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Miyazaki: “Stone Age Skills More Important Than Literacy”


Famed Ghibli director Hayao Miyazaki’s hatred of technology has lately taken on a distinctly survivalist tone – now he is fulminating about how modern technology is robbing the poor children of such crucial life skills such as fire-making and flint-knapping.

He yields the following pearls of wisdom in a recent interview:

The environment children are now in, including our animation, is all virtual. TV, games, email and mobile phones, and even manga, everything we do in other words, they’re all robbing children of power.


Before they learn their letters, we must teach children the essentials, as we have done from the stone age.

How to start a fire, keep it burning, put it out, the nature of water, how to climb trees, how to wind rope, use a needle and thread, use a knife. I think the state must teach the children these things before they teach them to write.

In response, some have pointed out it seems rather more likely that what is robbing the youth of Japan of power is that the nation is now run by and for the sake of a class of old people possessing views almost as outmoded as those of Miyazaki.

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  • Something’s telling me he doesn’t mean any of it literally.

    “The environment children are now in, including our animation, is all virtual. TV, games, email and mobile phones, and even manga, everything we do in other words, they’re all robbing children of power”

    Here he’s probably saying: “kids sit on their ass all day, every day, watching TV and playing games as they rot”

    “Before they learn their letters, we must teach children the essentials, as we have done from the stone age.”

    Here he’s saying we should teach kids how to live and survive in society; how NOT to be dead weight.

    Seriously, Miyazaki has said many intelligent things in the past. I wouldn’t be quick to judge him on such a statement, which I would assume he didn’t mean literally.

  • He’s not saying “oh, the last few things we’ve learned in the past 3000 years? forget them, they’re totally useless, really” …He just thinks kids should learn the basics too, not the basics only..there’s a difference.
    Some kids don’t even know how a damn chicken looks like, they think KFC is how chicken are…really.
    Or think that cows produce milk, and hamburgers just magically appear out of nowhere, ready for them to eat.

    Try reading Kazuo Umezu’s “The Drifting Classroom”. That’s from the 60s or 70s. Imagine what kids of today would do if the world were to end tomorrow, and no adults were there to do things for them.

    I don’t know how to start a fire, but i can tell what things are edible, i’d know how to make stakes and hunt small animals, or how to grow some vegetables. And other things that are really instinct-related. Japanese kids of today probably know how to finish a 10-hours videogame in just half that time, and how to make instant ramen, but for that they don’t even use fire anymore, they just put the cup with water in a microwave ._.
    When i went to highschool i never watched the weather forecast for the day; i just woke up early in the morning, sticked my arm out of my window to sense the temperature, looked at the sky, and knew if it was going to be a hot, cold or rainy day ( i did it so i would know how to dress accordingly for the rest of the day, or if i should take an umbrella). I got it right most of the times.
    ( Climate change makes it harder now xD)

    That the first comments on this article are about fapfapfap truly shows that the only thing that remains in the stone-age -and earlier than that even- is some people’s brains.
    If you don’t understand what he meant, and have seen some or most of his movies, then watch again because you missed the message. I’m no tree-hugger, but i do know that its thanks to trees we get the air we breath and can’t live with (just an example). That is something they might teach to kids in school, but do they teach them they can survive on some trees’ bark for sometime if necessary?
    Progress and technology in exagerated levels are not a good thing, seriously.

    This kind of “articles” are useless in a place where most people fap to their own shadows while fapping, and think 2D is better than 3D.
    ( and before you ask why i’m here in the first place, is because of the bizarre, the lulz and the OMGWTF i find here)

  • “How to start a fire, keep it burning, put it out, the nature of water, how to climb trees, how to wind rope, use a needle and thread, use a knife.”

    Isn’t that what joining the scouts is for? Or even school camp trips?

  • When it comes to the very young that Miyazaki is on about, some boy-scout lessons will be character building and life-affirming. You don’t expect to have pre-teens analyzing Shakespeare. Then again, this is what we have reading ages for.

    At the same time, too many adults even in the Western world have reading ages below their actual age. Pretty sad.

    Who knows. Maybe he is underestimating the how big a problem illiteracy can be since its now very uncommon in the developed world. Learning to red later in life can be a motherfucker I’m sure.

  • i’m able able to make fire, find food in the wild, repair most low tech stuff, sew (as probably any cosplayer) and always have a very useful knife.

    However, i can classify as an otaku, I own a pocket PC, a tablet laptop and a pc, I create stuff with these (plus a dozen of consoles). That makes me a paradox, a time traveller or an Miyazakist ? -_-.

    I understand your fear of a possible idiocracy, but ,please, mr Miyazaki, don’t make an ass of yourself like Hirano aya ; most people live in urban areas where those skills are useless and their use may be at least subject to questions from the police (“erm.., kid ? what do you intend to do with this rope and a knife up there in that tree?”). Trust me, most of the people (i.e.non-specialist) who need survival skills more than literacy wish they don’t have to…

    More seriously, the oh-so-useless Literacy made faster and higher education possible, as well as “US Army Survival Field Manual FM 21 76”, which make “stone age” skills accessible to most.

    (fm21-76 is very useful and instructive reading, I have this in both paper and digital version, on all my mobile devices, including psp. Read it, you’ll be able to laugh even more at “survival” shows^^)

  • Ah the skill of clubbing, since its been outlawed and we can’t practice it any more its hard to get any leg any more. The art of Clubbing was finding your mate for the month with a stick called club, not the one between your legs and keeping them until they came back to there senses and went home (pregnant).

    But after 2,000 BC, we can’t practice it any more. He may be right….

  • Why does everyone have this perception that civilization and technology as we know it are going to be destroyed within our lifetimes? I suppose it’s common, though. Every generation has thought that theirs would be the last.

    For people living in 1st world nations today, these survival skills are next to useless. It’d be better to learn a trade that helps better society. And even if only 1% of people in the world know how to survive and fend for themselves, that’s enough. We are capable of talking and teaching one another… The skills are rather basic and easy to pass on when the time comes.

    Besides, fuck surviving like you sissies. I’ll go Road Warrior if shit really does hit the fan.

  • That’s just his oldness talking. Besides, if you learn how to read, it is easier to learn how to do these things, which really aren’t needed in this age anyway, much less performed by children.

  • He’s completely right. Only thing is that I think their brains should develop to the point where they can comprehend their own action and the possible consequences that may follow. Teaching a 2 year old how to use a knife and start fires doesn’t seem like a good course of action. My cousin is 2 and she thinks you’re playing even when she’s being punished. Plus she hits a lot. She’s only 2 so she’s not strong but it doesn’t take an Olympian to use knife.

  • I have to say Miyazaki Sensei is right, without survival skills, what are they gonna do when they have no tech to help them. I find the stuff I learned as a scout to be more valuable than learning computer coding. Granted I want to do comics but not all manga or comics are bad what is bad is letting all this modern stuff rule your life.

  • AFAIK people who are likely to need such knowledge still actively seek to learn them. Even then they’d still use the most efficient way at hand to do it i.e. with whatever technological advancement available to them.

  • I kinda catch what he said with the statement he made about Ipads, but this one went a bit too far.
    Well, I’m not sure. Maybe we have grown too dependent on technology, and so we would be fucked up if we somehow lost it all. We just must find a way to disconect ourselves at least a little of this technology, tough Miyazaki’s statement was a bit too desperate.

  • Okay, he has a logical stand point. Lets say some how all the electronics are wiped out on the entire planet?
    that can easily happen. Example, a Solar flare can disable all electricity, EMP a.k.a. electromagnetic Pulse can also do the same thing, nukes do that very well. lets say any of those happen on a large scale, could quite easily happen, act of terrorism, failed experiment or natural disaster can cause these things to happen. We would all be thrown back in to the stone ages once again. So the education of survival on your own is not a bad idea. There is nothing wrong with manga or anime or use of technology. Teach our kids survival and the would would do just fine without electricity. There’s a saying, “Give a man a fish feed him for a day. Teach a man how to fish, feed him for a life time.” Survival is a bare essential that everyone should be educated in. So in a way Hayao is correct. Agree or disagree with me its your choice.

  • Who’s going to be the whiny bitches dropping dead all stacked up in some stadium somewhere, waiting for disaster relief that never comes… and who’s going to be out there taking care of themselves?

    You think life can’t turn on a dime? Ask the good people of New Orleans. That was just in 2005, you ignorant morons. In America. Forget about that already?

    Get off your fat lazy asses and stop depending on everybody else for everything you’ve got.

    Hurricanes, tornadoes, tsunamis, earthquakes… terrorist attacks, war… you name it… life can change in an instant. Just because it hasn’t yet to you doesn’t mean it can’t or won’t. OPEN YOUR FUCKING EYES.

    Become a responsible human being and make yourself a person who can handle whatever this crazy life might throw your way.

  • This guy is absolutely right, whole fucking depressing money hungry society exists because of this. If we were taught the skills to build our own cottage middle of no where, hunt food, and keep yourself warm..

    We would not need this fucking shitty life as it is now.

    • Civ starts at 4000BC, while the stone age ends some 6000BC (save for some now extinct slowpokes), meaning it’s not even covered in the game. Never the less, writing is indeed a bronze age tech in civ. Not that you can’t beeline writing first, but those barbarian axemen are not going to be very impressed by your warriors armed with wooden clubs and poetry.

  • I too agree those basic skills are way more valuable than people give them credit for. and as someone already said, with the weather changes we are suffering and the extreme, and unexpected conditions you can face anytime, you don’t know when you can be needing them.

  • He’s right. Kid have no notion of life without technology. A good example of this is my cousin… He’s only 10 years old and yet he has a cellphone!! Why does he need to have a cellphone at that age?

  • Literacy = increased common knowledge of all peoples, made the masses aware of social and political change, widened views on science and technology, furthered the arts, allowed for better record keeping and historical documentation (i.e. we write down law, and people can actually READ it), allowed civilizations to read their religious texts and decide for themselves if it was or was not bs and; to this day, allows the common folk to know what crimes the governments of the world are committing with their tax dollars.

    “Stone Age”. . . does he mean paleolithic or neolithic? forget it. = While these were the foundations, they are in no way more important than people being able to learn on a wider level. Yes, people made fire, built homes and caught food without reading; but once people could read, they could learn how to cook said foods, or which trade groups could be profitable to do business with. Hell, he might as well have said; “nothing is more important than the foundation of the house”. Sure, it’s needed, but if that’s all your going to focus on, you might as well live in a hut.

  • What’s better then knowing how to live in a post apocalyptic world knowing how to rebuild civilization.
    I think more kids should be taught technical skills as too many people are clueless about how the technology they use works.

    Knowing how to use tools, perform basic repairs ,make simple machines, understand logic gates and what a transistor is should be a requirement.

    • Now now, transistors and logic gates are all good, but I think you should start from simple electricity. Sure, making a human or wind powered generator is easy, but how many people know how to make a dynamo? And how many know how to actually make a battery and efficiently store electricity?

      While we are on the basics, you should start with simple mechanisms are much more useful compared to electronics. Those tools are not going to craft themselves and metal casting is far from trivial. Leave electronics for when you have proper manufacturing up and running.

  • The man got a point people! learning how to deal with suvival is important! in the event of disaster such skills will improve your change of survirval.

    But but then again, learning how to do such without the abillty to actual read could also prove a problem.

  • The last thing we need to be doing is giving kids here the knives and teaching them how to start a fire. Its bad enough when they have matches, never mind teaching them to start a fire without them.

  • Our magnetic shield changes regular as clockwork eh. You can see it in the rocks, it’s not some cock and bull story.

    The next time it happens, and it could happen in your lifetime as easily as 100 years from now, you bloody well better know how to live without your fucking technology.

    Fortunately I’m old enough to have lived before most of it.

    • Anonymous says:

      yes, in the chaos that is looting and violence everywhere you sure will survive for long enough to be one of the very few survivors so that when supplies run out after several years you have a somewhat higher chance at survival

      That is assuming your ridiculous idea that the magnetic field will just flip all at once is correct oji-san. πŸ˜›

    • And I suppose by “clockwork” you mean “totally random from the point of view of geologists”? All we know is that they happen, but the intervals are very unpredictable.

      The biggest threat for electronics during a magnetic field shift are coronal mass ejections and the resulting cosmic radiation, and while capable of frying electronic equipment, they are hardly the apocalyptic force you make them to be.

      Besides, magnetic fields don’t change overnight and even if it did, significant coronal ejections don’t exactly happen every day.

    • It won’t destroy the technology the field change takes several hundred years and the magnetic field never is gone it doesn’t just flip.
      Many poles form until it stabilizes.
      During the flip the power grid may need beefing up.

      I can’t see many events including a nuclear war pushing technology back any farther then the late 1800s as scrap metal to rebuild civilization would be very common.
      Of course the above is if enough people know the basic of technology such as how to use a lathe etc.
      People like these would be invaluable in a post apocalyptic world.
      Guy who makes vacuum tubes
      This chick made a transistor.
      Home built steam engine
      Wood gas generator

      • Basically, it’s really hard to destroy all tech. But even if you were to succeed at that, you’d still have to destroy all books and brainwash us all into cavemen, because otherwise within a day there will be telegraph again, the first trains will be running within weeks and a few months later we’ll have restored some form of internet connectivity.

  • β€œA human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.” — Robert Heinlein

    Should probably toss in there: grow a garden, build a fire, set a snare, and bait a hook. Really, there is no real excuse to not know the basics.

  • I think he is right. Come on, there are many children who think that milk comes from purple cows, or that the chicken nuggets from mc donalds are real meat.

    Maybe not in such an extreme way, but the social skills you gain by “surviving” in the nature, like you are thaught at the boy scouts, do definitely differ from those you learn in this creepy surrounding called school. Because you learn the value of hard work on a playful way. But you get to understand how important it is to get water for the whole group, care for the fire etc.

    And i dont want to know how many children learned some moral issues from animes like DragonBall, actual inazuma eleven, and not from their parents or with the exposure to living people ?

    Kudos to him to actual speaking the truth.

  • i actually agree with him though not to the extreme
    kids should be taught those skills they should know what its like to work. to give them that power to work and make fire and survive of the land and such

    its important to know the hardships life can throw at you so they better appreciate what they have and so if disaster hits they know how to endeavour through it

    but i think literacy and writing are as important as those skills

  • Actually this guy has many valid points. I live in NYC now and NO ONE knows how to handle this snow.

    I lived and grew up in the Adirondack Mountains and my dad forced me to learn to do deal with harsh weather conditions. I’ve now become the buildings unofficial “Do everything for everyone guy” as everyone is fucking scared to leave their apartments.

    Basic skills are essential even in today’s world.

    • Oh, that is absolutely amazing how all the “civilized” nations are populated with nothing but weaklings. Just a little snow – and its a total collapse of infrastructure and a national disaster. In Russia – people just go to work on time at -35C. Man you USians are pussies. Not to mention that Katrina thing, was funny as hell, nobody knew to boil the water first, got diarrhea and died in pain ? Hahaha, that was a riot to watch the reports.

  • Strangely I agree with him. A lot of people today have no idea of the nature of the things around them. But when a SHTF moment does happen are these soft intellectuals going to make the cut as well? They can’t buy others to do it for them as their money will be worthless.

  • Man’s technology is also potentially his greatest weakness. We are totally capable of wrapping a cocoon of technology around ourselves for so long that we forget both how to maintain the cocoon and how to survive outside it that when it collapses we are threatened.

    This happens in two stages.

    1. It lets “Inferior” traits survive and add up and multiply.

    2. We forget the connection to nature, the universe, the natural world. We forget life, ritual, etc.

  • I kind of understand what he’s trying to say, He doesn’t want the youth to be too hooked on various forms of technology/media in present time, and go outside and do plenty of other hobbies and activities that doesn’t have anything to do with TV, computers, and etc.

    I mean, that’s what I think. And if I got it wrong then oh well.

    • Bakamoichigei says:

      What does wanting kids to be able to do basic things that previous generations took for granted have to do with fear of mortality?

      It seems to me to be a perfectly valid point. There’s this trend of people just coasting through existence relying on others for pretty much everything.

      Don’t know how to fix a stopped-up sink? Call the plumber. Cabinet/drawer broken? Call a carpenter. The electricity goes out and it’s like the end of the world for them.

      What he’s saying may be an oversimplification, but the general idea is, that kids need to learn more than how to read the text messages on their phone.

      If there’s any argument against his sentiment, it’s that we’re hardly making them literate, either. (And don’t even get me started on math…)

  • “hey boy, back when I was yo’ age we had to climb’ them trees to get to them fruits, they weren’t served nicely in those supe’mahkets where you can juhst walk in and pick ’em. When we wanna have fun we step outside and open them fire hydrants, we don’t have no game boy to play those pokee mans you kids got these days”

    • I’d rather follow Les Stroud’s and Ray Mears’ survival examples then Bear Gryls.
      Drinking piss directly is bad it’ll only make you thirstier now it can be distilled with a sheet of plastic and a container.

      Les Stroud did this once while explaining yes it’s mostly water but the other 5 to 10% is salts and and urea and you could go into shock if those toxins get reintroduced while you’re dehydrated.
      Also any water found in a river or such should be boiled before drinking or you’ll be very sorry a few hours later.

  • Well,learning those things does promote creativity at young mind’s.
    Most of the people with a lot of creative skills and good imagination,didn’t have everything served on a plate just like we today have.And learning how something is hard to create gives us more sense of respect towards things in life.And that is much better than being boring ignorant idiots…
    So I say Miyazaki has a point there

  • To be fair, such skills, perhaps not essential to modern daily life, have powerful educational value, not because of Zombie Apocalypse but because it teaches kids to be makers, to be active, to see they can create stuff that works, and learn that mistakes can hurt but are never the end of the life. Kids with those expeciences would have a much lower risks of becoming 2ch failures, herbivores and seiyuu stalkers.

    • And they should learn all this before they learn how to properly write? I understand what you guys are saying and I agree, but you should reread what he is saying. I love his movies, I just don’t like the guy personally since he thinks all technology is bad.

    • I learned most of my life skills from TV. Like Man Vs Wild…

      I now know I can skin a fish and war it as a shirt, or drink my own piss, or how do build a shelter, or drink my own piss, or use vines to make rope, or drink my own piss, or learn how to collect rain water after I drink my own piss.

  • Hatred for technology? survivalist tone? Fulminating against?
    who wrote this tendentious rubbish?

    Anyway, I do agree that Miyazaki’s claims are ridiculous, who needs to light a fire nowadays? does miyazaki need to light a fire himself? when was the last time that he did it? He should put his money where his mouth is and teach kids how to survive…er, the wild landscape of Tokyo.

    Mr. Miyazaki; do a new anime or retire…enough with the lectures.

  • Apparently in Japan, the old men can say anything they want and the rest will bend their collective asses and take the fucking, even when it’s obvious that they’re senile and themselves out of touch with reality.

    News like this only serves to make me hate Japan even more than before. On the outside, they seem to have changed from their pre-Hiroshima mentality, but NO! That’s not the case. Those who run the country have been pounded outdated principals by their forefathers and are now continuing the obsolete policies used in the administration.

    And they still wonder why their local economy has been in a slump for 20 years now….

  • the “skills” he talks about are all but completely useless nowdays.
    I dare you to start a fire in your garden and you’ll se what will happen…

    and I bet he doesn’t even know what he’s talking about. I dare him to make a video in which he shows us his “grand skills” in starting fires and putting it on youtube.

    besides, telling people what is wrong and right, what they should do and what they shouldn’t… is the epitome of wrongness.

  • Nature sucks. Anyone that says otherwise hasn’t had to live off the land for any amount of time. I don’t understand the climbing trees bit. How much do you need to learn there? Seriously. You grab a thick branch, put your foot on another, step up. Look for next branch…repeat. Unless he means trees that have no low branches that you have to snake your way up. Otherwise, trees are just like freaking ladders.

    Nature sucks. Tech rules. Virutal space rocks.

    • I take it you haven’t been in an actual forest. You won’t be climbing a 30m tree by the branches unless you are 10m tall yourself. And the snake method only works if you are very strong proportional to your body weight. A slightly overweight US city dweller who can’t even benchpress his own bodyweight can’t do it.

      I agree with your assessment on nature through. She’s a whore.

  • You know if you hate technology so much, why did you ever embrace it, with Princess Mononoke all the work from your studio has gone steadly down at the same time that movie featured alot of computer graphics, if you really hate it that much just ditch CG or at least just keep the 2D style for the entire film, not adding a mesh up castle like Howls.

  • If stupid old people who have no impact on the life of others, like this one, say stupid things, well, no big problem. It’s instead a big problem when stupid old people have political influence, like Ishihara. We all know what kind of disasters they’re capable of, so stop voting those retards!

    • I actually used some of those fire starting techniques off survivor man because I forgot a lighter while fishing or hunting and I wanted a fire.

      But then nature is not some scary foreign thing to me it’s just what you find in outside on the outskirts of town between the farms and by the river.
      It’s also where I go to play with my 4×4.

  • I bet you his kids/grandkids didn’t become NEETS or useless people in society like 65% of japan.

    Bad enough you can’t make your women happy, your insulting a guy who’s willing to pass on some knowledge to teach you 2d is paper and that is meant to whipe your ass with and say “THIS IS my money” my country says I have earned.

    Not, this is my girlfriend… this man is a GOD in Japan. He is Al Bundy minus the Shoesales man part.

    • would it make you feel differently if i informed you that =

      A) his son, Goro, is an anime director as well.
      B) his son publicly borderline hates his father’s guts.

      according to Miyazaki’s son, Miyazaki is a brilliant artist; but an utter piece of crap as a father or a family man.

      – Hayao made his wife quit any career of her own and be a good little housewife.
      – neglected his son when he was growing up.
      – and outright publicly bashed his own son when his son was working on his first film.
      – he’s great at telling other people what a good life should be, yet he couldn’t even create his own loving family life.

      is he trying to pass on some words of wisdom about life? yes.

      but before you claim he knows the secrets to a happy 3D life instead of all us dreamers living in 2D, be aware this is a man whose happy life exists only in the 2D fantasies he created.

      his own personal life was dysfunctional.

      you can worship him blindly as an infallible god if you want.
      but before you tell others to appreciate the real world around us, maybe you should learn to different your fantasies of a man from the realities of a man.

      his own son says sheep like you don’t have a clue.