Anime Dork

  • Anime Lists
  • Anime Explainers

Anime Dork

The Train Scene Meaning in Spirited Away Explained

Spirited Away is one of Studio Ghibli’s famous works because of its story and capability of truly immersing its audience. One significant scene in the film is when Chihiro boarded the train along with No-Face, Boh, and Yubaba’s bird. This scene is widely recognized and is often referenced whenever someone discusses Spirited Away .

But what does this scene really mean? Why is it so significant?

Its literal meaning is that it is a train that brings you further into the Spirit World. This is considering that there is no consideration of trapped humans in this world .

The metaphorical and symbolic meanings can be interpreted in a lot of ways. Studio Ghibli’s films let you mull the films over and what is meant to say.

Chihiro’s Growth

We have to remind ourselves that the train ride Chihiro boarded is actually a one-way ride. It can be noticed that it only has one railway, which supported that the train only goes in one direction. In other words, Chihiro may not be able to return to the bathhouse once she departed for Zeniba’s hut.

Chihiro waiting for the one-way train in Spirited Away

Spirited Away is centered on Chihiro undergoing her growth as a character. The film basically presents her experiencing changes and becoming an adult.

As such, Chihiro’s resolute decision to board this one-way train tells us this: she has now grown to be a courageous young woman ready to take risks. She knew that by boarding the train, there are no assurances she’ll return to the bathhouse to save her parents. She’ll be heading towards a destination filled with uncertainty, and beyond what she is used to.

It is a far cry from when she was a whiny girl at the beginning. In other words, the one-way train symbolized Chihiro’s growth and change in herself. Notably, she did not even seem to exhibit fear at all, but rather determination.

Chihiro looking determined in Spirited Away

Read More: Is Chihiro In Love With Haku?

The Train Represents Life

The one-way train itself can represent life. One-way. You can never go back. The past will remain in the past, and you just have to keep moving forward. Life brings us to uncertain destinations, and just like Chihiro, you must ride it with courage.

This is connected to Chihiro’s growth. Her newfound maturity has let her board the train of life, ready to face the obstacles ahead. Despite her strong resolve, we can even assume that deep inside, Chihiro still harbors fear. After all, she is only a human traversing across an unknown realm.

Specifically, she is set to meet a witch named Zeniba – the very same witch offended by Haku’s actions. Considering her experience with Yubaba, it is understandable that Chihiro is actually quite terrified deep inside.

Chihiro and No-Face in the train in Spirited Away

Despite the fear, Chihiro still presses on forward. And this is what we should ought to do as humans. Life will just go on, and would not stop for us. We have to grow along the way, and realize the importance of pursuing our journey.

The train ride itself has an air of ambivalence as well. It does not exactly exude a very cheerful atmosphere. Rather, it has a melancholic feel to it, in addition to the darkening skies. However, hope can also be felt, as Chihiro’s determination and optimism shines through. This is exactly how bittersweet life could be. It is sad to leave everything that we are used to behind. It is sad to part with memories and people you knew. But you have to move on, and face your future with a newfound resolve and hope.

The Fellow Spirits in the Train

Although the train is mostly empty, Chihiro and her companions are actually accompanied by a few dark spirits. These spirits do not have a clear face, yet they are bringing baggages with them. They are probably spirits of humans who boarded the train to come home. Home meant where they feel most at peace. The baggage they are carrying most likely contain their precious memories and moments.

Chihiro seeing the other spirits in the train

There is also another possible interpretation of these spirits. They are faceless, and seemingly dressed with coats, hats, and suitcases. These features can be interpreted as the imagery of adults. Since the train represents life, it urges its passengers to grow up. It is basically adulting their way through life until they have reached their final destination. But it is interesting to note that they did not have much color in them, which contrasts Chihiro greatly.

This probably meant that usually, along the journey in life, people lose their inner child. The inner child who saw the beauty and romance in everything. The inner child that harbors passionate dreams unapologetically. Adulting and growing up means facing harsh realities in the expense of forgetting your inner child. The very thing that keeps you vibrant fades away as the train presses on.

Chihiro boarded the train in Spirited Away

In Chihiro’s case, though, she still has her inner child even when she’s maturing. Her goal to save Haku is rooted from love so pure and innocent. Her courage and determination for herself drive her to board the train, and to keep her hopes intact.

Read More: Is Marnie a Ghost From When Marnie Was There?

' src=

Just a 20-something years old girl who wants to be a Studio Ghibli main character. She mostly loves shonen anime. She also writes poems sometimes on Tumblr.

Type above and press Enter to search. Press Esc to cancel.

Uplifting the unheard and underrepresented voices of the film community

Suggestions, into the great unknown: the infinite wisdom of chihiro’s train journey in “spirited away”.

The climactic journey of 'Spirited Away' holds the key to understanding the ethos behind Hayao Miyazaki's entire filmography.

spirited away ghost train

Hayao Miyazaki has always been fascinated with the idea of youth. It’s not just because he primarily makes films for children—his affection for the imagination and innocence of our childhoods informs his entire career, every one of his films reflecting upon the joy that stems from the freedom of being young and the sadness that comes with losing that. No film captures that more than Spirited Away , his 2001 magnum opus that uses a young girl’s existential journey through a land of spirits as an examination of finding yourself in your youth. While the film as a whole is a stirring pursuit of that idea, there’s one scene that alone unlocks the secret to Spirited Away —and perhaps Miyazaki’s entire filmography.

Near the conclusion of the film, the film’s protagonist Chihiro/Sen takes a trip to the countryside of the spirit realm in a scene that stands out as some of the emotionally striking filmmaking ever committed to celluloid. She boards a train, full of featureless spirits, that takes her across endless expanses of flooded villages and ghostly cities. There is no dialogue, only the sounds of Joe Hisaishi’s haunting score, the sweeping sounds of the ocean, and the relentless chugging of the train’s engine. A deep sense of sadness hangs heavy in the air, Chihiro watching wordlessly as her mysterious fellow passengers disembark for places unknown. In a particularly haunting moment, the train pulls away from a station and Miyazaki focuses on the spirit of a solitary young girl, probably Chihiro’s own age, watching it depart. Are these the spirits of the dead, traveling to a newfound home in the afterlife to reunite with their loved ones? Or are they weary, lost travelers, doomed to years of traveling with no set destination? Miyazaki knows he can’t offer any answers. He instead focuses on Chihiro’s face, which for the first time in the film is set with a sense of determination.


He shows a young girl on a metaphorical, and in some ways literal, journey from the naivete of her childhood to a deeper, more mature understanding of what it means to live for something. Chihiro is perhaps Miyazaki’s most complex character because she isn’t a joyful, mostly carefree child like the many Ghibli protagonists that preceded her. She spends much of the film nervous and unsure of herself, seemingly longing for the confidence of her much more easy-going parents. Her experiences in the spirit realm and her eventual evolution into maturity that the train journey represents form the very backbone of the bittersweet nature behind Miyazaki’s work. He longs for the privilege of childhood, the point in our lives where we are supposed to be unburdened by the worries of the world. But through Chihiro, he recognizes that a sense of freedom isn’t a guarantee and that it’s up to all of us to allow children the space to discover that freedom within themselves. Chihiro’s success in saving her parents and the reclamation of her identity hinges on the determination she discovers within herself in this scene.

Miyazaki’s protagonists in earlier films, particularly My Neighbor Totoro  and  Kiki’s Delivery Service , do face similar struggles over their freedom to be themselves; the merry adventures of Satsuki and Mei’s childhood in Totoro  are complicated by the sickness of their mother and Kiki’s loneliness and lack of purpose drives the moral center of  Delivery Service.  The difference is that the train sequence in Spirited Away  takes Chihiro’s emotional development a step further in that Miyazaki isn’t just speaking to children with this moment, he’s speaking to all audiences. As a child, you watch this moment and say “I know there is something in me that’s stronger.” As an adult, you watch it and are flushed with all the memories of the ebbs and flows of your life. You remember the times you had that same childhood realization, but you also resonate with the sense that something has been lost as you grow older. The faceless spirits mirror our own doubts over the anxiety and mundanity of being an adult, as well as the losses we’ve encountered in that growth, but the serenity in the scene also suggests that Miyazaki pleads that we must make peace with that development.


From a stylistic and structural sense, the scene is so potent because it’s a climax that is not climactic in the traditional sense of the word. It doesn’t land as the structural apex of the movie because it’s a bombastic set piece or a moment to unveil an earth-shattering revelation; it strikes such a chord because it actively challenges that notion of what a climax is, coming immediately after arguably the most action-packed scene of the film (No-face’s rampage through the bathhouse) and even standing in opposition to many of the pivotal moments of Miyazaki’s other films. In Miyazaki’s previous films, the emotional catharsis of those works still come in fast-paced, “epic” moments: Totoro’s themes of childhood bonds and trauma are crystallized in a journey on a cat-shaped bus, Princess Mononoke’s  themes of environmental justice and lost innocence is made shockingly literal in a battle scene, and so on. In stark contrast, the train scene grinds Spirited Away’s propulsive momentum to a near halt to force viewers to linger on the transformation that Chihiro is undergoing and reflect on that change in our own pasts. The emotional challenge of hinging Chihiro’s catharsis around a scene this reserved is so great that Miyazaki arguably shied away from it for over a decade. Howl’s Moving Castle  and  Ponyo  are fantastic films that nevertheless take a step away from the philosophical intricacy of  Spirited Away.  Miyazaki’s more spiritual sense would return with  The Wind Rises , another masterful film that shares more threads with  Away  than you may spot at first glance. The climactic scene of that film can be seen as a moment in the vein of Miyazaki’s more electrifying work that’s complicated by the same quiet grace as Chihiro’s train ride: the protagonist Jiro finally achieves his dream of building the perfect plane, but feels a gust of wind at the test site that signifies the death of his wife Naoko. The triumph of his success is animated with only the sound of the wind and another poignant score from Hisaishi hanging over the scene, the juxtaposition of Naoko’s death and the eventual use of his planes for war illustrating that Jiro’s creative life has been corrupted by forces outside of his control. The mirrored styles of the two scenes and Miyazaki’s decision to return to that method of filmmaking for The Wind Rises  reflects on the importance of  Spirited Away  not only as a tool to understanding Miyazaki’s wider career but as a work that shades Miyazaki’s own thought process even over a decade later. He is confident and wise enough as a director to recognize that his audience, specifically children, don’t have to be taken on a thrill ride for the purpose of the film to connect with them emotionally or spiritually, especially when dealing with themes that he feels would be betrayed by flashier filmmaking.

Chihiro’s train ride brings out the ideology and motivations behind Miyazaki’s sense of duty as a filmmaker with reserved grace. It exposes and continues to inform the ethos of his work, the theme that all his central ideas eventually return to in some way: aging is an inevitable loss, but it is not the end. Aging gives us the agency to discover ourselves, to remember the carelessness of our youth and cherish not only that memory of our past but who we’ve become since. That ideal shines new light on all of Miyazaki’s works, providing an answer to the question of what comes after the joys of childhood that he illuminates in them. As Chihiro’s train leaves her into a dark and uncertain night, Miyazaki reassures us that its journey is not over. It has more of us to shepherd, and the growth that spiritual migration invokes just means we are all strong enough to grow.

  • hayao miyazaki
  • spirited away
  • studio ghibli

spirited away ghost train

Hideaki Anno’s ‘Evangelion’: Reinvention Ad Absurdum

There is no greater perfectionist in the world of film than Hideaki Anno. In revisions, 'Evangelion' evolved to become the seminal work it’s known…

spirited away ghost train

‘Princess Mononoke’: A Timeless Tale of Colonization and Indigenous Survival

November is Indigenous People’s Month in the United States; then and always, Studio Ghibli’s 1997 epic historical fantasy offers a poignant exploration of colonization,…

spirited away ghost train

Ryan Ninesling

Thanks for such a poignant analysis of this beautiful film.

Leave a Comment Cancel reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed .

Cookie banner

We use cookies and other tracking technologies to improve your browsing experience on our site, show personalized content and targeted ads, analyze site traffic, and understand where our audiences come from. To learn more or opt-out, read our Cookie Policy . Please also read our Privacy Notice and Terms of Use , which became effective December 20, 2019.

By choosing I Accept , you consent to our use of cookies and other tracking technologies.

Follow Polygon online:

  • Follow Polygon on Twitter
  • Follow Polygon on Facebook
  • Follow Polygon on Youtube
  • Follow Polygon on Instagram

Site search

  • Beginner’s tips
  • Walkthrough
  • Spider-Bot locations
  • Best Skills
  • How long to beat
  • Rare Tech Parts
  • All Trophies
  • All Spider-Man 2 guides
  • What to Watch
  • What to Play
  • PlayStation
  • All Entertainment
  • Spider-Man 2
  • Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom
  • Baldur’s Gate 3
  • Pokémon Scarlet / Violet
  • All Reviews
  • Buyer’s Guides
  • Galaxy Brains
  • All Podcasts

Filed under:

Planes, trains, and Cat Buses: Studio Ghibli movies are obsessed with travel

From ghost-trains to fantasy planes, movies from Spirited Away to My Neighbor Totoro make travel magical

Share this story

  • Share this on Facebook
  • Share this on Twitter
  • Share All sharing options

Share All sharing options for: Planes, trains, and Cat Buses: Studio Ghibli movies are obsessed with travel

The grinning Cat Bus stands behind the equally grinning Totoro in My Neighbor Totoro

May 25-30 is Studio Ghibli Week at Polygon. To celebrate the arrival of the Japanese animation house’s library on digital and streaming services , we’re surveying the studio’s history, impact, and biggest themes. Follow along via our Ghibli Week page .

Studio Ghibli’s movies always look and feel like they’re on the move. Throughout the Ghibli catalog, transportation often plays a major role in storylines or character development, so much so that car trips or plane flights almost always carry some extra layer of significance. Ghibli’s movies use planes, trains, buses, boats, and cars to herald the start of an adventure, or serve as a prelude before something extraordinary happens to the heroes. Public transportation can give characters a spiritual pause, a chance to reflect on where they’ve been, and where they’re heading next. Actually flying a plane isn’t just an act of skill and courage, it can also represent a meditation on the human toll of its use as a weapon, or the opportunity to save the day before it’s too late.

Hayao Miyazaki’s movies in particular tend to have fantastical modes of transportation. The heroine of his pre-Ghibli movie Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind uses a futuristic wind glider to travel between her lush, green village and the toxic post-apocalyptic world that surrounds them. In his Little Mermaid riff Ponyo , magic turns a child’s toy boat into a full-sized one, fit for a rescue mission. The movie later uses the image of boats returning to the harbor to show the restoration of balance between man and nature. Magical transport in Miyazaki movies can also take the form of otherworldly creatures, like when Chihiro of Spirited Away rides a flying dragon, or San of Princess Mononoke uses a giant wolf to defend her forest home.

And possibly no form of magical transportation in Ghibli movies is more recognizable than the friendly Cat Bus of My Neighbor Totoro . Waiting for their father’s bus during a rainstorm, young sisters Satsuki and Mei see the bearish forest spirit Totoro board a different kind of bus than the one they were expecting. The many-legged Cat Bus has a Cheshire-sized grin, eyes like headlights illuminating whatever it’s looking at, and a stubbed fluffy tail trailing behind it.

cat bus drives totoro away

Later, Totoro summons the Cat Bus so the sisters can go see their mom in the hospital. The movie perfectly captures the girls’ excited reactions to sitting inside a living, breathing bus with a furry interior. The Cat Bus moves like an animal, and runs up trees like an animal, but its design includes windows, seats, and glowing-eyed rats that serve as running lights. It’s a strange beast, but an unforgettable way to travel through the worlds of Studio Ghibli — and a reminder that even the spirit world has its fanciful equivalent of the mundane objects we take for granted.

Trains in Ghibli movies tend to be a much calmer form of transportation, unless an accident strikes, as it does in Miyazaki’s biopic The Wind Rises . Even then, the dramatic event ends up introducing its idealistic plane engineer Jiro to his future wife Naoko. More often than not, trains in Ghibli movies connect characters with their past or future, giving them a chance to reflect on where their journeys have taken them. In Isao Takahata ’s Only Yesterday , Taoko’s train doesn’t just transport her from Tokyo to the countryside, it also takes her to her childhood memories of first love and growing up, setting her up to re-evaluate what she wants for her future.

These journeys can also take a spiritual turn, as they do in Takahata’s Grave of the Fireflies . The film has perhaps one of the bleakest openings in any Ghibli movie, starting with a scene of a train station in post-war Japan, where a forlorn boy dies in plain sight of passersby. His spirit joins his sister’s, and the two board a ghost-train that leads them into a flashback retelling of their tragic story. The train continues to appear in various portions of the film, each memory a stop marking their inevitable decline. The train is empty except for these two young souls in the spiritual realm, but we see it full of life in the past.

A spirit-train also plays a significant part in Miyazaki’s Spirited Away when the protagonist, Chihiro, has to go on a spiritual quest to make amends with her boss’ twin sister. If she fears that the new witch she’s about to meet might be scarier than her twin, or wonders how she’ll get back to the bathhouse where she works, given that the train only goes in one direction, Chihiro doesn’t show it. She bravely steps aboard the curious train, which glides along the endless waters around the bathhouse. It’s a stunning, surreal scene, and Chihiro’s wistful patience contrasts sharply with her sullenness at the start of the film, traveling in a car with her parents. On the train, she has a purpose.

howl’s moving castle from howl’s moving castle

Thanks to his family connections , Miyazaki grew up around plane designs, and was fascinated with aviation. He worked different aspects of flying into many of his movies, whether by magical means in Howl’s Moving Castle and Kiki’s Delivery Service , or through more mechanical options in Porco Rosso and The Wind Rises .

The latter two films also serve as benchmarks of how Miyazaki’s views of planes have evolved from a source of fascination to a nuanced acknowledgment of what planes can do as weapons. Porco Rosso is a fantastical story of a good-hearted but cursed bounty hunter who runs afoul of scheming air pirates and the fascist Italian government after World War I. He’s a duty-bound, honorable fighter who wrestles with his feelings for a longtime flame, and his insecurity over the curse that turned him into an anthropomorphized pig. While still wildly entertaining, Porco Rosso takes aviation on its simplest terms. Flying is the gateway to a story about lost love, living like an outsider, survivor’s guilt, and other themes, but it doesn’t examine the role of the biplanes and seaplanes populating this make-believe Europe.

Miyazaki’s most recent film, The Wind Rises , takes a more nuanced approach to avionics and their role in Japanese history. Jiro, the movie’s main character, embodies Miyazaki’s longstanding fascination with airplanes, but the film also acknowledges that these wondrous contraptions that help everyday people defy gravity on a daily basis also claimed a lot of lives in war. Over the course of the film, Jiro starts out so enamored with flying that he makes an imaginary friend out of a historical pilot. But he comes to regret his dedication to creating planes when his earnest passion is weaponized by the government, as his plane design becomes a major part of the war effort. Jiro is caught in a Catch-22 situation — his creations possibly only became possible because of wartime funding, but many people died because of his idealistic engineering zeal. It’s a troubled legacy, one we’re still dealing with decades after the events in the film.

So whether by air, sea, road, or magic, travel in Studio Ghibli movies is just as important as the destination ahead. Any time someone’s on the move, it’s generally either the most action-packed scene in a movie, or among the quietest moments. These trips develop characters and extend the plot even in movies that aren’t expressly about the ability to fly, or the know-how to summon a Cat Bus. However these moments play out in Ghibli films, they’re kind reminders that we should give ourselves a little more time to look out the windows on our next trip, and watch the scenery zip by before it becomes only a memory.

Polygon’s Studio Ghibli movie guide

  • Why we’re dedicating a week to Studio Ghibli
  • The pre-Ghibli Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind manga reminds us that everything changes
  • The Miyazaki movie that got away
  • The studio’s first film, Castle in the Sky, is like no Hayao Miyazaki film that followed
  • Watch the 4-hour documentary that unravels Hayao Miyazaki’s obsessions
  • My Neighbor Totoro dispels the myths of the Frozen generation
  • The profound loneliness of Kiki’s Delivery Service
  • Studio Ghibli’s Porco Rosso is a fairy tale without a fairy-tale ending
  • Princess Mononoke breaks the Studio Ghibli rules to tell a better story
  • Spirited Away is Studio Ghibli’s best film, and here’s why
  • Howl’s Moving Castle should be the model for every book-to-film adaptation
  • Ponyo, or when a master makes a meh-sterpiece
  • How Miyazaki estranged his studio from anime culture
  • The perfection of Joe Hisaishi’s Spirited Away theme ‘One Summer’s Day’
  • Magic in Ghibli films always comes at a heavy price
  • The Wind Rises remixes history to make a deeper, more personal point
  • ... learning to drive
  • ...the father of manga?
  • ...Harvey Weinstein
  • ...AI-generated animation
  • ...otaku, kinda
  • The long, ugly history between Disney and Studio Ghibli
  • How Neil Gaiman protected Princess Mononoke from Disneyfication
  • How to watch every Studio Ghibli movie wherever you are
  • Studio Ghibli’s best movies transcend simple cinema
  • Goro Miyazaki on making Studio Ghibli’s first CG movie: ‘I spent a lot of nights not being able to sleep’
  • The unsung genius of Studio Ghibli’s risk-taking realist, Isao Takahata
  • How Whisper of the Heart gets to the core of ‘Take Me Home, Country Roads’
  • In movies like Grave of the Fireflies, caretaking is a heroic act
  • Hayao Miyazaki’s son gave Tales from Earthsea a powerful message about anxiety
  • Takahata’s greatest animation innovation for Ghibli was … nothing
  • Getting fired from a Miyazaki movie was ‘a good thing’ for this anime director
  • The best Ghibli movies are escapes from pessimism
  • You can now watch a Kabuki stage version of Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind
  • The best scenes from 35 years of Studio Ghibli movies
  • Studio Ghibli’s influence on game designers is extensive and expanding
  • Miyazaki’s next Ghibli movie probably won’t be released until 2020
  • Animation fans are living the Ghibli movies on Zoom
  • Everything we know about Hayao Miyazaki’s new movie

Sign up for the newsletter Patch Notes

A weekly roundup of the best things from Polygon

Just one more thing!

Please check your email to find a confirmation email, and follow the steps to confirm your humanity.

Oops. Something went wrong. Please enter a valid email and try again.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for Patch Notes

  • Cast & crew
  • User reviews

Spirited Away

Spirited Away (2001)

During her family's move to the suburbs, a sullen 10-year-old girl wanders into a world ruled by gods, witches and spirits, a world where humans are changed into beasts. During her family's move to the suburbs, a sullen 10-year-old girl wanders into a world ruled by gods, witches and spirits, a world where humans are changed into beasts. During her family's move to the suburbs, a sullen 10-year-old girl wanders into a world ruled by gods, witches and spirits, a world where humans are changed into beasts.

  • Hayao Miyazaki
  • Daveigh Chase
  • Suzanne Pleshette
  • 1.6K User reviews
  • 224 Critic reviews
  • 96 Metascore
  • See more at IMDbPro
  • 58 wins & 31 nominations total

Spirited Away

  • (English version)

Suzanne Pleshette

  • Chihiro Ogino

Tatsuya Gashûin

  • (as Ryûnosuke Kamiki)

Yô Ôizumi

  • Bandai-gaeru
  • Kawa no Kami

Bunta Sugawara

  • All cast & crew
  • Production, box office & more at IMDbPro

Hayao Miyazaki's Magic Worlds

Production art

More like this

Howl's Moving Castle

Did you know

  • Trivia Although it has a rich plot with developed characters, Spirited Away (2001) was not made with a script. Hayao Miyazaki's films never had scripts during their production. "I don't have the story finished and ready when we start work on a film," the filmmaker told Midnight Eye. "I usually don't have the time. So, the story develops when I start drawing storyboards. The production starts soon while the storyboards are still developing." Miyazaki does not know where the plot is going, and he lets it happen organically. "It's not me who makes the film. The film makes itself, and I have no choice but to follow."
  • Goofs After Haku flies out of the bedroom we see Sen's left hand touching more of the blood on the railing. The elevator attendant sees it on the same hand after grabbing her arm as she tries to board it. Not much later we see her looking at the same hand again before running across the pipe. It isn't till after being held captive by the baby under the cushions that the blood switches hands as he holds her by the left arm revealing no blood on that hand at all.

Zeniba : Once you do something, you never forget. Even if you can't remember.

  • Crazy credits The credits have a series of still images from the film. The last image before the film fades is Chihiro's shoe in the river.
  • Alternate versions Various dialog is added to the English dub to explain settings, translate Japanese text, or traditions; for example, when Chihiro first sees the bathhouse, in the English dub, she says "It's a bathhouse", which isn't present in the Japanese version.
  • Connections Edited into Miyazaki Dreams of Flying (2017)
  • Soundtracks Ano natsu e ("One Summer's Day") (uncredited) Composed by Joe Hisaishi

User reviews 1.6K

  • shanebuckland
  • Nov 4, 2002

Lovable Creatures: Our Favorite Screen Pals

Editorial Image

  • How long is Spirited Away? Powered by Alexa
  • Is 'Spirited Away' based on a book?
  • What are the ages of the characters?
  • How long was Chihiro in the other world?
  • March 28, 2003 (United States)
  • Disney's Official Site
  • Miyazaki collection
  • Miyazaki's Spirited Away
  • Tokuma Shoten
  • Studio Ghibli
  • Nippon Television Network (NTV)
  • See more company credits at IMDbPro
  • $19,000,000 (estimated)
  • $15,205,725
  • Sep 22, 2002
  • $357,277,400

Technical specs

  • Runtime 2 hours 5 minutes
  • Dolby Digital EX

Related news

Contribute to this page.

Spirited Away (2001)

  • See more gaps
  • Learn more about contributing

More to explore

Production art

Recently viewed

Chihiro’s train journey in Spirited Away

Jump to Comments -->We present to you our thoughts and feelings on this one particular (and rather special) scene in Spirited Away, the train scene . For those not in the know, Spirited Away is a 2001 fantasy anime from the famed director Hayao Miyazaki. It won an Oscar in 2002 for Best Animated Film, the first anime in history to have won an Academy Award. Our writers Ben, Lewis, Martin, Paul (me) and Ryan have all contributed interpretations, but if you would like to add your own, please don’t be shy about leaving a comment below. Anyway, on with the show…

spirited away ghost train

Lewis : OK, I won’t lie. I sneaked a peak at what everyone else has written about the scene. And while I agree that in general this scene is about growing up, I believe it can be looked at in a completely different way. To me, having never seen Spirited Away, this scene seems to be a very intelligent interpretation of the Japanese and their relationship with travel, particularly on trains. Let’s take the shadow figures and think of them as your typical Salary man. There is no life, no emotion, nothing memorable and, more importantly, no soul in any of these characters. Just one being, waiting to get from A to B. You are not so much a passenger on the train, as a part of the scenery itself.

This is very similar to the way the Japanese travel today. Talking loudly is frowned upon; many people just like to sit there sleeping, reading or generally lost in their thoughts. To me, this is where the main character comes in. As a child, if you asked them what a train journey should be like there would be laughter and music. However, as we grow old, we realise that what should be an enjoyable journey is just, after all, a dreary means to an end.

Towards the end when all the people have left the carriage, it shows the true characteristics of the standard Japanese commuting journey. While there were people there before, they were so isolated and emotionally disconnected from their surroundings that the journey is just as lonely now as it was at the beginning of the scene. It’s a fantastic take on the commuter travel and the shy characteristics of the Japanese themselves.

spirited away ghost train

Ben : This scene is about Chihiro, who is on a transition from hedonistic and selfish child to selfless and responsible young woman. She is no longer the pig like her mother and father; rather, she is a fusion of the traditional moral values of the Japan of old with the modern day. After all, Chihiro is a woman, and she is demonstrating how they have taken a pivotal role in Japanese society. This is Miyazaki’s way of saying that EVERYBODY is responsible in society for one another and not merely oneself or one’s kind. The fact that Chihiro is responsible for those accompanying her is an indication of this.

So, the train is the catalyst by which Chihiro is escaping from an immoral world to the real one. However the train is not only the symbol of escape in this scene but also of fusion. The train runs through water and the countryside; two features of traditional life in Japan. The countryside is where traditional activities occur, e.g. farming, but also what spawned the modern world. The water provides fish, which Japan has enjoyed for many hundreds of years; however the train is not Japanese. It’s an English invention of the industrial revolution. So, the image of the train running through the water and countryside is perhaps the fusion of traditional and modern Japan.

In essence, Chihiro and the train are Miyazaki’s way of communicating the need for everyone to embark upon a transition in order to facilitate the fusion of tradition and modern and, therefore, a better Japan in terms of morality but also in regards to its history and tradition.

spirited away ghost train

Ryan : Asked to write an interpretation of this scene, it was immediately apparent what shape my thoughts were taking. In particular, water has always struck me as a psychoanalytical symbol (for the boundary between the conscious and unconscious minds, among other things), and this dominated my interpretation of previous viewings, while guiding this one.

But the scene always reminded me of others as well; the moment where Lain confronts Professor Hodgeson in the Wired (’Serial Experiments Lain’), and the hesitant rise of Shinji to the surface of the deeply orange-hued ocean, following his reversion of the world back to it’s normal state (near the close of ‘The End of Evangelion’). Later into this sequence, the same emotionally laden, and primordially comforting, but, at the same time, unsettling, imagery; of the passing of time, and the sun setting, of evening, and life in recline; is briefly seen in ‘Spirited Away’ as well, representing the place between the conscious (day) and unconscious (night) minds – drawing on the same palette and imagery as when the dream world first began to awaken, near the beginning of the film.

Whereas in ‘The End of Evangelion’, the trauma and near-resolution of matters (if not their catharsis) concludes with the juxtaposition of the two – as the orange and red hues are strewn across the darker and equally unsettling imagery of night – Chihiro’s journey isn’t nearly as intense or revelatory. The conscious and unconscious minds, and the place that brings them together (the imagery of evening), is instead a representation of the life-cycle (reminiscent of William Blake’s ‘The Ecchoing Green’), the growing awareness of death (Haku is potentially fatally wounded), and perhaps the comforting, but equally uncertain onset of adolescent sexuality (given that Chihiro’s journey here is one for Haku’s return, who she is explicitly described as being in love with several times).

Her journey into the twilight of the mind – seen in the fall of night; her uncertainty and the unconscious – through the psycho pomp of the ticket dispenser (a ferryman into the depths of the unconscious) isn’t without remorse, but unlike the others, Chihiro’s journey is relatively innocent. The figure of lone islands, houses and shadows (recalling the native but dreamlike landscapes of Salvador Dali’s paintings) represent, at worst, her isolation, as she tries to recall Haku’s name, against the emotional scenery, and resolve her own feelings, with the water not coincidentally symbolising reflection, as Chihiro does on the train.

This is what Spirited Away is all about; Chihiro losing herself in her mind, as an escape, but eventually as a cure for her anxieties over moving to a new school and meeting new friends, surviving the trials of her unconscious mind and reflections, as she refines her character, through which she learns to remember who she is, despite not only her progression into a new environment, but also into adolescent maturity.

spirited away ghost train

Paul : I must have watched this scene on YouTube nearly a dozen times since last weekend and often, my eyes flick on to the user comments posted below the video; one specific (and reoccurring) note caught my attention. Half way through the clip, just as Chihiro’s train is gradually pulling away from a station, the animation pans across the people leaving and waiting on the platform. Just before leaving (2:41 in the video above), we catch a glimpse of a small girl standing still, facing the train, alone. It’s just a fleeting moment, really, a matter of seconds, but it’s an emotionally striking image. Shadows are looming large over pavement and all the other passengers are moving, leaving and going home, so it’s odd that this Girl is just stuck there, waiting for something, so still, helpless and fragile. It’s a lonely image, sad, yet beautifully drawn, like a vivid, nostalgic memory, bitter-sweet.

Won’t someone ask if she is okay?

All of the people Chihiro stumbles across during her train journey are faceless, transparent silhouettes, more like ghosts. They move their bags and look out of the window into the distance. May be they don’t see The Girl because they aren’t looking for her? I suppose it’s a chilling moment because we’ve all been that Girl at some point in our lives, felt that alone in a crowd of people, isolated, just desperate to be seen.

spirited away ghost train

Martin : Spirited Away is, for me at least, a story about growing up and learning to embrace the wider world rather than fear it. At the start of the movie Chihiro is afraid to move house; in this scene she is once again leaving a familiar place but this time it is by her own volition. That look of mature determination is quite literally a world away from the sulky pout she had earlier on, which highlights how she is maturing emotionally and how this affects her actions.

The train journey takes place through an alien, water-filled landscape, filled with unusual sights and sounds; reminiscent of train journeys that we’ve all taken for various reasons, but at the same time a fantastical and entertaining one. This point in Chihiro’s adventure is met with not just anxiety of the unknown but a resolve to move ahead, to explore and to look on with curiosity and wonderment at what lies around her.

The film as a whole is a portrayal of a young girl transported into an unfamiliar place and learning how to cope independently and making decisions for herself; this scene neatly sums up how she chooses her companions and the destination, but sharing her sense of childlike wonder. The film’s charm lies in the beautiful way in which the music and visuals convey these simple yet profound ideas.

' src=

You Might Also Like...

Studio ghibli forever season at the prince charles cinema.

The Prince Charles Cinema in London is going to be screening Studio Ghibli films from now until August. The films are part of the Studio Ghibli Forever Season and every film has subtitles. The line-up is as follows: MARCH15th: Porco Rosso16th: The Princess Kaguya (Special Preview) +  Grave of the Fireflies (Double Feature)22nd: Grave Of The Fireflies29th: … Continued

Studio Ghibli: The Complete Works Review

A collection of all the Studio Ghibli movies, released to introduce their first 3DCG movie, Earwig and the Witch.

Hayao Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises English-subtitled trailer

Hayao Miyazaki’s new film, The Wind Rises, is the fictionalised biography of Jiro Horikoshi, the designer of the Zero fighter planes. The film is set to premier at the Toronto International Film Festival, which takes place Sept. 5-15 and at the moment there are no confirmation of a wider release.

Film4 to premier ‘The Wind Rises’ on 7th February

Film4 has announced on Twitter that it premier Hayao Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises on Saturday 7th February at 15.25. On 23rd January Film4 posted the following tweet: “Heads up, Studio Ghibli fans! We’re screening Hayao Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises on Sat Feb 7th”, with the following link to their website displaying more information and an … Continued

Win My Neighbour Totoro and Castle of Cagliostro on Double Play!

StudioCanal and Anime UK News joined forces to celebrate the release of classic Hayao Miyazaki animes My Neighbour Totoro and The Castle of Cagliostro and we are offering one Double Play set of one of these titles to four lucky winners!Check our competitions page, for details on how to enter!?

Film School Rejects Logo

The Folklore That Inspired Studio Ghibli’s ‘Spirited Away’

Spirited Away Witch

Real Stories is an ongoing column about the stories behind movies and TV shows. It’s that simple. This installment will focus on the folklore behind Spirited Away.

Studio Ghibli has produced several perfect films since its inception in 1985, but Spirited Away is arguably the most universally acclaimed. Hayao Miyazaki ’s celebration of Japanese culture and folklore explores coming-of-age themes through fantastical concepts. In doing so, the film tells a story that’s both profoundly human and utterly spellbinding. Furthermore, it’s all brought to life courtesy of some of the most enchanting hand-drawn animation you’re ever likely to see.

Spirited Away tells the story of Chihiro, a young girl who stumbles upon a seemingly abandoned amusement park. But this isn’t your ordinary vacation destination, more like a holiday resort for supernatural beings. After her parents turn into pigs, Chihiro finds herself trapped in a world of spirits and grotesque creatures. In order to get by in the new realm, she must find a job and prove that she isn’t lazy.

The premise of Spirited Away is similar to Western fairy tales like Alice in Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz , both of which are also coming-of-age tales about young girls who wind up in magical realms. Those influences are evident throughout the movie, but Spirited Away ‘s references to Japanese traditions are what makes it fascinating.

Miyazaki has discussed how he was inspired by superstitions and stories about spirits hiding everywhere. This belief is less common in the modern age, but the filmmaker has a fondness for the old ways. He finds beauty in them, as people from that period cherished things more. Reintroducing these ideas to contemporary popular culture was one of his intentions with Spirited Away .

“In my grandparents’ time, it was believed that kami existed everywhere — in trees, rivers, insects, wells, anything. My generation does not believe this, but I like the idea that we should all treasure everything because spirits might exist there, and we should treasure everything because there is a kind of life to everything.”

Spirited Away delves into the concept of kamikakushi. This entails humans abducted by the gods and taken to the spirit world. Some superstitious folks have even cited this legend as the reason why so many children have disappeared throughout the years. In some cases, it helps families cope with loss and grief that stems from such incidents. The notion of a god taking their loved ones is less grim than the more realistic alternatives.

That said, kamikakushi isn’t always associated with negativity. While many folktales detail how people returned years later, often dead or changed for the worse, some of them feature humans becoming social beings in the spirit world. It’s possible for people to enter on their own accord because they need an escape for whatever reason.

Spirited Away is a more positive take on the spirit world. It’s key to the protagonist’s self-discovery. The lessons she learns there help her forge an identity and come to terms with her problems. She’s an example of someone who enters the other realm because she fears change and comes out better for it. Stories like this do make up some of the kamikakushi lore, but the unhappy ones are more common.

In the movie, Chihiro enters the other world through a tunnel. This is also based on traditional beliefs. Tunnels, bridges, mountains, and crossroads are often viewed as gateways between this world and the spirit realm. It’s this type of attention to detail that goes a long way in the movie.

Spirited Away ’s bathhouse setting also has ties to Japan’s spiritual and religious history. In old Shinto solstice rituals, villagers invited their guardian spirits to bathe with them. The reason behind this was to ward off more nefarious supernatural beings. The bathhouse in the movie boasts an assortment of mystical characters, which is a nice ode to the gods and ghosts who have entered these locales in the past.

Most of the deities and other entities in the bathhouse are based on real gods and creatures. The most interesting character, however, is Yubaba, who is reminiscent of a yamauba mountain witch. She’s just a more toned-down version, though. In the movie, Yubaba is depicted as an unflattering old woman who can turn humans into animals. She also dotes over a giant baby, indicating that she has a nurturing nature as well. This is pretty accurate.

According to the legend, these old hags turn people into animals and eat them. But they’re also prominent birth givers with motherly instincts. The witches are said to give birth up to twelve times per year, subsequently raising their kids to become great warriors with super strength. Despite their monstrous tendencies, the witches are very kind to their families and those who deserve to be rewarded.

In the movie, Miyazaki reimagines most of the traditional lore for the sake of family-friendly entertainment. At the end of the day, Spirited Away is a work of wholly original imagination that deserves to be acknowledged as such. But the film wears its cultural influences on its sleeve, inviting viewers to learn more about them in the process.

Related Topics: Hayao Miyazaki , Real Stories , Spirited Away , Studio Ghibli

spirited away ghost train

Recommended Reading

‘the boy and the heron’ is hayao miyazaki at his dreamiest, growing pains: names, autonomy, and the changing self in ‘spirited away’, the difference between hard and soft worldbuilding, ‘earwig and the witch’ pioneers a new frontier for studio ghibli.


  • Anime Search
  • Seasonal Anime
  • Recommendations
  • 2023 Challenge
  • Fantasy Anime League
  • Manga Search
  • Manga Store
  • Interest Stacks
  • Featured Articles
  • Episode Videos
  • Anime Trailers
  • Advertising
  • MAL Supporter

Halloween 2023

The World of Spirits and Ghosts in Spirited Away

Spirits and ghosts are an important part of Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi (Spirited Away), and their world serves as the backdrop for the film. But Chihiro quickly discovers that it's a place that's not friendly to humans. Learn more about these spirits, ghosts, and their world!

Spirited Away logo

In Hayao Miyazaki ’s Spirited Away , the movie starts off with a scene of a young girl named Chihiro and her parents are on their way home. Chihiro’s father tries taking a shortcut but gets lost in the process, and they find themselves at an abandoned amusement park. This park has a ghostly secret that Chihiro will find out the hard way...

About the Spirit World

Spirited Away Chihiro Ogino, Akio Ogino, and Yuuko Ogino

During the daylight hours, the world of the ghosts and spirits just looks like an abandoned amusement park to any humans that stumble upon it. The spirits are nocturnal, so they sleep during the day.

Spirited Away Chihiro Ogino

But when the sun sets, it turns into a bath house, with food stalls that serve a clientele of ghostly creatures. Humans are not supposed to be in this world once darkness falls, as these spirits are not too fond of them, to say the least.

Spirited Away Haku and Chihiro Ogino

If a human ends up in the spirit world when the sun sets, they slowly begin to disappear and start to look ghost-like. When Haku finds Chihiro going through this process, he tells her that she needs to eat something from the spirit world or she’ll vanish.

Spirited Away Haku and Chihiro

Unfortunately, humans are unable to keep their presence hidden from the ghost and spirit inhabitants, because they have a very distinct smell. At one point, when Haku tries to get Chihiro to safety by crossing a bridge, he tells her she has to hold her breath until they make it across. If she lets out even a tiny breath, her presence will be discovered.

The Appearance of Ghosts and Spirits

Spirited Away spirits

The ghosts and spirits that inhabit the spirit world come in many different shapes and sizes. Some are blobby-looking, while others wear clothing and masks. Some of the spirits are tall, while some are extremely small. Some of the ghosts and spirits take on the forms of animals, with the most common being ducks. Others look like monsters, some with a terrible odor. There are even some that are made out of paper.

Blobby spirits

Spirited Away Chihiro Ogino and spirits

Spirits with masks and clothing

Spirited Away spirits

Tall spirits

Spirited Away Chihiro Ogino and spirit

Soot sprites

Spirited Away soot sprites

Duck spirits

Spirited Away duck spirits

Monster spirits

Spirited Away monster spirits

Stink spirit

Spirited Away stink spirit

River spirit

Spirited Away river spirit

Paper spirits

Spirited Away paper spirits

As you can see, there are a wide variety of spirits and ghosts inhabiting the spirit world that’s presented in Spirited Away . Even though Chihiro manages to survive in that world, it’s not a place that’s meant for humans.

Related Articles

The Significance of Food in Spirited Away

The Significance of Food in Spirited Away

by Ascension1101


Spirited Away Guide: Exploring the Magical Bathhouse

Spirited Away Guide: Exploring the Magical Bathhouse

by Camelot3


Chihiro and Haku from Spirited Away: Friends or More?

Chihiro and Haku from Spirited Away: Friends or More?


Spirited Away: The History and Background Behind this Masterful Film

Spirited Away: The History and Background Behind this Masterful Film

by Rhiannone-10


Related Database Entries

Search Featured Articles

All Tags Trending Tags

More Top Anime

  • 1 Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
  • 2 Steins;Gate
  • 4 Bleach: Sennen Kessen-hen
  • 5 Gintama: The Final

More Top Airing Anime

  • 1 Shingeki no Kyojin: The Final Season - Kanketsu-hen
  • 2 Sousou no Frieren
  • 3 Tian Guan Cifu Er
  • 4 Jujutsu Kaisen 2nd Season
  • 5 Kage no Jitsuryokusha ni Naritakute! 2nd Season

More Most Popular Characters

  • 1 Lamperouge, Lelouch
  • 3 Monkey D., Luffy
  • 4 Lawliet, L
  • 5 Roronoa, Zoro

Spirited Away Ending Explained: On Earth As It Is In Ghibli

Still from Spirited Away

Like any other movie, the first impression of Hayao Miyazaki's "Spirited Away" comes from its title, which, in this case, is the simplified English version of the original Japanese title Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi . "Sen" and "Chihiro" refer to the two given names of the film's young protagonist — emphasis on "given," since her parents and boss hand them to her with her fate from moment to moment.

The movie becomes a bathhouse crucible for forging Chihiro's character: instilling the value of hard work and the perils of greed and forgetting oneself in the struggle to make ends meet or achieve financial success. "Sen," in fact, is the Japanese word for "thousand," with the lowest denomination of bills in Japanese currency being the 1,000-yen note.

At the same time, work is a means to an end; its broader purpose serves to help Chihiro grow up and acquire the skills and life experience necessary to make her own way in the world. That it's a kami or "spirit" world is incidental. Strip away all the colorful creatures, and "Spirited Away" and its bathhouse (inspired by a real onsen on Shikoku) looks very much like a microcosm of the real world.

The title's other key word, kamikakushi , links Chihiro's story to legends in Japanese folklore where a person might disappear or die, thereby being "spirited away," if their actions or attitude put them in disfavor with the gods. The spoiled child Chihiro signs a contract with the sorceress Yubaba and enters indentured servitude in the bathhouse to learn a life lesson.

Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi might be a mouthful if you don't speak Japanese, but it gives a fuller picture of what "Spirited Away" and its ending are all about. Spoilers follow.

Alone with No-Face

Miyazaki has said that, for him, what "constitutes the end of ['Spirited Away'] is the scene in which Chihiro takes the train all by herself." Technically, she's not alone, as she's sitting next to No-Face, the uninvited bathhouse customer who became a monster, eating everything and everyone in his path.

At one point in "Spirited Away," No-Face is described as "the richest man in the whole wide world." He takes more bath tokens than he needs, and the bathhouse workers clamor for his gold, while Yubaba observes of them, "Your greed attracted quite a guest."

No-Face represents the insatiable hunger of capitalism, a concept introduced early in the film when Chihiro and her parents first arrive in the spirit realm on the other side of a mysterious, temple-like gate. "It's an abandoned theme park," her father declares of the world inside the gate. "They built lots of them back in the nineties. But then they went bust when the economy tanked."

This is a reference to the economic bubble bursting in Japan in 1992, less than a decade before Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli made "Spirited Away." In the first of its 12-part "Defining the Hesei Era" series, The Japan Times summed up the bubble era with a single word: excess. It was a time when consumerism ran rampant and people, as Miyazaki put it , "turned into pigs."

"Spirited Away" literalizes this transformation with Chihiro's parents, as her father follows his nose to an unattended restaurant and immediately begins filling his plate and gorging himself on food. "Don't worry, your father's here," he tells Chihiro. "I've got credit cards and cash." As if that will solve everything. For her part, Chihiro rejects No-Face and his offers of gold, telling him, "You can't give me what I want."

Free the dragon

Also on the train with Chihiro and No-Face (who is only tagging along and has regurgitated everything he's eaten by now) is the mouse form of Bo, an overgrown "butterball" of a baby who was previously afraid that contact with the outside world would make him sick. Before Yubaba's twin sister, Zenibaba, turned Bo into a mouse, he only wanted Chihiro to stay in his room and play with him under comfy cushions.

In the same way that Chihiro clung to her mother's arm, not wanting to be left alone outside the tunnel at the beginning of "Spirited Away," Bo now clings to Chihiro. He can be seen as her hyper-infantilized foil as she becomes more mature and self-sufficient, determined to deal with important worldly affairs like saving her "dragon boyfriend" Haku.

This is what sends Chihiro and company on the train to Swamp Bottom in the third act of "Spirited Away." She's come a long way from when we first met her, lounging in the backseat of her parents' car, completely at the mercy of her father's driving. Now, she's the one leading the mission to return a hanko stamp that Haku stole from Zeniba while he was under Yubaba's control.

Haku shows up in his dragon form and gives Chihiro a ride back to the bathhouse.  On the way, she recalls a forgotten childhood incident her mother told her about: "Once when I was little, I fell in a river. Now it's built over. It flows underground."

This harkens back to what Zenibaba said about how "everything that happens stays inside of you even if you can't remember it." The river's name, Chihiro realizes, was Kohaku; it is Haku's real name and holds the power to free him from Yubaba's service.

'Wait, what do I do...?'

By the end of "Spirited Away," even Bo has learned to stand on his own two feet, much to Yubaba's surprise. Chihiro, meanwhile, has come of age, or perhaps just looked within to find the old soul she always possessed.

She was initially afraid to be abandoned by her parents, and in their absence, she soon latched onto Haku and relied on him to be her guide. He helped keep her from fading away when she turned intangible and was in danger of becoming a ghost. He hid her in the hydrangeas outside the bathhouse and sent her down to the lowest levels, where she met her first job reference, the six-armed Kamaji, a self-described "slave to the boilers."

Kamaji has a legion of susuwatari , or soot sprites, serving him. They carry coal for the furnace over their heads, and when Chihiro picks up a smooshed piece, she's left stuck holding it. "Wait, what do I do with this?" she asks.

It's a moment that evokes the uncertainty of being thrust into any new job or unfamiliar set of surroundings, left to sink or swim without knowing how it all works. Chihiro does have help; there's also her senpai Lin, who calls her a klutz and schools her in the ways of sir and ma'am, please and thank you. But at a certain point, Chihiro has to fend for herself and learn responsibility through grunt work, like preparing the bath for a stink spirit, which turns out to be a polluted river guardian.

Many of us go through a similar journey to adulthood (minus the stink spirit) as we strike out on our own, start paying bills independently, and maybe come to appreciate more what our parents went through to provide for us.

'It will be hard work'

At the 2001 European premiere of "Spirited Away," Miyazaki spoke of resisting logic in his creative process, instead digging "deep into the well of [his] subconscious" to conjure an imaginative animated world. This involved storyboarding before the script was finalized and then letting the plot and characters develop on their own, leading him to a conclusion that was not pre-planned, though certain elements of it — like the featureless seascape outside the train, which keeps the focus on Chihiro's first interior ride "alone" — fell into place perfectly, as if the intent was there all along.

Like the tenacious Miyazaki , Chihiro learns to trust her intuition, which allows her to recognize that none of the pigs are her parents when Yubaba presents her with a lineup of them as a final test. The ending of "Spirited Away" and indeed the whole cinematic experience of it engages the viewer on a similar level, allowing them to retroactively derive meaning from parts of this strange, phantasmagorical narrative, the way Miyazaki himself did.

This is not a movie of one idea, but many, such that it can support different interpretations or just be enjoyed as a fantasy steeped in Japanese folklore. As alluded, "Spirited Away" also touches on environmental concerns, but there's enough in it to support the argument that this is a movie about finding or rediscovering and retaining one's identity amid distractions and duties — which could apply to school just as much as work.

Neither of those things are the be-all, end-all of existence, but they both give purpose. "It will be hard work," Haku warns Chihiro, "but you'll be able to stay here," and he could just as easily be preparing a child for their time on earth as opposed to the spirit realm.

Ghibli Wiki

Warning: the wiki content may contain spoilers!

Ghibli Wiki

  • Spirited Away
  • Spirited Away characters
  • My Neighbor Totoro characters
  • Artificial Beings
  • Magical Objects
  • Recurring characters
  • View history
  • 1.1 My Neighbor Totoro
  • 1.2 Spirited Away
  • 2.1 Attributes
  • 3.1 My Neighbor Totoro
  • 3.2.1 Gallery
  • 4 Navigation

Origins [ ]

My neighbor totoro [ ].

They are small, round balls made from the soot that dwells in old and abandoned houses and leave black dirt in their wake. If the house becomes inhabited, they decide if the inhabitants are nice people. If they are, they will leave.

Spirited Away [ ]

According to Kamajī , Susuwatari was created by magic, and if they don't work diligently, the magic would dissolve, resulting in their disappear.

Physical Appearance [ ]

The Soot Sprites (conjured from soot itself) are small, black, fuzzy creatures with spherical bodies and white eyes with black pupils. Their usual mode of transportation is levitating/hovering, but it is revealed in the film that they can extend black, wiry limbs (arms and legs) from their bodies to accomplish certain tasks (in this case, moving coal into the furnace) and can lift objects many times their own weight. They also dissolve into soot if crushed, but quickly reform themselves shortly after.

Attributes [ ]

Sleeping Chihiro

Soot Sprites are not capable of speaking human languages and instead make certain, squeaky, murmuring sounds when they are excited, angry, annoyed or ecstatically happy. It is mentioned that, because the Soot Sprites in the film are magically conjured, they will turn back into soot without a job for them to do. While they are not capable of speaking the human language, they are shown to be able to understand it, and respond to orders given to them by Kamajī. They are also capable of exhibiting very human emotions, such as anger and happiness. They are also capable of showing affection to an individual, as seen when they begin to respect and support Chihiro in small ways after she is accepted by the workers of the bathhouse (mainly Kamajī and Lin ). They carry Chihiro (or Sen)'s shoes and socks when she can't find them, showing that they care for Chihiro.

One can feed Soot Sprites like how a farmer feeds chickens, throwing handfuls of Kompeitō (a hard Japanese candy) from a bucket onto the ground for them to pick up and eat. The Susuwatari are not seen eating anything else other than kompeitō in the film.

Appearances [ ]

Mei feet in sootdust

Sootballs appear at the beginning of the film when Satsuki , Mei , and Tatsuo Kusakabe first move into their new house. The Sootballs were noticed when they left around black dirt which is soot dust within the attic of the Kusakabe house which ended up on Mei's hands and the soles of both Satsuki and Mei's feet. They are everywhere and move quickly from the light into the shadow, which they take a liking to. Mei tries to catch some, but despite this, they agree that the Kusakabe family is good and they leave to another abandoned area. When one of them gets caught, they all become dust.

Satsuki sootdust sole

They work in the Bathhouse in return for small star-shaped food, called Konpeitō. They are seen carrying coal to help power the boiler in Kamajī 's Boiler Room . The have super strength relative to their body weight. Even Chihiro Ogino couldn't take a piece of coal without overextending herself.

Granny and the Kusakabe girls

The Sootballs are friendly towards Chihiro. They are hopping when Chihiro leaves the Boiler Room. When Chihiro first meets Kamaji and gets rejected for a job, she helps the Sootballs carrying the coal. Soon, they lay down their coal at Chihiro's feet. Kamaji gets angry at Chihiro. Sootballs try to protect her by surrounding her. Kamaji explains that Sootballs absolutely should work, because if they don't work the spell which turns them in this creatures would break and they would return lifeless soot. After that, Lin comes Kamaji helps Chihiro by sending her to Yubaba . So Chihiro takes off her shoes and socks to walk better on the wooden floor of the Bathhouse, putting the removed socks inside the removed shoes, and the Sootballs intentionally carry them in their burrow to keep them safe.

Sootballs appear again when Chihiro returns in the Boiler Room for going outside, so they bring her back her shoes and socks. Chihiro thanks them, and then she puts on her shoes. Strangely she doesn't wear the socks again, taking them in her hands instead of wearing them.

When Chihiro changes clothes for working in the Bathhouse, Sootballs will also take care on other her clothes she wore outside, her striped shirt and her shorts.

Gallery [ ]

Feeding time!

Susuwatari appear in the animated short Zen - Grogu and Dust Bunnies .

Navigation [ ]

  • Academy Award®-Winner Best Animated Feature

spirited away ghost train

Winner of the Academy Award® for Best Animated Feature, Hayao Miyazaki’s wondrous fantasy adventure is a dazzling masterpiece from one of the most celebrated filmmakers in the history of animation.

Chihiro’s family is moving to a new house, but when they stop on the way to explore an abandoned village, her parents undergo a mysterious transformation and Chihiro is whisked into a world of fantastic spirits ruled over by the sorceress Yubaba. Put to work in a magical bathhouse for spirits and demons, Chihiro must use all her wits to survive in this strange new place, find a way to free her parents and return to the normal world. Overflowing with imaginative creatures and thrilling storytelling, Spirited Away became a worldwide smash hit, and is one of the most critically-acclaimed films of all time.

spirited away ghost train

  • Apple TV Subtitled + Dubbed
  • Prime Video Rent/ Buy (Japanese)
  • Prime Video Rent/ Buy (English)


  • GKIDS Store All Editions

Bonus Features

  • Feature-Length Storyboards**
  • Original Theatrical Trailers
  • Behind the Microphone
  • 12-page Booklet w/ statements from Producer and Director**
  • Nippon Television Special (DVD only)

**Blu-ray only

Disc Specifications

Privacy overview.

  • Entertainment

Explore on-a-train-spirited-away GIFs

Explore gifs.


  1. Why the train scene in Spirited Away is my favorite work by Miyazaki

    spirited away ghost train

  2. Into the Great Unknown: The Infinite Wisdom of Chihiro’s Train Journey

    spirited away ghost train

  3. Spirited Away

    spirited away ghost train

  4. Wallpaper Engine / Ghibli / Spirited Away / Train / Music

    spirited away ghost train

  5. Why the train scene in Spirited Away is my favorite work by Miyazaki

    spirited away ghost train

  6. Spirited Away train. This movie is exquisite.

    spirited away ghost train


  1. Ghost Spillways Reversed

  2. Ghosttrain.mp4

  3. Ghost train 😱🥶😵

  4. The Sixth Station (Spirited Away Soundtrack) by Joe Hisaishi

  5. Spirited Away (On A Train)

  6. Ghost train clip


  1. One of the best scenes in all of film: Spirited Away's Train Scene

    0:00 / 10:41 One of the best scenes in all of film: Spirited Away's Train Scene Fandom Musings 21.3K subscribers 1.6M views 6 years ago The train scene in Miyazaki's Spirited Away is...

  2. Sea Railway

    The Sea Railway (海原電鉄, Unabara Dentetsu) is a mysterious railway used by the shadow-like denizens of the Spirit Realm, as seen in Spirited Away. The Sea Railway is a one-way train that travels through the sea of the Spirit Realm. Chihiro uses it to travel to Swamp Bottom.

  3. What purpose does the train, pictured in the Spirited Away movie

    Strangely, humans used it in the past (Chihiro and her parents use the remnants of the abandoned station to enter the ghost world). It is probably not a joke to use this train, as just doing so proves the true love and earns Chihiro respect from Rin ("I take my words back"). The train is clearly the strong symbol of something. What does it ...

  4. The Train Scene Meaning in Spirited Away Explained

    ByAshley De MesaNovember 3, 2022 Spirited Awayis one of Studio Ghibli's famous works because of its story and capability of truly immersing its audience. One significant scene in the film is when Chihiro boarded the train along with No-Face, Boh, and Yubaba's bird.

  5. Spirited Away

    Haku finds Chihiro and leads her toward the bathhouse. She sees several animals and creatures visiting the bathhouse, as well as No-Face (顔無し, Kaonashi), a masked spirit. Haku instructs her to ask for a job from the bathhouse's boiler-man, Kamaji, a yōkai commanding the susuwatari. Kamaji says that he already has enough susuwatari to help him.

  6. Into the Great Unknown: The Infinite Wisdom of Chihiro's Train Journey

    A deep sense of sadness hangs heavy in the air, Chihiro watching wordlessly as her mysterious fellow passengers disembark for places unknown. In a particularly haunting moment, the train pulls away from a station and Miyazaki focuses on the spirit of a solitary young girl, probably Chihiro's own age, watching it depart.

  7. Totoro Cat Bus, Spirited train, and Ghibli's travel obsession

    The heroine of his pre-Ghibli movie Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind uses a futuristic wind glider to travel between her lush, green village and the toxic post-apocalyptic world that surrounds...

  8. Spirited Away

    Spirited Away (千と千尋の神隠し , Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi, literally translated as "Sen and Chihiro's Spiriting Away"), is the 12th animated film written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki and produced by Studio Ghibli, and premiered in theaters in Japan on July 20, 2001. The story is about the adventures of a young ten-year-old girl named Chihiro as she wanders into the world of the ...

  9. Spirited Away (2001)

    Animation Adventure Family During her family's move to the suburbs, a sullen 10-year-old girl wanders into a world ruled by gods, witches and spirits, a world where humans are changed into beasts. Director Hayao Miyazaki Writer Hayao Miyazaki Stars Daveigh Chase Suzanne Pleshette Miyu Irino See production, box office & company info Watch on Max

  10. Spirited Away: In Defense of the Train Scene

    2.8K 115K views 3 years ago Hayao Miyazaki has given birth to some of the greatest animated films of all time and Spirited Away is no exception. Today I explore one of my favorite scenes from...

  11. Spirited Away

    Can Chihiro make it across the bridge without being noticed? Take a deep breath!A scene from Studio Ghibli's "Spirited Away."This video is available in multi...

  12. Chihiro's train journey in Spirited Away • Anime UK News

    Chihiro's train journey in Spirited Away Martin, Ryan, Ben and Lewis • 11th August 2008 We present to you our thoughts and feelings on this one particular (and rather special) scene in Spirited Away, the train scene. For those not in the know, Spirited Away is a 2001 fantasy anime from the famed director Hayao Miyazaki.

  13. The film that captures millennials' greatest fear

    As Hayao Miyazaki's Oscar-winning anime turns 20, Arwa Haider asks why the film's powerful magic still captivates today. W. Within the first 15 minutes of Hayao Miyazaki's Oscar-winning 2001 anime ...

  14. The Folklore That Inspired Studio Ghibli's 'Spirited Away'

    Spirited Away is a more positive take on the spirit world. It's key to the protagonist's self-discovery. The lessons she learns there help her forge an identity and come to terms with her ...

  15. The World of Spirits and Ghosts in Spirited Away

    Nov 30, 2015 9:35 PM | 34,244 views In Hayao Miyazaki 's Spirited Away, the movie starts off with a scene of a young girl named Chihiro and her parents are on their way home. Chihiro's father tries taking a shortcut but gets lost in the process, and they find themselves at an abandoned amusement park.

  16. Spirited Away Ending Explained: On Earth As It Is In Ghibli

    Studio Ghibli. By the end of "Spirited Away," even Bo has learned to stand on his own two feet, much to Yubaba's surprise. Chihiro, meanwhile, has come of age, or perhaps just looked within to ...

  17. No-Face

    No-Face (顔無し, Kaonashi, lit. "Faceless") is a character in Spirited Away. He is shown to be capable of reacting to emotions and ingesting other individuals in order to gain their personality and physical traits. When first introduced, No-Face appeared in a semi-transparent state while shifting... No-Face (顔無し, Kaonashi, lit.

  18. Susuwatari

    The Soot Sprites (すすワタリ, Susuwatari, lit. "Travelling Soot"), also known as All Blacky (まっくろくろすけ, Makkuro-Kurosuke) are spirits that appear in the films My Neighbor Totoro and Spirited Away. Contents 1 Origins 1.1 My Neighbor Totoro 1.2 Spirited Away 2 Physical Appearance 2.1 Attributes 2.2 Diet 3 Appearances 3.1 My Neighbor Totoro

  19. Spirited Away

    From Hayao Miyazaki, one of the most celebrated filmmakers in the history of animated cinema, comes the Academy Award winning masterpiece, Spirited Away.Spir...

  20. The Ultimate "Spirited Away" Recap Cartoon

    The ultimate recap cartoon of Studio Ghibli's classic; Spirited Away! (千と千尋の神隠し) NoFace! Haku! Chihiro! Kamaji! Yubaba!If you want to support the channel con...

  21. What Hayao Miyazaki's Spirited Away is Really About

    Reviewers of Spirited Away often comment on how visual stunning the film is. Indeed, in the film, Miyazaki and his Studio Ghibli offer stunning animation of magical places and creatures. Lost in all the phantasmagoric eye candy, it's easy to walk from this film and have no idea what this popular film is actually about.Young girl visits strange place occupied by magical creatures and comes ...

  22. Spirited Away

    Synopsis. Winner of the Academy Award® for Best Animated Feature, Hayao Miyazaki's wondrous fantasy adventure is a dazzling masterpiece from one of the most celebrated filmmakers in the history of animation. Chihiro's family is moving to a new house, but when they stop on the way to explore an abandoned village, her parents undergo a ...

  23. On-a-train-spirited-away GIFs

    Explore and share the best On-a-train-spirited-away GIFs and most popular animated GIFs here on GIPHY. Find Funny GIFs, Cute GIFs, Reaction GIFs and more.