In the bracket of what really wins March, we’re for team classic movies and carb-laden comfort foods all the way. Namely: Miyazaki’s animated masterpiece Spirited Away accompanied by DIY Japanese rice balls from Chef Hideki Harada.
A do-it-mostly-yourself take on a film festival for the stay-at-home era, SECOND SCREENS: Foodie Edition pairs a classic, widely available film with interactive—and edible!—elements for a dinner-and-a-movie experience done on your time.
Hope you’re hungry: The next course of SECOND SCREENS: Foodie Edition is now here in one place. This time, we’re serving up Onigiri (Japanese Rice Balls) from Chef Hideki Harada of Kiki in College Hill to celebrate 20 years of Spirited Away from Studio Ghibli.
I. The Film
Winner of the Best Animated Feature at the 75th Academy Awards, Spirited Away is the story of a young Chihiro who moves to a new town with her parents, where she discovers that they have been turned into glutenous pigs by the sorceress Yubaba. She takes a job in a bath house in order to survive, and to free herself and her parents from the curse. Chihiro realizes that food represents power and survival in this fantastical world, when her new friend Haku explains that “unless you eat something from this world, you’ll vanish.”
Stream, rent, or buy Spirited Away.
II. The Food
Chef Hideki Harada spits truth: “I didn’t really fall in love with cooking, more so, I loved eating.” (Speaking from experience at Kiki: You will, too.)
Watch as he talks with FotoFocus about his love for Miyazaki films, particularly the character cameos in Spirited Away, and why Japanese rice balls are his number one comfort food from childhood.
Then pull up the Onigiri recipe and follow along with Harada in the Kiki kitchen as he makes a modern take on Onigiri, that delicious hand-formed Japanese classic, which he chose as the ideal pairing for Spirited Away.
III. The Backstory
Can’t get enough of Spirited Away? Fear not, we have more action for you, this time behind the (animated) scenes.
Explore the history of the famed Japanese film studio Studio Ghibli and peek inside the creative process of director Hayao Miyazaki in “The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness” (2013). Directed by Mami Sunada, this documentary also digs into Miyazaki’s friendly rivalry with director Isao Takahata—with whom he co-founded Studio Ghibli.
If that kind of collaborative creative rivalry begets works like “Spirited Away”? Well, it’s on.
III. The Fun
Follow that Kittenbus to the Lucky Cat Museum. Both the Kittenbus and museum are owned by Micha Robertson, who in addition to loving cats, is a huge fan of director Hayao Miyazaki and modeled her ride after the beloved character in his short film Mei and the Kittenbus (2003). The Lucky Cat Museum houses more than 2,000 Maneki Neko, the waving cat statues you are greeted by at your favorite Japanese or Chinese restaurant. These “beckoning cats” leave all museum visitors with a little extra luck upon their departure.
The museum is currently closed due to Covid, but we will be very lucky when it is back up and running.
IV. Keep Eating
If all this has you jonesing for all the Asian cuisine you can get, check out Asianati, a platform that celebrates Cincinnati’s Asian food culture through stories and a local Asian food directory. Launched in 2020 by the Asian-American Cultural Association of Cincinnati (the organizers behind Asian Food Fest), the site offers an excellent restaurant guide organized by neighborhood, staff picks, and dishes to try. Asianati also runs Asian Food Week, which will happen May 3–9 to kick off Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. Follow @asianati_official for more details.