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The Totoro Testament

I've been grappling lately with the structural and fiscal reality that the CrazyStable will never be completely "done" (as in "renovated"). This brings me smack up against all the competing value systems one could apply to one's home. Was it a good investment? Does it impress our friends and neighbors? Does it make our family safe and happy?

And then there's another metric: Is it a good Totoro house?

For those unfamiliar with the classic film My Neighbor Totoro by Japanese animation genius Hayao Miyazaki, it's the story of two little girls who move into a rambling, mysterious country house, populated by scrabbling little sootballs and shy, delightful creatures called totoros. These chubby, protective sprites can only be seen by children, and the director presents the ramshackle home matter-of-factly as a dream come true for curious kids. The girls' house reminds me, not just of the CrazyStable, but of the house I grew up in, where I explored the weedy wild places and my imagination ran wild; daughter loves the Totoro house, and ours, with the same unreasoning passion.

The movie's magical setting was recreated for a recent World's Fair in Japan, and if I'd had the money I'd have gone just for that. Maybe someday we will visit the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka, a shrine to the animator's best-loved creations. Until then, I'll take Miyazaki's mission statement for it (with the word "house" substituted for "museum") for our own:

This is the Kind of House I Want to Make!

A house that is interesting and relaxes the soul

A house where much can be discovered

A house based on a clear and consistent philosophy

A house where those seeking enjoyment can enjoy, those seeking to ponder can ponder, and those seeking to feel can feel

A house that makes you feel more enriched when you leave than when you entered!


To make such a house, the building must be...

Put together as if it were a film

Not arrogant, magnificent, flamboyant, or suffocating

Quality space where people can feel at home, especially when it's not crowded

A building that has a warm feel and touch

A building where the breeze and sunlight can freely flow through

The house must be run in such a way so that...

Small children are treated as if they were grown-ups

The handicapped are accommodated as much as possible

The staff can be confident and proud of their work

Visitors are not controlled with predetermined courses and fixed directions

The house's relation to the park is...

Not just about caring for the plants and surrounding greenery but also planning for how things can improve ten years into the future

This is what I expect the house to be, and therefore I will find a way to do it

This is the kind of house I don't want to make!

A pretentious house

An arrogant house

A house that treats its contents as if they were more important than people

Adapted from Hiyao Miyazaki, (c) Museo d'Arte Ghibli

UPDATE: Since I posted this, almost one-third of the hits on this blog have been directed to this post and driven by "totoro" as a Google search term! Clearly, there are lots of other Totoro fans out there, but so far, no one has left a comment. Totoro-loving lurkers, please introduce yourselves in the comment space below! Irasshaimase (welcome)!

Posted on Monday, June 15, 2009 at 12:28AM by Registered CommenterBrenda from Brooklyn in , , , | Comments9 Comments

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Reader Comments (9)

Found this through a search for a Totoro pumpkin. Trying to decide what to carve for my pumpkin for Halloween. I LOVE Totoro (and other Ghibli movies) and I needed some reference pics for that freaky/friendly smile. Thanks!
October 27, 2010 at 12:27AM | Unregistered Commenterろーら
ok, this is a bit freaky...

I LOVE totoro but that is not what brought me here.

I also LOVE the totoro house but that's not what brought me here either.

I love Japanese culture, art and, yes, architecture. That's what brought me here....

My search was Japanese Country House - and this page popped up..... I thought to myself- wow, that looks like the Totoro house....I scrolled down.....

That's the magic of Studio Ghibli and Totoro.
November 9, 2010 at 01:45AM | Unregistered CommenterAly
I love this movie and me and my 3 other siblings sat and watched it 1 rainy afternoon.
We thought it was 1 of the best films ever.
December 10, 2010 at 01:07PM | Unregistered CommenterLittle Devil
Totoro brought me here. I love to watch the movie again and again with my children because, more than the characters and the scenery, I love visiting the house and rambling throughout it with the little girls. My house was built pre-1770 and although it looks nothing like the Totoro house (I wish it did) it definitely has the same quirky feeling of how do you get upstairs and what's around the next corner? The house seems alive. And we have soot sprites, for sure. They conspire with the dust bunnies and coat everything when we exit the room. Best of luck to you with your home!
December 19, 2010 at 10:51AM | Unregistered CommenterMielmonster
I liked the things you had to say in your "Totoro" blog. I think that the thoughts you shared were good and true. Someday I want to have a totoro house too!(I grew up in an old Victorian house myself, and I was also able to run wild around the house inventing all kinds of adventures for myself.)

Great movie and great comments!
January 27, 2011 at 04:23PM | Unregistered CommenterMeemer

Good insights. I am looking out for a Kasakawe-Style house in Germany ;-)

Kinds playing in the bushes, rural flair....what else could one crave?
February 6, 2011 at 05:51PM | Unregistered CommenterSebi
April 15, 2011 at 05:44AM | Unregistered Commenternikki
Found this looking for pictures of Totoro to show my son, but I am truly inspired by your list of what you want your house to be. Going to check and see if there are more recent posts. Beautiful list.
August 31, 2011 at 11:27AM | Unregistered Commentereve
Hi there
You just inspired med to write this in my pinterest board on a spiritual garden::

The Totoro Testament :: The Garden I Want to live in :: A Garden that is interesting and relaxes the soul : A Garden where much can be discovered : A Garden based on presence and love : A Garden where those seeking enjoyment can enjoy, those seeking to ponder can ponder, and those seeking to feel can feel : A Garden that makes you feel more enriched when you leave than when you entered!

Thank you, that was very uplifting. I so love Totoro and my son do too. Now I can get him even more into my life ;-) Marina
February 16, 2013 at 11:18AM | Unregistered CommenterMarina

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