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Int'l fans join drive to stop scrapping of western Japan shrine featured in Ghibli film

This file photo dated April 21, 2010, shows the Kincho Shrine in Komatsushima in the western Japan prefecture of Tokushima. (Mainichi)

KOMATSUSHIMA, Tokushima -- A Shinto shrine here featured in a Studio Ghibli animation is facing demolition due to a park construction plan, and a group of local residents trying to keep the divine structure standing have submitted 10,186 signatures of like-minded people including those in other countries to local authorities.

The Kincho Shrine in the city of Komatsushima in the western Japan prefecture of Tokushima is dedicated to legendary Japanese raccoons. It has been featured in a variety of entertainment works including "Pom Poko," a 1994 film directed by the late Isao Takahata and produced by Studio Ghibli describing a fight between humans and raccoons.

Some local residents of Komatsushima are worried that the shrine might be scrapped as the municipal government plans to replace an athletic ground on which the structure is built with a park doubling as an evacuation center in times of natural disasters.

Six members of a group formed to protect the Kincho Shrine visited the municipal government office on July 31, and submitted 3,092 signatures they collected on the streets and 7,094 signatures through the internet. Online petitions came from countries such as the United States, China, South Korea and Spain.

Hiroaki Hattori, 63, leader of the group and chief priest at a local temple, handed the signatures to Mayor Yasunori Hamada and municipal assembly speaker Kiyoshi Takeda, saying, "We are not opposed to the city's plan, but we want you to listen to the voices of the people who are worried and want to offer support."

Mayor Hamada responded that the plan is still in the works, and, "Therefore, we cannot give you an answer."

(Japanese original by Kazuya Osaka, Tokushima Bureau)

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