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Kamajī (釜爺, lit. "Boiler Geezer") is an elderly man with eight, long arms who operates the boiler room of the Bathhouse. He appears as a spider (Jap. Tsuchigumo) in the film Spirited Away directed by Hayao Miyazaki of Studio Ghibli.

Appearance

His limbs can apparently extend indefinitely, enabling him to access the upper cabinets of his workplace without having to leave his original work position. Kamajī appears to spend most of his time at his workplace, as he is seen sleeping and eating his meals there.

A number of Sootballs work for him by carrying coal into his furnace. He has large cabinets where he keeps all the herbs that are used in the baths. He rarely stands up. So you would hardly to see his two tiny legs.

Plot

Kamaji 2

Kamaji calls his Sootballs.

At first, he is unfriendly to Chihiro; unwilling to give her work. When a human doesn't work in Yūya, it becomes an animal for example a pig. Kamajī doesn't halt Chihiro from helping the Sootballs carrying coal to the furnace.

After that persuasion, he helps Chihiro to work at the Bathhouse and even pretends to be her grandfather when questioned by Lin, to protect her, though this ruse does not stand for long. He gives Lin a roasted newt as a bribe. The next morning, he awakes to find Chihiro asleep in the Boiler Room after her meeting with Haku. He says nothing and simply places a purple blanket on her sleeping form.

When the Stink Spirit arrives for a bath, he gives Chihiro a bunch of Bath Tokens. Chihiro pulls a string and sends the bath tokens to Kamaji through strings. When Kamaji receives the tokens, he pulls a few gadgets that sends water, shampoos, fragrances, bathing material. This bunch surprised Kamaji as it called for a lot of water and fragrents.

He later takes Haku, heavily injured into his Boiler Room and cares for him while giving Chihiro train tickets and advice on how to find Zeniba's cottage.

Initially, he seems cold and uncaring, but evolves and by the end of the film, he seems to have grown a soft spot for Chihiro and for anyone whom she calls her friend.

Abilities

His limbs can extend, enabling him to access the upper cabinets of his workplace without having to leave his original work position. He uses his arms to move instead of his short legs. He only once leaves his position to help the injured Haku.

He has a good memory. He knows where the herbs are placed. He takes them from the cabinets without looking back. He also knows about medicine and Spirit Realm magic. Instantly, he recognized the herb medicine in Chihiro's hand and he knows how to break Zeniba's curse on Haku. He can make Sootballs out of soot.

Inspiration

His name Kamajī means old man at the iron boiler. Kamajī is a Tsuchigumo, a humanoid spider in Japanese folklore. Spider symbolize industry and progress.[2] Tsuchigumo means also humans living underground covered in dirt.[3]

In Japanese mythology Tsuchigumo is a folk exterminated by the ruler Jimmu. Tsuchigumos living peacefully until the humans take their land. A reason why Tsuchigumos really get exterminated never mentioned in Japanese mythology.[4]

Trivia

  • Kamajī is very similar in appearance to Dr. Eggman, the main antagonist from the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise, though there is no definite connection between the two.
  • He also shares a similar appearance to Motro in Laputa: Castle in the Sky.
  • His age is at least over 40, since he stated that he had been saving railroad tickets for 40 years.
  • His appearance appears to be based on that of a spider, as evidenced by his 8 limbs and unique facial features. His mustache seems to represent the mandibles of a spider and his goggles resemble a spider's dark eyes.

References

  1. His age is at least over 40, since he stated that he had been saving a railroad ticket for 40 years.
  2. Baird Merrily C., Symbolics of Japan: Thematic Motifs in Art and Design, New York: Rizzoli International Publications, Inc., 2001, page 120
  3. Setsuya Uegaki, Fudoki, Volume 5 of Shinpen Nihon koten bungakz zenshu, Tokyo: Shogakukan, 1997, page 437
  4. Akiko Baba, Oni no kankyuu, Tokyo: Chikuma Shobou, 1988, page 175 cc.
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