Studio Ghibli: A Trip To Tynemouth



So you like Studio Ghibli films? That great, so do we! But do you know about the Studio Ghibli manga that is based in Tynemouth and Cullercoats? Just a short metro ride from the centre of Newcastle? Not many do, but lucky for you, Geordie Japan has the inside scoop just for you, but let’s begin at the start…

Hayao Miyazaki Credit – Thomas Schulz

Studio Ghibli (株式会社スタジオジブリ) was founded in 1985 by the directors Hayao Miyazaki (宮崎 駿) and IsaoTakahata (高畑 勲) as well as the producer Toshio Suzuki (鈴木 敏夫). The studios first release was ‘Laputa: Castle in the Sky’ in 1986. From there the studio went on to create such films as ‘My Neighbour Totoro’, ‘Princess Mononoke’, ‘Spirited Away’, ‘Ponyo,’ and many more. Studio Ghibli quickly became the most widely loved anime studio in Japan, with each new release now a highly anticipated national event. In the West the films are released, and dubbed, by the Walt Disney company, both Disney and Ghibli scored big when ‘Spirited Away’ won the Best Animated Film at the 2002 Academy Awards, and remains the only Japanese (and non-American) film to win the award to this day. The studio’s latest film is ‘From Up On Poppy Hill’ which is due to get a release at some point in the coming year in the UK.

Airplanes (and Pigs) are a running theme in Miyazaki’s work


Despite being founded by three men, it is Hayao Miyazaki that is most closely associated with Studio Ghibli. Miyazaki grew up surrounded by aviation as his father worked as the director of a factory that made airplane parts during World War II, Miyazaki was fascinated with the machines and began sketching planes which started a lifelong fascination with aviation. This obsession would bleed through into his animation, most prominently in his film ‘Porco Rosso’. Miyazaki discovered in 1990 a short story by the British author Robert Westall “Blackham’s Wimpy” when it was reprinted in Japanese. He was already familiar with Westall’s work but upon reading found that this story was about the war, and more importantly airplanes! Miyazaki loved the book and in 2006 he chose it as the basis for his latest manga novel.

Robert Westall

Robert Westall was born in 1929 in North Shields, a coastal area of the North East, not far from Newcastle itself. He published his first novel ‘The Machine Gunners’ in 1975, the book was later made into a BBC children’s television series in 1983. Westall is known for setting many of his books in the Tyneside area, especially Tynemouth. The author passed away in 1993 and a plaque commemorates his birthplace in North Shields. Miyazaki partially adapted Westall’s  “Blackham’s Wimpy” story for a manga novel which he named ‘A Trip To Tynemouth’.

Break of Dark, Westall’s book in which Blackham’s Wimpy appears

In the book Miyazaki includes as an essay on a variety of topics surrounding the novel, including his impressions of the story, how he discovered it, his childhood experiences in World War II and Japan’s involvement in the war. Probably the most interesting aspect of the book to us here though is the beautiful illustrated story that bookends the essay. In the manga Miyazaki, drawn as a pig, visits Tynemouth in an attempt to meet Robert Westall, drawn as a terrier, and gets to have a conversation with him over a pint of beer and a walk along Tynemouth Longstands beach. The meeting is fictionalised, but it is unknown if Miyazaki ever visited Tynemouth himself, based on the accuracy of the drawings I would almost certainly say he did, but no concrete proof of that can be found as of this time.

The manga switches between Miyazaki’s trip and recounting part of the “Blackham’s Wimpy” story, until Miyazaki amusing stops mid way, telling the reader to read the book for themselves! I live on the coast and have spent some time researching the local area in relation to the manga so I can say with a high level of certainty that the following locations appear in the manga. Tynemouth Longsands including views of St. George’s Church & Tynemouth Priory, Cullercoats Harbour, Dove Marine Laboratory, various areas of the sea front, Percy Gardens/Sea Banks road, the Grand Hotel and Hotspur street. A typical double decker Arriva bus, most likely a 306, can be seen in the pages as well as a large boat that can be glimpsed out at sea. It is unknown what pub the pair drink in however, as there is no pub on the beach in Cullercoats Harbour where it is shown in the manga, so perhaps some creative licence has been used here.

The view of St. Georges Church as seen in the manga compared to reality.

I will not publish full pages from the manga here for two reasons, firstly there is an agreement that there will not be reproductions of the pages plastered on the internet by Ghibli fan sites and I don’t intend to break that. Secondly previous attempts to upload them by other websites have resulted in legal action, something which Geordie Japan would like to avoid naturally. The book is not easy to get hold of, although has some stock in, the book is completely in Japanese, but you don’t need to speak the language to enjoy the images.

Amazing accuracy down to the writing on the side of this boat in cullercoats

The fact that Miyazaki chose Tynemouth/Cullercoats as a location is unbelievable, and not many locals know about it, but hopefully that will change now. Stay tuned to Geordie Japan, as in the coming weeks we hope to immortalise this work locally.




2 comments on “Studio Ghibli: A Trip To Tynemouth

  1. Pingback: A Trip To Tynemouth 2! | Geordie Japan

  2. My interest ? I Love Ghibli Films and have watched them all, l mostly with my Grandkids. I live at Cullercoats. I have my Friday pint in copperfields bar, at the Grand Hotel, shown in the Comic. My Daughter was wed at St Georges Church and finally I spent 18 years in the RAF and love World War 2 Aircraft even though my service career was in the 60’s and 70’s.
    I found out about this manga comic as I was ding some local research after reading
    Matt Ritson’s Hippo Chronos, set in Tynemouth. A Good read may I add.

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