I want you to know my real name. It's Chihiro.
- —Chihiro to Zeniba
Chihiro Ogino (荻野 千尋 Ogino Chihiro), referred throughout most of the film by her nickname Sen (千 lit. "one-thousand"), is the ten-year-old core protagonist of the Japanese animated film Spirited Away.
Chihiro first appears as she and her parents are moving to a new town. Annoyed by them moving, Chihiro complains to her parents until her father takes a wrong turn down a path thinking it was the way to their house. After nearly crashing into a statue, Chihiro and her parents find a path that leads to a large tunnel. After her parents decide to venture into the tunnel Chihiro is very resistant and does not decide to go with them until she decides to follow them out of fear of the statue in front of their car.
After going through the tunnel they find what they believe to be an abandoned theme park, where her father smells something delicious. After following its scent her parents find the food and begin to eat it, her parents insist she should try some but Chihiro again resists and begins to explore the area. During her exploration she finds a bathhouse and a boy near it. After the boy tells her to run away she does and multiple spirits begin to appear near her. Chihiro first appears as she and her parents are moving to a new town, annoyed by them moving Chihiro complains to her parents until her father takes a wrong turn down a path, thinking it was the way to their house. After nearly crashing into a statue Chihiro and her parents find the path leads to a large tunnel. After her parents decide to venture into the tunnel Chihiro is very resistant and does not decide to go with them until she decides to follow them out of fear of the statue in front of their car.
After going through the tunnel they find what they believe to be an abandoned theme park, where her father smells something delicious. After following its scent her parents find the mysterious food and begin to eat it, her parents insist she should try some but Chihiro again resists and begins to explore the area. During her exploration she finds a bathhouse and a boy near it. After the boy tells her to run away she does, and multiple spirits began to appear near her. Frightened, she attempted to get to her parents only to find they were turned into pigs.
After running from her parents, she discovered the way they entered the strange place had become a massive body of water, and a boat full of spirits began to dock near her. After again running away the strange boy from earlier consoles her, and helps her up. After helping her up, the boy grabs her and runs to the bathhouse with her. After getting to the bathhouse the boy says she must hold her breath to cross the bridge to the bathhouse so he can help her. While on the bridge the two walk past a strange masked spirit. After almost making it across a frog spirit jumped in front of her and made her gasp, allowing all the spirits to see her. After this the boy and Chihiro ran into a garden to hide. While there the boy again consoled her and told her his name; Haku. After revealing his name he told Chihiro that he has known her since she was very young, and told her to go to Kamajī in the boiler room to get a job so she could stay in the bathhouse for the time being.
After leaving Haku she followed his instructions and went to the boiler room where she meets Kamajī. Although Kamajī turned down her offer to work for him, when Lin entered the boiler room Kamajī saved her by saying Chihiro was his granddaughter and that Lin needs to bring her to Yubaba so she could work at the bathhouse. Although that did not work, Kamajī bribed Lin with a roasted newt and she accepted. After Kamajī gave Lin the roasted newt she would be brought to an elevator that lead to the ground floor, there Lin and her would see the Radish Spirit, who followed them to the next elevator. After getting to the elevator a frog worker smelled Chihiro, put Lin was able to distract the frog with her roasted newt. This diversion caused Chihiro to go to Yubaba alone, as Lin stayed on the ground floor. Soon she would be brought before Yubaba. After an argument Yubaba would accept her to be a worker at the bathhouse and she would be now known as Sen. After being hired she again met with Haku, but in this instance Haku acted as if he did not know her, which hurt Chihiro.
After getting the job she was assigned to Lin, and while with the Lin she asked if there are two Haku's in which Lin replied "Two Hakus? I can barely stand one!" Which made Chihiro cry, as Haku was the only person who made her comfortable in the spirit realm, and now he had become cold to her. The next morning Haku told her to meet him at the bridge, so he could take her to her parents. After hearing that she went to the boiler room to retrieve her shoes from the soot sprites, and then went to bridge to meet with Haku. While on the bridge she once again sees the strange masked spirit, and runs from it leading her to Haku. this time Haku is no longer cold to Chihiro, and brings her to her parents. After seeing her parents as pigs she tears up, and breaks down at a nearby bush. Haku then gave her her old clothes and her goodbye card, which says goodbye Chihiro causing Chihiro to remember her real name. Haku then says that thats how Yubaba controls people, by taking away their name so they can never go home. He then gives her some food, and while eating it she lets her emotions out and cries.
After meeting with Haku she feels much better and while returning to the bathhouse she sees Haku is really a dragon when she sees him flying away. After returning to the bathhouse she falls asleep in the boiler room, and Kamajī gives her a blanket. After waking up she begins her first day of work with Lin. While scrubbing the floors she falls behind the other sports cleaning the floors, and while squeezing water from a towel Lin asks her if she's ever worked a day in her whole life. After going to the garden to get water from the rain the strange masked spirit is there, and thinking he's a customer she lets him in. After letting the spirit In Lin and her are assigned to the big tub, and asked by Lin to get a bath token from the foreman. Chihiro then meets with the foreman, but the foreman refuses to give her the token, but the strange spirit goes behind the foreman and gets it for her, leaving the foreman to believe she stole it, but before he can cause her Yubaba reports to the foreman that they have an intruder. They later find the intruder to be a stink spirit. Due to the spirits size and disgusting smell, it is brought to the big tub by Chihiro. After the spirit enters the tub, water mixed with sludge splashes all over the big tub and the floor around it. Because of this no water is left in the tub so Chihiro uses one of the tokens the spirit gave her and the water pouring on the spirit reveals to Chihiro that the spirit has a "thorn" in its side. This causes Yubaba to realize this is no stink spirit, so along with the rest of the bathhouse workers pull out the thorn to reveal its a bike attached to piles of trash and sludge, freeing the river spirit from the pollutants and to show its gratitude the rich spirit gives gold to all of those who helped it before flying off.
Chihiro appears as a ten-year-old girl who has brown hair, brown eyes, and rosy cheeks. She is very petite and has a childish appearance, and a pudgy face. Her attire includes a white medium-sleeved T-shirt with bright green stripes, bright red shorts, white socks and sunshine yellow sneakers. While working in the bath house, she is barefoot and wears a bright red and white work uniform with a tasuki cord for tying her sleeves up.
Chihiro's growth into a capable individual is a core factor to the movement of Spirited Away's plot. During her adventure in the Spirit World, she matures from an easily scared girl with a childlike personality to match her age to a hard-working, responsible, and brave young girl who has learned to put her fears aside for those she cares for. To protect her friends and rescue her parents from a spell that has turned them into livestock, Chihiro sheds her former personality and adapts to her environment to become a courageous, quick-witted and reliable girl.
It is mentioned by director and creator Hayao Miyazaki that Chihiro has 'lost' all her memories of the Spirit World following her exiting of the tunnel. However, according to Haku's promise, he and Chihiro will meet again someday. This may or may not be referring to Chihiro's eventual death and transformation into a spirit. However, Zeniba's quote, "memories are never forgotten, they are just difficult to recall", suggests that Chihiro could, potentially, remember her experiences at The Bathhouse and the Spirit Realm. Regardless, the fate of Chihiro and Haku's relationship remains unknown and is up to audience interpretation.
- The name Chihiro means "thousand" (千) (chi) and "search, seek" (尋) (hiro).
- Part of the name Chi (in Chihiro) and Sen both use the same Japanese kanji (千), which means '1,000', but are different readings of the same character.
- Chihiro's surname Ogino means "reed, rush" (荻) (ogi) and "field, wilderness" (野) (no).
- In some countries, Chihiro's surname Ogino was changed to Senko, so that viewers who do not have a deeper knowledge about the Japanese language wouldn't be confused when her name in the bathhouse was changed to "Sen".
- In an interview regarding Chihiro's character design, Hayao Miyazaki informs the audience that "[He] created a heroine who is an ordinary girl, someone with whom the audience can sympathize. It's not a story in which the characters grow up, but a story in which they draw on something already inside them, brought out by the particular circumstances. [He] wants [his] young friends to live like that, and [he] thinks they, too, have such a wish."
- Chihiro was based on a ten-year-old girl: the daughter of a friend of Miyazaki's. This girl also made Miyazaki continue working after promising retirement from filmmaking after Princess Mononoke (1997).
- One of the main character of Chihiro is similar to the one of the main characters of Belle from Beauty and the Beast (1991 Disney film) shared with the same character and design alike.
- (To Zeniba) "I want you to know my real name. It's Chihiro"
- "The wind's pulling us in."
- "I'm not going in there! It gives me the creeps!"
- "Wait for me!"
- "Wait a minute."
- "What's up with him?"
- "I'm dreaming! I'm dreaming!"
- "I'm see-through!"
- "It's just a really bad dream."
- "They did turn into pigs. I wasn't dreaming."
- "Please! I gotta get a job here!"
- "Yes, ma'am."
- "Just a minute, sir."
- "He's a good person."
- "I knew you were good!"
- "We would like to go to Swamp Bottom, please."
- "Wow, you're a big baby."
- "Staying in this room will make you sick!"
- "Germs! I got germs! See?"
- "Shut your mouth!"
- "Lin, you know Haku?!"
- "There aren't two him, aren't there?"
- "I don't feel so good."
- "Which ones are you?"
- "Bad dream."
- "No, you can't!"
- "Haku, we're falling!"
- "What are those weird buildings?"
- "What are those stones?"
- "My flowers are dying!"
- "Kamajī lit the boiler already?"
- "How long was I asleep?"
- "I hope Dad hasn't gotten too fat."
- "I'm going to go look for Haku!"
- "Where is Haku?"
- "Are birds chasing him?"
- "Fight 'em!"
- "Come on!"
- "Haku, you're bleeding."
- "It's just paper."
- "Thank you, Mr. Boiler Man."
- "Please, I just want to work!"
- "Please, can't you just give me a job?"
- "Everyone, I need my shoes and my clothes, please."
- "I think I can handle it."
- "I guess my parents will have to wait."
- (To Yubaba) "Thank you for everything, Granny."
- (To Zeniba) "Granny, I can't remember anything at all. Haku could be dead already, and I'm just sitting around here. My mom and dad could've been eaten for dinner."
- The Art of Spirited Away, page 54