Ghibli Park, the Studio Ghibli theme park in Aichi Prefecture, is more about art and atmosphere than rides and shows. Inside the park’s Ghibli’s Grand Warehouse area guests can take photos with life-size statues of Ghibli characters in front of backdrops depicting famous scenes from their respective films, and earlier this month photos began circulating on Twitter of three men grabbing the chests of "Tales from Earthsea’s" Therru and "When Marnie Was There’s" Marnie. Photos also showed the men covering Marnie’s mouth and placing a smartphone under the hem of the character’s gown as though taking an upskirt photo (although it’s unclear whether the statue’s legs continue up from the hem or end in a solid block when out of ordinary lines of sight).
Aichi Governor Hideaki Omura publicly condemning the photos and criticized the men who’d taken them, and with many others echoing his feelings, a mutual acquaintance of the three men in the pictures contacted the Aichi prefectural government. “They see the effect their actions are having, and they’re not sure how to set things right,” the acquaintance said. “All three of them regret what they did, and want to apologize.”
A meeting was then set up between the three men, accompanied by their acquaintance, Omura, and members of the prefectural government’s Ghibli Park Promotional Division at the Aichi capital building in Nagoya last Wednesday, Omura explained two days later in his Friday press conference. The three men who had taken and posted the photos were all in their 20s and 30s and live outside of Aichi, two of them being prior acquaintances who travelled to Ghibli Park together
During the press conference, Omura read the apologies from the three men:
“I feel deep regret for having caused trouble and disgusting so many people [with my actions]. I will refrain from doing such foolish things in the future. I am truly sorry”
“I deeply regret making people uncomfortable with the photos I took in poor taste. I will not do such things in the future. I am truly sorry”
“I wish to deeply apologize for my disrespectful actions to Ghibli Park and the Aichi prefectural government, and for making other [Twitter] users uncomfortable. I am truly sorry for my actions in this incident.”
▼ Omura’s press conference
Omura went on to say that he found the photos especially disturbing as Ghibli Park is attracting visitors from across Japan, and is likely to become a major draw for visitors from overseas as well as inbound international tourism to Japan resumes. Sandwiched between the cosmopolitan allure of Tokyo and the traditional charm of Kyoto, Aichi/Nagoya has long struggled to establish itself as a must-visit tourist destination in Japan, and with Ghibli Park representing a chance to finally achieve that goal, it’s understandable that Omura would be incensed about the incident, and he started his discussion of it in the press by calling the men’s actions “outrageous” and “inexcusable.”
However, while Omura had initially expressed interest in seeking criminal punishment for the men in the photos, he’s softened that attitude after meeting with them. “They seemed sincere in their apologies, and so I would like to accept them with the same sincerity,” the governor said at the press conference, adding “I would now like to consider the matter concluded.”
It’s worth pointing out that, despite Studio Ghibli’s prestigious position in the Japanese cinema sphere, there’s no absolute code in the Japanese anime fan community that prohibits their fetishization, so Ghibli-themed erotic fan art does exist. That said, with Ghibli itself maintaining a family-friendly atmosphere and not pandering to that fetishization in the way that many other anime studios are happy to, there’s generally an understanding that such fan expression is supposed to be kept far away from official Ghibli facilities and events, so hopefully this incident will serve as a reminder for that.
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