Literary Works That Inspired Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli

Like many other films created by the revered Studio Ghibli, The Tale of Princess Kaguya takes inspiration from a great literary work
Like many other films created by the revered Studio Ghibli, 'The Tale of Princess Kaguya' takes inspiration from a great literary work | © Photo 12 / Alamy Stock Photo
James Gates

Studio Ghibli, the revered animation house, has made a number of timeless classics, many of them inspired by ancient myths and literature from across the ages.

Anime fans and movie lovers alike were in heaven when Studio Ghibli made its back catalogue (with the exception of the heartbreaking World War II drama Grave of the Fireflies) available for streaming via Netflix in Europe.

speech icon man in bubble

Destinations Unlocked:

Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip

Looking for an expert's perspective?

Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
speech icon man in bubble
left arrow trip map

CentralAmerica

GORGEOUS GUATEMALA

Gorgeous Guatemala

5 days . Mini
speech icon man in bubble

1. Guatemala

An express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.

Next

right arrow next slide
left arrow trip map

CentralAmerica

BEACHY BELIZE

Beachy Belize

5 days . Mini
speech icon man in bubble

2. Belize

A quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
left arrow previous slide

Next

right arrow next slide
left arrow trip map

CentralAmerica

COLONIAL MEXICO

Colonial Mexico

5 days . Mini
speech icon man in bubble

3. Mexico

An exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
left arrow previous slide

Back to Map

left arrow trip map

SouthAmerica

ADVENTUROUS ECUADOR

Adventurous Ecuador

8 days . Epic
speech icon man in bubble

1. Ecuador

A remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.

Next

right arrow next slide
left arrow trip map

SouthAmerica

ANCIENT PERU

Ancient Peru

9 days . Epic
speech icon man in bubble

2. Peru

An alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
left arrow previous slide

Back to Map

left arrow trip map

Europe

SEDUCTIVE SOUTHERN ITALY

Seductive Southern Italy

10 days . Epic
speech icon man in bubble

1. Italy

The ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.

Next

right arrow next slide
left arrow trip map

Europe

EDINBURGH AND THE SCOTTISH HIGHLANDS BY TRAIN

Edinburgh And The Scottish Highlands By Train

7 days . Culture
speech icon man in bubble

2. Scotland

Embark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
left arrow previous slide

Next

right arrow next slide
left arrow trip map

Europe

COMPLETE PORTUGAL BY TRAIN

Complete Portugal By Train

8 days . Culture
speech icon man in bubble

3. Portugal

A wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
left arrow previous slide

Back to Map

left arrow trip map

Asia

SOULFUL SOUTH KOREA

Soulful South Korea

10 days . Epic
speech icon man in bubble

1. South Korea

Discover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.

Next

right arrow next slide
left arrow trip map

Asia

THAILAND, CAMBODIA & VIETNAM

Thailand, Cambodia & Vietnam

11 days . Epic
speech icon man in bubble

2. Thailand

From Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
left arrow previous slide

Next

right arrow next slide
left arrow trip map

Asia

SECRETS OF SRI LANKA BY TRAIN

Secrets Of Sri Lanka By Train

10 days . Culture
speech icon man in bubble

3. Sri Lanka

A fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
left arrow previous slide

Back to Map

left arrow trip map

Africa

EPIC MOROCCO

Epic Morocco

11 days . Epic
speech icon man in bubble

1. Morocco

An epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!

Next

right arrow next slide
left arrow trip map

Africa

ULTIMATE EGYPT

Ultimate Egypt

9 days . Epic
speech icon man in bubble

2. Egypt

From Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
left arrow previous slide

Next

right arrow next slide
left arrow trip map

Africa

IMMERSIVE KENYA

Immersive Kenya

8 days . Epic
speech icon man in bubble

3. Kenya

An immersive blend of culture and wildlife for first time travelers to Africa. Learn about Nairobi, sample local coffee in the Aberdares and finish up with a fantastic safari stay in the Masai Mara.
left arrow previous slide

Back to Map

This momentous coup for Netflix gives viewers a fresh opportunity to do a deep dive into works that are some of the best films ever made, not just in Japanese anime, but in all of cinema.

Titles such as The Tale of The Princess Kaguya and Howl’s Moving Castle stand as classics in their own right, but they also take inspiration from a diverse set of influences, from manga to Greek myths. Here are some of those works and the literary references that fed into their creation.

‘Howl’s Moving Castle’, directed by Miyazaki, written by Diana Wynne Jones

Given Miyazaki’s gift for making enchanting children’s stories like My Neighbor Totoro (1988), it was no surprise that he would one day adapt the work of a renowned children’s author. Diana Wynne Jones wrote the original 1986 book that was the basis for the 2004 film, but originally, the adaptation wasn’t meant to be adapted by Miyazaki at all, as he had retired after making his masterpiece Spirited Away (2001). In fact, Miyazaki has announced his retirement a total of three times, only to eventually return to the director’s chair each time.

Howl’s Moving Castle was to be directed by Mamoru Hasada but he left after creative differences, prompting Miyazaki to step in and take the creative reins. The end result takes understandable liberties with the book – the cast of characters is dramatically reduced, the plot is streamlined and the tone is lightened – but in spite of this condensing of the source material, the movie still retains its otherworldly magic.

‘Howl’s Moving Castle’ was based on a book by Diana Wynne Jones

How ‘The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter’ inspired ‘The Tale of Princess Kaguya’

Many Japanese people are familiar with the native folk tale The Tale of The Bamboo Cutter, which is the basis for director and Ghibli co-founder Isao Takahata’s directorial swansong. The legend dates back to ancient Japan, and is believed to be its first-ever piece of fictional prose, known as monotogari. It tells the story of a kind, elderly couple who one day discover a tiny baby in the hollow of a bamboo stalk. They raise her as their own, and she grows quickly into a beautiful young woman.

This simple template is built upon by Takahata to make what is arguably the most visually exquisite entry in Studio Ghibli’s canon, thanks to its gorgeous watercolour animation. The film takes the bare bones of the story and uses it to make a compelling character study, as the adolescent Kaguya attempts to reconcile her magical origins with her place in the world as the adopted child of human parents. Her self-inquiry prompts the great questions of our age: Why are we here? What does it mean to connect with others?

As the heroine ponders the true cost of belonging, the film gently but inexorably builds towards a stunning climax that is one of the most emotionally gut-wrenching ever seen in a children’s film.

‘The Tale of Princess Kaguya’ draws on elements of a traditional Japanese folk tale

Japanese pop culture icon Lupin the Third appears in ‘The Castle of Cagliostro’

Miyazaki hit the ground running with his first-ever feature film, made before Studio Ghibli was formed. The protagonist is one of the great icons in Japanese pop culture – Lupin the Third, a ubiquitous presence everywhere from Pachinko parlours to multiplex cinemas. The character’s literary origins go deep. He first appeared in 1967 in a manga by the late, great Kazuhiko Kato, better known by his pen name Monkey Punch.

In the manga’s narrative, Lupin is the great-grandson of gentleman thief Arsene Lupin, himself the hero of classic novels by French writer Maurice Leblanc. In the manga, and its many animated adaptations, the modern-day Lupin is a sex-obsessed, amoral thief. Nudity and violence feature prominently. In Miyzakai’s hands, he is more of a loveable rogue, up to his neck in skullduggery, but with a heart of gold.

Lupin the Third is the protagonist of ‘Castle of Cagliostro’, and also appears in many other places in Japanese pop culture

‘The Graveyard by the Sea’, a poem by Paul Valery, features in ‘The Wind Rises’

Intended as Miyazaki’s farewell, The Wind Rises (2013) is a measured, semi-fictionalised biography of Jiro Horikoshi, designer of one of the aircraft that Japan used during World War II. One of its inspirations was a poem by Paul Valery, French poet, essayist and philosopher.

In The Graveyard by the Sea, Valery writes, “The wind rises!… We must try to live!” As well as literally taking the film’s title from this excerpt, Miyazaki also embraces the poem’s subtext, which deals with the necessity of choosing life even in the face of hardship and death.

By the end of the film, Horikoshi has endured personal loss and seen his beloved creations turned into machines of war that have been used to inflict death and suffering, but he still makes the decision to look forward and make the most of his life.

Another work that inspired the film was The Wind Has Risen, a 1937 novel by Hori Tatsuo. The book is a love story set in a tuberculosis ward, which is reflected in the film by Horikoshi’s unrequited love for his wife Naoko, herself suffering from the disease.

‘The Graveyard by the Sea’ informs not only the title but also the overarching message of the film ‘The Wind Rises’

‘Laputa: Castle in the Sky’ is an homage to ‘Gulliver’s Travels’

Studio Ghibli’s first production wears its literary influences on its sleeve: its setting is an homage to Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels (1726), where the book’s third part is set on a mysterious floating island from which the 1986 movie takes its name.

The parallels between the two works are obvious. Fittingly, Swift even titles the part “A Voyage to Laputa… and Japan.” Miyazaki’s history goes back a long way, as he was brought in as an uncredited screenwriter on Gulliver’s Travels Beyond The Moon, a 1965 animated feature from Toei Company studios. He also supplied additional artwork and it was this that brought him to the attention of studio executives at Toei, giving him a major boost in the animation industry.

Jonathan Swift’s ‘Gulliver’s Travels’ had a strong influence on ‘Laputa: Castle in the Sky’

Did you know – Culture Trip now does bookable, small-group trips? Pick from authentic, immersive Epic Trips, compact and action-packed Mini Trips and sparkling, expansive Sailing Trips.

culture trip left arrow
 culture trip brand logo

Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip

meet our Local Insider

Hanna

women sitting on iceberg

HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?

2 years.

WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?

It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.

WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?

I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!

culture trip logo letter c
group posing for picture on iceberg
group posing for picture on iceberg

Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.

map of volcanic iceland trip destination points
culture trip brand logo
culture trip right arrow
landscape with balloons floating in the air

KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?

Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.

X

Holiday Sale Offers on Our Trips

Incredible Savings

Edit article