Echos of renowned director Hayao Miyazaki's childhood home in Utsunomiya, Tochigi Prefecture can be seen in his classic My Neighbor Totoro. Even the more fantastic Castle in the Sky and Spirited Away drew from memories of the house. After being unoccupied for several years, the 80-year-old, two-story wooden structure has been rented by 35-year-old Asuko Thomas and opened as Hanna art gallery.
Thomas, who also lives in part of the house, created a lounge upstairs, and uses a Western-style room and a Japanese-style room on the ground level as exhibition spaces. Attracted by the design, Thomas was originally unaware of the building's connection to Miyazaki.
Hayao Miyazaki's family evacuated to the house during World War II, and he lived there from the age of four to his third year of elementary school.
“That house is very precious for me,” Miyazaki, 72, said in a message sent to The Asahi Shimbun. “I think the home, as well as light and shadows in the garden, has formed some part of who I am. I’d like to visit it again someday.”
Hanna art gallery is open about two weeks a month for personal exhibitions, the next of which will feature the works of illustrator Mami Yonekura between April 6 and 21.