An Inconvenient truth about “My Neighbor Totoro”

April 28, 2011

The animation drama “My neighbor Totoro” is most chosed as one’s favorite film. For the reasons, people pick how cute Totoro is, and the pureness of two kids, and lastly the happy ending. Ghibli-made films were famous and liked by people because they gave dreams and hope to children. 

Just a few minutes ago, I was writing about my childhood and some sentences prasing the film  “My neighbor Totoro”. I wrote about the cheerful background and storyline. However I erased everything right after knowing about the inconvenient truth about  “My neighbor Totoro”.

The main point is that  “My neighbor Totoro” had its motive from a real event, the the Sayama incident. Some people say that is is just a rumour, but I insist it is related.



Why is it a real story ?
• The rumour says that Totoro is the God of Death, so the persons that can see Totoro are actually close to death, or already dead. What that means for the story is that when Mei goes missing and a sandal is found in the pond, Mei actually drowned. When Satsuki is asked about the sandal she cannot face the truth and lies about it not being Mei’s sandal. So Satsuki goes on a desperate search for Totoro, calling for him and actually opens up the door the realm of the dead herself. With Totoro’s help she finds her dead sister and they together go to their mother’s hospital. There, the only one who actually noticed that the sisters were there, was the mother, who also soon is going to die.

And in the ending scene, Satsuki and Mei don’t have any shadows some says.

•  The storytakes place in 狭山丘陵 (Sayama hills) where also 八国山病院 (Hachikokuyama Hospital) or 新山手病院 is, which is believed to be the model of the hospital where the mother is, 七国山病院 (Shichikokuyama Hospital).

There is also a murder-case (the Sayama incident) which has many scary coincidents with Tonari no Totoro. Especially that it all happened in May and both of the sisters names actually are May – Satsuki (五月), the name of the older sister that means May in Japanese and Mei (メイ), the name of the younger sister, which is how Japanese people pronounce May.
Furthermore, the fact that the little sister went missing and that both sisters later turned up dead. According to some rumors, the big sister saw her little sister’s corpse and went crazy and later should have mumbled something alike “I saw a ghost/monster cat (猫のお化け/化& #12369;猫)” and “I met a big raccoon” = Totoro, before committing suicide.


The cute and warm story of two girls, which was actually thought as a happy ending to most people actually had its behind story. It seems very frightening to know it so late, after watching the film for five times and loving the character Totoro. People who knew about the fact were definetly shocked and I was too.

Sometimes, truth can be inconvenient and it is better off not knowing it. Formerly I didn’t know but I truly felt it and agree now.

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5 Responses to “An Inconvenient truth about “My Neighbor Totoro””

  1. wolasadal said

    Good grief! This really sounds almost macabre – and yet Tororo was a favourite?

  2. Janaina said

    All this is just a legend. Read more about .. complete this Japanese blog that makes a deep and detailed research on the subject. Denies this part:
    “Apparently Her older sister found her body, but was so traumatized by it, When Asked what she HAD seen, she said Merely” I met a large Tanuki (looks like a racoon) “and” I saw a cat monster. “Sound familiar? Anyway, the older sister later Committed suicide.”
    That was not the cause of suicide.

  3. Anonymous said

    I just finished watching the movie and it didn’t have much of an impression on me at first. However, after reading this, my views have changed completely. I would have never realised that a movie targeted towards children would have such a sad story behind it all. When I think about about sandal scene, it’s understandable that Mei drowned, otherwise the scene in which the grandma finds the sandal would have no purpose, and most likely the director would have taken it out. But then I guess they kind of covered that hidden story with the pictures during the credits where the whole family is together. And if it’s true that Mei did actually drown, what would you suggest that explains the reason behind Satsuki’s death?

    And I must admit, I actually got teary after reading this..

  4. Sistermu said

    I really don’t think this is the case. If you look at the end titles, there are many post-film pictures of Satsuki and Mei playing with their friends, and a toddler which I think is meant to be a new young sibling. I have heard that Miyazaki just made up Totoro, and he was meant to be a sort of troll, as Mei says, just a forest spirit. What you are suggesting would completely subvert the spirit of the film and would be pointed to far more overtly if it were intended. Also, Studio Ghibli completely deny it, and why would they if it were true?

    • fellowof said

      I have no idea why they would deny the truth, if it was the truth I mean… But what I wanted to point out was that there are too many coincidence between the story of Totoro, and the story of the sad story.
      We cannot be completely sure whether the two are related or not. Maybe Miyzaki denied the relation because the film itself was made for the kids. Who would want to let a child watch a animation related to such cruel story? Because if is an unconvenient truth. That’s what I think is the reason for that denial. Because I also hope the story of Totoro is just an warm-hearted story.

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