This animated film from Japan remains a favourite of mine. It dates from 2011 but is set in 1963 as Tokyo prepares to host the Olympics. In a boarding house overlooking the harbour of Yokohama, a young girl hoists flags every day. Umi runs the household as well as attends school as a High School student. Her mother is studying abroad and her father is lost at sea. She flies the flags to offer hope to ships passing by as she once did for the return of her father.
In her school newspaper, she reads a poem about the raising of the flags. It was written by a boy called Shun, who works on the paper and leads the campaign to prevent the student’s clubhouse from demolition, a plan organised by the Chairman of the school as part of the Olympic preparations.
Umi and Shun become close but their complicated family histories seem to prevent their becoming closer. Shun is the son of a tugboat captain but he is aware that he was adopted at birth. While the story of saving the clubhouse acts as a background to the film the main narrative concerns Shun’s feelings for Umi and her confusion at his reluctance to advance their relationship.
It is a sweet film made by Studio Ghibli, famous for their animated films. It is based on a serialised story by illustrator Chizuru Takahashi and author Tetsurō Sayama. The director of the film was Goro Miyazaki.
There is a scene towards the end of the film where both Shun and Umi are summoned to a ship in the harbour where the captain wishes to see them. His link with both their fathers proves pivotal to both youngsters understanding their backgrounds.
‘From Up on Poppy Hill’ is in my hinterland. What’s in yours?