Two 70-year-old grandparents in Takaharu, a town in Kyushu, Miyazaki Prefecture, Japan, decided to recreate the well-loved character Totoro at their local bus stop to surprise their granddaughter. Totoro is from the iconic 1988 animated fantasy film by Hayao Miyazaki.
Grandparents will go to any lengths to ensure their grandkids are happy and safe. Our childhoods are full of such experiences with our grandparents. Whether it was storytelling sessions or long walks to the parks and amusement centers, we had the privilege of spending quality time with our grandparents and cherishing each golden moment.
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The old couple took creating a memorable experience a step further and created a life-size Totoro using traditional plastering methods and loads of love. This expression of love is now a tourist attraction and snap spot that makes everyone’s day.
Love for Totoro
Japan has always been known as a pioneer in technology and all things entertainment. With the origin of anime deeply rooted in the culture and history of the country, coming across quality animation even back in the early 1900s was no surprise. Before the advent of animation, animated storytelling was popular in Japan with creative forms like Emakimono and Kagee. Anime has always been the choice of conveying an important message to kids without being too preachy or too intellectual.
We all grew up watching anime like Cardcaptor Sakura, Boku, Naruto, Death Note, and even movies like Spirited Away, A Silent Voice, and A Whisker Away to name just a few favorites. But My Neighbor Totoro always stood out from the moment it hit the screens. Written by Hayao Miyazaki and animated by Studio Ghibli, the movie takes the viewers through the lives of two sisters who are adjusting to their new home and surroundings with some help from Totoro, a forest monster.
Known for original storylines and a fresh take on many things, Japan’s anime creators have always stuck to the simple formula of narrating without having any bias. This makes every anime popular to watch, and you never tire of watching one no matter how old you are. The popularity of Totoro, a helpful monster, is proof that this age-old formula of taking a monster/animal figure and turning it into an ally was diamond.
Creating the surprise
The 70-year-old couple decided to cheer up their granddaughter by building a life-size Totoro at the bus stop. But it is not a simple printed and cut-out version of the popular figure, but a masterpiece created from scratch using traditional plastering methods. The body of the life-size Totoro is made of wood strips like you find in woven baskets. This makes the structure solid and easy to work with. Next, the grandfather layered the wooden framework with plastering concrete and sculpted the figure layer by layer.
The attention to detail was also prominent, along with his exceptional carpentry skills. Each fold of the body, each little detail pertaining to the anime was captured perfectly. Bricks were also used to bring out the plumpness of Totoro. Once the base of the structure was created, the final details of the face and the greyish blue color of Totoro were achieved, and to finish it off, a gravel pathway was made around the figure. And all this was created in just one day.
The process was lengthy, as each layer had to be placed and plastered properly to create uniformity of the body without making it too ill-proportioned. The addition of the bricks too required strategic planning and care while placing. But what melts your heart is the whimsical face of Totoro, which was captured flawlessly.
Totoro towers over everyone and people of all ages are traveling to take pictures and hug their beloved anime. Right from the plumpness of Totoro’s body to his big eyes and expression of love and care, every facet merged together to bring the sculpture to life as people feel the warmth exuded by the loved beast. And why not? After all, the sculpture was made with loads of love by doting grandparents for their beloved grandchild. Truly, the love of grandparents knows no bounds, and each time they surprise their wards, and the world, with their creativity and care wrapped in such gestures.