 2015, and helpfully provided a translation. First, Miyazaki explains that he associated cars with the Americanization of Japanese culture, a trend he actively stood against.
“I hate people who are proud that cheap Japanese cars are popular in America,” Kotaku translates his words, “and I look at people who wear badges of the U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force that filled Vietnam with dioxins as enemies, so I’m against motorization.”
On the top right, he’s doodled a self portrait of himself in his late 20s, ringed by a litany of his anti-American complaints, “Anti-fried chicken, anti-cola, anti-American coffee,” “What’s ‘my car’ you moron!?”, “Anti-New York, Anti-West Coast, Disneyland go back to America!”
So what convinced him to get behind the wheel? His wife had become pregnant with their first child (director Gorō Miyazaki, born in 1967), and Miyazaki decided it was time for him to finally learn a skill that would make his family’s life a lot easier.
“When my wife’s belly began to grow,” he writes, and Kotaku translates, “the young me believed that as a husband, it was my duty to carry the same weight. So I decided that even though I did not know if it was a boy or a girl (since it hadn’t been born yet), in order to take my child to nursery school, I would go to driving school, a place that still gives me shivers to remember. All driving schools should burn to the ground!”
Accompanying his thoughts is a doodle of himself at the wheel, arguing with his driving instructor.
He continues, hopefully jokingly, “My wife went through quite an ordeal with a difficult birth, but it was an equally difficult birth for me.”
Most of the targets of Miyazaki’s ire that we’ve highlighted this week are ones that are particular to his legacy: American film producers who want to dumb down his work for their audience, younger folks in his industry who he (perhaps rightly) perceives as cheapening it, or fellow artists whose work he has a legitimate professional standing to criticize.
But it’s undeniably humanizing to imagine this humanist artist getting stressed out by something as honestly frustrating as learning to drive in a big city. Maybe not as frustrating or stressful as having a baby, but still.