Japan cinema legend Miyazaki joins protests against move to widen military role

Hayao Miyazaki joined a chorus of protest against a change in Japan's security policy.
Hayao Miyazaki joined a chorus of protest against a change in Japan's security policy. PHOTO: AFP

TOKYO (REUTERS) - Japan cannot use military strength to counter China, Hayao Miyazaki, famed director of the Oscar-winning film "Spirited Away", said on Monday, as he joined a chorus of protest against a change in Japan's security policy.

Miyazaki, 74, has long spoken out against war and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's desire for measures allowing broader use of Japan's military, particularly in his final film, "The Wind Rises", which earned him accusations of being a traitor.

Abe's rush to push through changes to Japan's pacifist constitution, arguing that China's growing strength needs to be countered, was "exactly the opposite" of what he should do, Miyazaki told a rare news conference.

"It is impossible to stop China's power through military strength," the famously reclusive master of animated fantasy, whose films have made him a revered household name in Japan, said at his suburban Tokyo studio.

"They need to think of a different way. That's why our pacifist constitution was created."

"The Wind Rises," which marked Miyazaki's 2013 retirement from full-length animated films, told the story of Jiro Horikoshi, the man who designed Japan's feared "Zero" fighter.

The film, and an essay criticising "people who mess around with our constitution," earned him unprecedented criticism and thousands of Internet comments, ranging from disappointment at his foray into politics to those who branded him a traitor.

Miyazaki said Japanese had lost their sense of history and few understood the import of the constitution.

"The years of war were a terrible experience for Japan, with some 3 million people losing their lives," added Miyazaki, whom some see as Japan's answer to Walt Disney.

"Older people can't forget that. For them, the pacifist constitution was like a ray of light."

Miyazaki, who now works on short films for the museum run by his Studio Ghibli, also heads a fund to block a new United States military base on the island of Okinawa, which took devastating losses as Japan's only site of a land battle and hosts the majority of US troops in the country.

"I think that, as residents of a small island nation on the edge of the world, we should live in peace," he said.