Arguably the most popular of Studio Ghibli’s 23 feature-length films, Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away follows young Chirio as she is trapped in a magical bathhouse where an evil witch forces her to serve the demons passing through. They bathe, they ingest other guests to steal their personalities and (when it comes to lonely spirit No-Face) they consume a truly epic feast made up of delicious looking food — rainbow jelly and giant smoked fish and dumplings and hams and yams and hog roasts and piles and piles and of fresh fruit. But did you know that the Japanese animation house has long been admired for exactly that? For depicting everyday meal scenes in seriously vivid detail? Food blogger Sylvia Wakana certainly did. So much so, in fact, that last year she began creating TikTok tutorials for all of her favourite Ghibli food, each watched by hundreds of thousands of presumably salivating fans.
“I’m half-Japanese, so I’ve been watching Studio Ghibli films for literally as long as I can remember,” the LA-based foodie tells us. “They’re such iconic films and have become ingrained in Japanese culture, so I feel like they are a part of me, too.” Indeed, food is culture: the ingredients we use, the way a dish is prepared, presented and eaten all carry cultural significance. Across Studio Ghibli’s movies, characters are often found bonding over shared meals, with the Studio Ghibli Museum in Tokyo’s Mikata even hosting an exhibition titled “Delicious! Animating Memorable Meals” exploring this in recent years.
“Seeing all the delicious looking food in Studio Ghibli films growing up, I always wished I could eat it,” Sylvia continues. “So I decided to try!” Not only does she recreate them, she makes it look easy, breaking dishes down into simple recipes set to cute music with her own ASMR-grade narration. Magical fish girl fans can look forward to Ponyo’s ham and egg ramen; those who love My Neighbor Totoro are encouraged to recreate Satsuki’s lovingly-made bento; while those after a greasy fry up cooked by an entrapped fire demon need look no further than the breakfast from Howl’s Moving Castle. Hungry witches in training might prefer the herring and pumpkin pie from Kiki’s Delivery Service though, or perhaps the Spirited Away rice balls (the tutorial for those currently has well over half a million views) followed by Ponyo’s hot honey milk. Yum.
Alongside her Ghibli TikTok tutorials, Sylvia also shares recipes for meals from other popular anime like My Hero Academia, Jujutsu Kaisen and Food Wars; as well as PSAs on how to use chopsticks properly, the correct pronunciation of key food vocab, and illuminating life hacks like the true use of that second spout on your soy sauce bottle (which, according to the view count, has changed the lives of 1.2 million people to date).
We spoke to Sylvia to discover more about her love of Studio Ghibli, her ambition to bridge cultures and the sexy food anime she recommends we all indulge in.
What’s your overall aim with your TikTok? My goal is to use my bi-cultural upbringing to bridge different cultures — whether it be about traditions, sharing recipes, or showing quick eats I grew up on. In a time when we’re in deep need of cultivating connection and tolerance, I hope to spark some interest in what someone else may consider to be different, to normalise things that some people may call “weird”, and to push creativity and boundaries in both their eating and their thinking.
**Do you have an all-time favourite Ghibli movie?
**Spirited Away! It has so much whimsy and magic, an amazing soundtrack, shows a lot of Japanese culture — both modern and traditional. And, of course, it has some of the most delicious looking food scenes in any Ghibli film.
**Which Ghibli meal, that you haven’t yet recreated, do you wish you could eat IRL?
**All of the feast scenes in Spirited Away… like in the beginning with Chihiro’s parents, and when No-Face is feasting in the bathhouse. Everything looks so delicious and extreme, but I would need a team to make a feast like that!
**Which other anime do you recommend we watch for the food scenes?
**I think Food Wars is one of my favourite food animes of all time. From the creation of the dishes to the final form, everything is really beautiful as well as informative (but just a warning — they also animate foodgasms).
**What sort of response have you had to your tutorials? What do you hope that people take away from them?
**It’s really great to see how many people have watched anime and wanted to try the food, too! Especially those who have never had the dish or meal in their lives before but it still looks yummy to them. I hope this helps people be more interested in learning about Japanese food and culture.