Spirited Away borrows a lot of its side characters from various Japanese legends, although many are also original. One of the most mysterious such characters is No Face, who is perhaps slightly antagonistic, and comes off as a spirit of greed or something to that effect. The concept for No Face is very unique with a collection of strange powers that I don't know of in any other mythological spirit, suggesting to me that he might be a unique creation of Miyazaki.

Are there any comments by Miyazaki on the origin of No Face? Barring that, is there a clear origin in some Japanese mythology, or is he an original creation?

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    Ah, there's a really interesting somewhat relevant Tumblr post about Spirited Away actually containing subtle metaphors for childhood prostitution that Miyazaki has confirmed, but it would seem that Tumblr is down... Here's a Google Cache though: webcache.googleusercontent.com/… Probably not what you're looking for but you should at least find it interesting.
    – atlantiza
    Dec 13, 2012 at 0:12
  • @atlantiza Wow....just wow. Very, very cool details that I had no idea about!
    – Beska
    Dec 13, 2012 at 2:56
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    From what I've managed to dig up it appears to be an original creation, based on certain emotions and desires everyone has. "Kaonashi is a metaphor, the libido that everybody secretly harbors." Said by Miyazaki himself in an interview japattack.com/main/node/81 Since it was a movie created for 10 year old girls, with a setting of an old japanese "brothel". It might not be far fetched to assume Miyazaki made Kaonashi to give off a certain message about over attachment and finding your own way, even though the world if a confusing, tempting place to get lost in. Plenty to think about..
    – Suncho
    Dec 13, 2012 at 10:38
  • Should I turn my comment + some other info into an answer? If No Face really isn't based on anything, I doubt there is something where Miyazaki says "No Face is an original creation". Dunno if what I provided is on topic enough for an answer though.
    – atlantiza
    Dec 16, 2012 at 22:55
  • @atlantiza Go ahead. If no one can think of anything obvious being referenced, then he's probably original, and your comment is interesting enough that it deserves to be an answer IMO.
    – Logan M
    Dec 16, 2012 at 22:57

4 Answers 4


This interview was originally in the French movie magazine "POSITIF" (April 2002 volume). It was translated into Japanese by a Japanese blogger, and I've translated relevant parts into English. Some things may have been lost in the double translation, but hopefully the main points are the same.

Interviewer: By the way, where did Kaonashi, the creature who swallows everything, come from? Also, I noticed in this movie that Kaonashi, Boh, and Chihiro's parents are all obsessed with overeating.

Miyazaki Hayao: That's true. These characters' personalities are full of faults. I made this movie for my friend's two daughters. Like Chihiro, they are also 10 years old. I didn't want to show them something like "the struggle between good and evil." I wanted to show them the truth about the world. If young girls don't really see "good and evil" as something as simple as dualism, then it's something they must discover for themselves in the world. Regarding the overeating, in the past I saw "Babette's Feast". It's a very beautiful and enjoyable movie. In that movie, the characters also eat a lot.

Even when directly asked, he didn't give a very specific answer it seems. Though I suppose Babette's Feast was an important inspiration.

"Kaonashi is inside of everyone." Those are Miyazaki Hayao's own words. Kaonashi can't buy people's attention with money. In addition, he doesn't know how to hold on to people's hearts. Kaonashi is irritated by Chihiro's lack of desires and tells her to want. This is also a necessity of capitalism. There is a contrast those who swarm around Kaonashi when he gives out money and Chihiro's enlightened lack of desire for gold or food. Her resolution in this is so strong that it can even seem cold. There was no reasoning behind saving Haku. He clearly says to Kaonashi, "I won't give you what I want."

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    If Miyazaki was asked the question directly, and replied like this, then it's as good of an answer as we're going to get. Hence I've accepted it.
    – Logan M
    Dec 17, 2012 at 21:53

You can actually also relate the character of No-face (kaonashi) to a similar supernatural entity from Inu Yasha (S1 EP. 11). There was an episode where a demon Noh Mask was featured. This entity ate all the people it encountered; even though it's goal was to search for "a body that will not rot away, the concept is very similar to the character of No-face from Spirited Away. I guess they're based from a certain concept then manipulated to suit the storyline - :p


I thought that No-Face was a newly formed Spirit of Empathy, with no control over his abilities or understanding of the Spirit's Bath House, he took on the characteristics of the strongest emotions around him.


From my opinion, I suppose that No Face might someway originated from Japanese Theatre Ritual called "No" or "Noh" as the character, Shite, a supernatural character like ghost or god is wearing a similar white mask as No Face in Spirited Away. You can google "Noh Drama" for more info. xx

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    It is not very nice to write "you can google". You should at least provide a link here or even better just extend your answer.
    – Gerret
    Sep 24, 2014 at 15:45

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