Just when Studio Ghibli fans are mourning the loss of director Isao Takahata, the town of Komatsushima, Tokushima Prefecture is dealing them yet another blow. The town recently announced plans to turn its famous Tanuki shrine, Kincho Shrine, into a parking lot. But why is this shrine so special? It’s because it serves as the setting for Isao Takahata’s Pom Poko film.
The film follows a group of tanukis as they lose their woodland homes to urban development. The real-life situation of the plan to replace the shrine with a parking lot eerily mirrors the film’s story. They will first demolish the shrine, and then pave it out to become a parking lot. Yeah, As Counting Crows sang it, “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot”.
The shrine has long connections with tanuki, even serving as the home for the tanuki elders in Pom Poko. It even has several tanuki statues and monuments guarding it for decades.
But the problem is that the shrine is within municipal land, and that it’s also part of a park. The municipal government has announced redevelopment of the area for tsunami preparedness, and that includes the shrine area.
As expected, this angered Takahata’s fans, as well as local residents. Online, anime fans voiced their objection to the plan, while Komatsushima residents urged their government to reconsider. The local residents want to preserve the shrine, which of course goes against the government’s current plan.
Because of the backlash, the local government said that the plan hasn’t been finalized yet. And it seems that they’re quite flexible with preserving it as well. They admitted they’re still debating the matter, with some planners saying that they want to leave behind a tanuki statue. “The shrine itself is private property,” a member of the city’s development bureau reminded those who were upset, “and so it can’t be torn by unilateral decision.”