Shiratani Unsuikyo, the Forest that Inspired ‘Princess Mononoke’


WordsSolenn Cordroc'h

Yakushima Island in southern Japan is a visual delight for lovers of nature and Studio Ghibli. Registered as a UNESCO world heritage site since 1993, the island has a rare ecosystem with sacred trees which have been preserved for over 7000 years. Visitors to the island are likely to encounter many animals roaming free, such as macaques and deer.

According to an old island proverb, it rains 35 days a month in Yakushima. The natural environment owes its lush beauty to this humid and rainy climate. It was on this very plot of land that Miyazaki and his production team, beguiled by this somewhat idiosyncratic weather system, came to seek inspiration for the film Princess Mononoke. The place has since been nicknamed ‘Mononoke-hime no mori’, Japanese for ‘Princess Mononoke’s forest’. Anxious to preserve this unspoilt natural setting, Miyazaki has obstinately refused to let any museum be built there. He believes that the peace and quiet of this area must not be tarnished, because man is simply passing through, unlike nature, which has taken root.