Today, friends, family and colleagues paid tribute to Studio Ghibli co-founder Isao Takahata at a public memorial service at the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka, Japan. The event was open to the public and featured many prominent artists and filmmakers whose lives intersected with the beloved director over the past 60 years. The museum displayed a wonderful floral display in the main hall, and also included a large montage of photographs featuring Paku-san over the years, as well as a collection of his many published books.
Animators and filmmakers in attendance included many alumni from Toei Doga, where Takahata began his career in 1958 after graduating from Tokyo University (he was courted by the movie studio while still a student. Yasuo Otsuka and Yoichi Kotabe were present along with the rest of the old gang. Dutch animator Michael Dudok De Wit, director of the 2016 Academy Award-nominated animated feature The Red Turtle (produced by Studio Ghibli under the personal supervision of Takahata) was also in attendance. Yoshiaki Nishimura, the Ghibli alumni who founded Studio Ponoc, was also present, as was Joe Hisaishi, the music composer whose movie break came in Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind. Fifty journalists and 1,200 attendees were present to record the event and pay tribute to a legendary and beloved icon.
Many prominent friends and family paid tribute with spoken eulogies during the service. The most important speaker at the event, of course, was Hayao Miyazaki, who forged a friendship and career with Takahata. Reading from a written text, Miyazaki-san delivered a moving eulogy to his brother, visibly grieving and emotionally shaken, and occasionally fighting back tears. Toshio Suzuki, Ghibli co-founder and Miyazaki’s most loyal friend, sat by his side support, likewise overcome by emotion.
Speaking of his friend, Miyazaki remarked, “I always thought that Takahata was going to live until he was 95 years old and when he died, I was very impressed, because I realized that I also have little time left.” He spoke of their longtime friendship during long pauses, “I met Paku-san in 1963 while he was waiting for the bus. He was 27 years old and I was just 22. I thought he was a very interesting and intelligent person. I remember it as if it were yesterday.”
Miyazaki concluded his statements by saying, “I will never forget the day when Paku-san approached the bus stop and we met. He will be with me all my life.”
Much thanks to Generacion Ghibli and 20 Minutos for their reporting and providing translated excerpts from Hayao Miyazaki’s eulogy.