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Home of Zero fighter drawing Miyazaki fans

Chunichi Shimbun

“Kaze Tachinu” (“The Wind Rises”) was director Hayao Miyazaki’s last feature-length anime before he retired this month.

Because of the film’s success, more people are visiting a plant in Aichi Prefecture where a restored fighter plane featured in the movie is being exhibited.

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd.’s Komaki-Minami plant in Toyoyama has a restored Mitsubishi Navy Type 0 Carrier Fighter, or Zero, on show there, the same plane shown in the film that portrays the life of Jiro Horikoshi, chief engineer of Japanese fighter aircraft.

Company officials say they hope the exhibit will give more people the opportunity to learn that Aichi was traditionally an important area for the aircraft manufacturing industry.

Horikoshi, who was born in 1903 and died in 1982, is depicted in the animated movie as an engineer who worked tirelessly to create an aircraft fighter for the Imperial Japanese Navy at the Mitsubishi Internal Combustion Engine Co., MHI’s predecessor.

The Zero on show was made at the Oe factory in Minato Ward, Nagoya, in 1944. Its remains were discovered on the island of Yap, one of the Caroline Islands in the Pacific Ocean, in 1983. The fighter was restored by MHI in 1990.

Included in the archives room at the Komaki-Minami plant are Horikoshi’s sketches, letters and photographs, as well as the blueprints and manuals for the Zero.

Visitors are also able to see the flush rivets, items highlighted in the film as being essential in smoothing out the external metal surfaces of the aircraft.

The archives room is open to the public twice a week, and has reportedly seen an increase in visitors with children since the film was released on July 20.

Normally, the exhibition draws about 400 visitors a month, but that rose to 513 in July and 722 in August.

“I feel very moved after seeing the actual Zero and realizing that this is what inspired Hayao Miyazaki to make the anime,” said Kazuhide Senda, 46, a bookshop owner from the town of Fuso, who came to see the plane after seeing the movie.

Takashi Amano, 73, head of the archives room, worked as a test pilot for MHI and flew fighters for the Air Self-Defense Force.

Amano said he became a Miyazaki fan after watching “Kurenai no Buta” (“Porco Rosso”).

“The director’s love of airplanes is clearly shown (in the film), and that is something we have in common,” he said.

“I think he wanted to complete his final masterpiece with his beloved propellers,” Amano said, referring to “Kaze Tachinu.”

“I want to commend the director for the wonderful job he did with all of his works.”

The archives room is open to the public on Mondays and Thursdays. There is no entry fee, but visitors are required to make advance reservations.

For inquiries and reservations, call the Komaki-Minami plant at 0568-28-1112.

This section, appearing Saturdays, features topics and issues from the Chubu region covered by the Chunichi Shimbun. The original article was published Sept. 7.