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Animator Miyazaki calls for preservation of historic leprosy sanatorium

Animator Hayao Miyazaki is seen delivering a speech at an international convention on leprosy in Tokyo's Minato Ward, on Jan. 28, 2016. (Mainichi)

Famed animator Hayao Miyazaki appealed for the need to preserve a national leprosy sanatorium located in a suburb of Tokyo during a convention speech on Jan. 28.

    "This is a place where I learned that I must not live in vain. I hope this 'huge monument' for those who lived undefeated by the sufferings of life is preserved," Miyazaki said of Tama Zenshoen, a national sanatorium for Hansen's disease -- or leprosy -- patients. Miyazaki made the comment at an international convention on leprosy in Tokyo's Minato Ward.

    The 75-year-old anime director revealed how he visited the sanatorium in the Tokyo suburb of Higashimurayama for the first time around two decades ago, because he lived nearby, on Jan. 28, at the Mankind Heritage World Conference, which is attended by NGOs involved in preserving the history of leprosy worldwide. Back then, he said, he was contemplating characters for his popular movie "Princess Mononoke," which was in the making. Miyazaki recalled that the cherry blossoms at the sanatorium were impressive, and he began to take walks through the grounds. As he got to know those who lived in the sanatorium, Miyazaki said he learned that he must not live in vain.

    "I came to think that I had to confront my work of producing movies head on," he said.

    According to Studio Ghibli, this marked the second time Miyazaki appeared in public after he announced in September 2013 that he was retiring from making feature-length movies.

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