Spirited Away: The Power of Food

The Power of Food in Spirited Away

            Food is a recurring theme in many of Miyazaki’s films and is utilized in Spirited Away to depict the importance of food in culture and life. People should be thankful for the food that they get to eat and should not become too greedy. Food also has the power to tie people and cultures together and food can provide comfort and suppress the evil in people.

Food and greed are important motifs in Spirited Away. At the beginning of the story, food sets the whole story into motion by inviting Chihiro and her parents to the food stand. Eating the sacred food ends up turning Chihiro’s parents into pigs. This scene gives the idea that people should be always thankful of the food they get to eat and should not eat needlessly just for the sake of eating. It is a habit widely forgotten by many of the developed countries as food has become abundant in recent years. In Japan, people say itadakimasu before a meal and gochisosama after a meal in order to show their appreciation for the meals that they eat. However in recent years, some people have forgotten about the true meaning behind the words and say them only for the sake of saying them. Through food, Miyazaki attempts to convey the message that people should be thankful for the things that they have and should not become greedy.

 

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Chihiro’s dad gorging himself with food

In Spirited Away food is an important component that ties people and cultures together. As Chihiro was starting to disappear in the spiritual world, Haku fed her food from the spiritual world in order to tie her to the spiritual world and keep her from disappearing. Every culture around the world has its own unique types of food and the type of food that a culture has can be used to identify it. I believe that by learning about the food of a certain place, you are also assimilating into its culture. Therefore, when Chihiro, a foreigner, was starting to fade away, Haku gave her food from the spiritual world to help her become a part of the spirit world. Later, when the workers at the bath house were complaining about Chihiro’s human smell, Haku explains to them that if she eats their food for a few days, she would soon lose that smell, indicating that she will lose her human identity and gain her spiritual identity as Sen. This line supports my idea that eating the food of a certain culture makes you a part of that culture in a way. Food forms bonds between people and cultures.

Haku giving Chihiro onigiris in the garden with the soft, tender background music

Haku gives rice balls to Chihiro to cheer her up

Food is a source of comfort to many people. Food can calm people and also suppress inner anger and evil. The magical cake given to Chihiro by the river spirit is an example of how food can remove maliciousness from a person. The cake is special in that it makes whoever that ate the cake throw up whatever evil was inside them. Chihiro uses this on Haku and no-face to have them throw up the bad things that were dwelling inside them. Haku throws up the gold seal he stole from Zeniba and the slug that Yubaba was using to control him. After eating the cake, No-Face throws up the evil force and anger that was inside him, stopping his rampage. The cake shows how food has the power to suppress anger and comfort people. Miyazaki is trying to convey the point that food has the ability to remove evil and malicious feelings from a person and cleanse them. Food also provides comfort to Chihiro on many occasions. When Chihiro was starting to fade away on her first night, Haku gives her some food from the spiritual world to help her maintain her form. The next day when Chihiro was going through an emotional breakdown, Haku gives her rice balls in order to cheer her up. Food is a positive force that suppresses evil and brings comfort to people.

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No-Face, angered by Chihiro’s refusal, starts to eat everything he sees

Overall, food is an important theme in Spirited Away and is used by Miyazaki to convey the importance of food in Japanese culture and how food is comfort. Food is a recurring motif in many of Miyazaki’s films and is used to convey the themes within his films.

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