"Spirited Away" won the Oscar
Japanese Animated Film: "Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi"
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Hayao Miyazaki's critically acclaimed movie "Spirited Away (千と千尋の神隠し)" won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature Film at the 75th Annual Academy Awards ceremony.

"Spirited Away" tells the adventuresof a 10-year-old girl, Chihiro, who is accidentally thrown into a "spirit" world. While working at a bathhouse catering to spirits and gods, she tries to rescue her parents from a spell that transformed them into pigs.

It is the highest grossing film in Japanese box-office history, surpassing "Titanic." When it was shown on TV this January it had the highest audience rating ever for a movie. 46.2% of Japanese households tuned in to watch it.

I was impressed with this film and enjoyed it very much. Since it is deeply rooted in Japanese culture, I almost felt homesick, too. Unfortunately most theaters show the English dub version. I wish the people could enjoy the sound of Japanese with the original Japanese dialogues. However, the job has been done sensitively, it doesn't seem to ruin the atmosphere of the film. Also, reading subtitles might distract viewers from an amazing work.

Here are some aspects of the Japanese language that you can learn from the film.

What does the Japanese title mean?

The Japanese title is "Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi." (See the Japanese writing below.) "Sen (千)" and "Chihiro (千尋)" are the names. "To (と)" is a particle which connects nouns. It translates into "and." "Kami (神)" means "God" and "kakushi (隠し)" is the noun form of the verb "kakusu (to hide)." "kamikakushi (神隠し)" means "spirited away."

How the name "Chihiro" is turned into "Sen"?

When Chihiro is forced into slave labor at the bathhouse which Yubaba rules, she writes down her name, Ogino Chihiro (荻野千尋) in the contract. (In Japanese the family name comes first.) Here is the kanji characters for it.

Yubaba steals three characters from her name. The one character left (the third one) becomes her new name. The reading of this kanji character is "sen (千)" as well as "chi." Click here to learn more about this character.

What do some Japanese characters in the movie mean?

The character written on the curtain at the front gate of the bathhouse is the hiragana "yu (湯)." It means "bath." The kanji character for "yu" is also seen on the chimney of the bathhouse.

The bathhouse is called "Aburaya (油屋)." ("Abura" means "oil" and "ya" is the suffix used for a store.) The kanji sign "Aburaya" is seen above the gate of the bathhouse. The flag on the bathhouse also has the kanji character for "abura (油)."

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