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Kamajī (釜爺 , lit. "Boiler Geezer") is an elderly man with six, 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 hardly see his two tiny legs.

Plot

Kamaji calling his Sootballs.

At first, he is unfriendly to Chihiro; unwilling to give her work. When a human doesn't work in Yūya, they become an animal (e.g., a pig like Chihiro's parents). However, Kamajī doesn't stop Chihiro from helping the Sootballs carry coal into the furnace.

After that persuasion, he helps Chihiro work at the Bathhouse and even pretends to be her grandfather when questioned by Lin to protect her, though this ruse does not last very long. He gives Lin a roasted newt as a bribe. The following morning, he wakes up and finds Chihiro asleep in the Boiler Room after her meeting with Haku. He says nothing and simply places a purple blanket on her as she sleeps.

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

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.

Seemingly cold and uncaring at first, Kamaji's character evolves. By the end of the film he seems to have soft spot for Chihiro, and for anyone she calls a friend.

Abilities

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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 leaves his position once to help the injured Haku.

He has a good memory. He knows where the herbs are placed and takes them from the cabinets without looking back. He is also knowledgeable about Spirit Realm medicine and magic. He instantly recognized the herb medicine in Chihiro's hand and 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. Spiders symbolizes industry and progress.[2] Tsuchigumo also means humans living underground covered in dirt.[3]

In Japanese mythology, the Tsuchigumo are a population exterminated by the ruler Jimmu. Tsuchigumos live in peace until the humans take their land. The true reason for the Tsuchigumos' extermination was 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.

Gallery


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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