While Studio Ghibli star/mascot Totoro is sometimes mistakenly believed to have roots in traditional Japanese folklore, the anime icon’s appearance and other characteristics come purely from the imagination of director Hayao Miyazaki. However, the setting of "My Neighbor Totoro" does have a specific real-life inspiration.
The wooded areas of Saitama Prefeture’s city of Tokorozawa, as well as those just over the adjacent border in Tokyo, served as the model for the backdrop of sisters Mei and Satsuki’s adventures in the 1988 film. Over the years, the real-life location has even become colloquially known as “Totoro no Mori,” or “Totoro’s Forest.”
However, last Saturday morning the police were contacted regarding an incident in Totoro’s Forest that was far less whimsical than meeting the cuddly titular character or encountering the Catbus. A local resident, a man in his 40s, had been feeding stray cats in the forest when he found a skeletonized human corpse.
The man had actually first discovered the body, which was largely covered by fallen leaves, a week prior. Initially he’d thought the bones he’d seen were from some sort of woodland animal, but he later realized they were human remains (whether the realization came from a second visit to the scene or simply rethinking what he’d seen is unclear).
Following the report, investigators removed the body, and are currently in the process of performing an autopsy in hopes of determining the deceased’s identity and cause of death.
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