久石 譲 – ハウルの動く城
Joe Hisaishi – Howl’s Moving Castle

THE PEERLESS WALTZ OF THE JAPANESE JOHN WILLIAMS FOR CALCIFER, SOPHIE & HOWL

howl's moving castle

If you had to choose only one artist to listen to the rest of your life, who would it be? I’d pick Joe Hisaishi. The magic of his music for Howl’s Moving Castle is comparable to that of the famous demon from the film, Calcifer 🔥

Discover everything about the Japanese John Williams (that’s how he is called), the movie, and our Trembol “Merry-Go-Round of Life (人生のメリーゴーランド), a real wonder to the rhythm of waltz.

A lot of music and emotions await you, here we go!

Joe Hisaishi Summer

Who is Joe Hisaishi 久石 譲?

Joe Hisaishi (久石 譲 Hisaishi Jō) is the artistic name of Mamoru Fujisawa (藤澤守), a Japanese pianist, composer and musical director born in 1950, responsible for more than 100 soundtracks and albums, is that all!

Most known film scores: Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, Porco Rosso, Totoro and Howl’s Moving Castle

Hisaishi started his career as a solo artist composing popular Japanese electronic music. His first album in 1981 is MKWAJU, which he will cover later in 2009 with an orchestra:

Joe Hisaishi One Summer’s Day | Spirited Away (千と千尋の神隠し)

Joe Hisaishi has mainly worked with Hayao Miyazaki, the most important director of Studio Ghibli. They were awarded with the Best Animated Film at the Oscars in 2003 for Spirited Away .
Joe Hisaishi biografía

One Summer’s Day is part of Spirited Away soundtrack and one of the best Joe Hisaishi’s compositions.

Joe Hisaishi’s amazing work

He wrote in 2008 Okuribito (Departures) film score. The movie, directed by Yōjirō Takita, won the Best Foreign Film Oscar.  

Joe Hisaishi & London Symphonic Orchestra | Departures

He was awarded the Medal of Honour by the Government of Japan in 2009 for his services to the arts. He is not lacking any art, right? 😊

Joe Hisaishi directed in 2001 his own film called Quartet. Of course, the soundtrack is his as well.

Another director with whom Hisaishi has collaborated many times is Takeshi Kitano. Do you know him? He was famous in Europe because he hosted in the 90s a comedy TV show called Takeshi’s Castle.

Takeshi Kitano Humos Amarilllo

Joe Hisaishi The Legend of the Wind from the film Nausicaä

What is Howl’s Moving Castle | ハウルの動く城?

It’s an Anime movie (trailer) which original soundtrack was composed by Joe Hisaishi. The name of the film in Japanese it Howl no Ugoku Shiro, and the animation is absolutely astonishing. As almost every work by Hayao Miyazaki for Studio Ghibli, it’s a pretty conceptual movie.

Joe Hisaishi música El Castillo Ambulante con Calcifer

The_Promise_of_the_World_Front | Fair Use (Under CC-BY-SA)

Howl’s Moving Castle is based on the first novel of a trilogy of fantasy books from the British author Diana Wynne Jones.

  • Howl´s moving Castle
  • The Castle in the air
  • House of Many Ways

Howl’s Moving Castle explained [NO SPOILERS]

The film tells the story of Sophie, a young woman who is cursed by a witch and becomes an old woman. Sophie decides to go to Howl’s Moving Castle, because he is a wizard and may break the spell. The action happens in a fictional and technological world amid a war.

Joe Hisaishi música El Castillo Ambulante con Calcifer

Howls_Moving_Castle_Soundtrack_Slipcase_Front | Fair Use (Under CC-BY-SA)

Hayao Mizayaki

Hayo Miyazaki was totally against the 2003 Invasion of Iraq by the United States and wanted to reflect in this film issues related to pacifism.

For her part, Diana Wynne Jones wrote the novel at age 52, under an illness that made her feel much older than she was. She reflected that sentiment in the young protagonist, Sophie, whom a spell turns into a 90-year-old woman.

Howl, Sophie and Calcifer the fire demon. Howl’s Moving Castle Characters

I share a little teaser of the film so you can meet our three characters: Howl the wizard, Calcifer the fire demon and Sophie the young elderly woman.

Calcifer the fire demon is so popular that you can find all kinds of merchandising related to him. The best-selling item is a little purse

Sophie, Howl y Calcifer

Castle_in_the_Sky_croquis-35 | Fair Use (Under CC-BY-SA)

There are many people, mostly in Japan, with a Calcifer Tattoo

Calcifer is a fire demon who is tied to the wizard Howl by a contract that does not allow him to leave the castle.

He vows to use his magic to destroy Sophie’s curse if she helps him break the contract between him and Howl.

Calcifer el demonio de El Castillo Ambulante

Joe Hisaishi Merry-go-Round of Life from Howl’s Moving Castle

Trembol | Why did we choose Merry-go-Round of Life out of 100 works by Joe Hisaishi?

I dicovered this song in a YouTube video by the great Jaime Altozano (in Spanish with English captions) where he technically decomposes the film score (more in our Technical Note).

As you can imagine, I fell in love with Merry-go-Round of Life and Joe Hisaishi’s piano.

All the imaginary of Japanese Anime invites you to escape to fantasy worlds, but when you hear a sublime melody like this, the rhythm of the waltz transports you directly there, you can’t help it, and if I tell you the truth, it’s better to let yourself go because it is an experience that you should not miss. How to do it? Put on your headphones, close your eyes and listen to the whole song. Leave the rest to Hisaishi.

 

Joe Hisaishi explains his feeling about music:

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Without intelligence there is no sincere emotion, and vice versa. Sentiment is the indispensable element of truth and honesty […]. I am a sentimental humanist that likes to translate emotions.

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Sin inteligencia, no hay emoción sincera y viceversa. El sentimiento es el elemento indispensable de la verdad y la honestidad […]. Yo soy un humanista sentimental al que le gusta traducir emociones.

Jean-Cristophe Arlon, Didier Leprêtre,“ Interview with Joe Hisaishi ”, Cinéfonia Magazine

You can’t miss ⭐️ The best parts of Merry-go-Round of Life

1. The emotion of the piano at the beginning.

2. The lively and magical central bridge.

3. The final waltz invites you to dream.

Joe Hisaishi in Budokan | Studio Ghibli 25 Years Concert

MEET STUDIO GHIBLI AND ITS 25 YEARS

Studio Ghibli is responsible for dozens of world-famous Japanese animated films such as: Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, Totoro, Kiki: Delivery Service, Porco Rosso and of course, Howl’s Moving Castle.

All these films have something else in common, their soundtracks are signed by the great Joe Hisaishi.

Joe Hisaishi work is so influential to the overall film that the studio requests him to compose an “image book” of music, which is an early composition to help to shape the direction and writing before the final production. This is a completely contrary technique to that of any other animation studio, including Disney or Pixar, where the music is composed after the film is finished or almost.

This massive concert featured performances of these signature Miyazaki film scores composed by Hisaishi, conducting from the piano, and the 200-member New Japan Philharmonic World Dream Orchestra, along with six featured vocalists, the 800 combined voices of the Ippan KouboRitsuyuukai and Little Singers of Tokyo choirs, plus a 160-piece marching band. Altogether there were some 1160 musicians and singers on stage, backed by images from Miyazaki’s films projected on a giant screen

As a commemoration of the 25 years of the studio, 3 concerts were held in the Japanese Nippon Budokan auditorium in 2008. The concert was conducted by Joe Hisaishi, who also played the piano alongside more than 1,000 musicians: the 200-member New Japan Philharmonic World Dream Orchestra, along with six featured vocalists, the 800 combined voices of the Ippan KouboRitsuyuukai and Little Singers of Tokyo choirs, plus a 160-piece marching band.

It is a masterpiece that you should at least see once in your life.

WATCH THE FULL JOE HISAISHI IN BUDOKAN CONCERT IN HD

Concert Repertoire

If you want to go directly to a specifig song, here is the complete repertoire of Joe Hisaishi’s concert in Budokan, including the time when each song begins:

Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind

0:00:42 Opening [Legend of the Wind]

0:03:07 Requiem

0:04:26 A Battle Between Mehve and Corvette

0:05:50 Tooi hibi (Days Long Gone)

0:07:10 Tori no Hito (Bird Person)

Mononoke Hime

0:11:32 Ashitaka Sekki (Tale of Ashitaka)

0:13:51 Tatari gami (The Curse God)

0:16:14 Mononoke Hime (Princess Mononoke)

0:19:40 Umi no Mieru Machi (A Town with an Ocean View)

0:24:12 Shoushin no Kiki (Heartbroken Kiki)

0:25:35 Kaasan no Houki (Mom’s Broom)

0:29:36 Joe Hisaishi’s Presents Orchestra and Choruses

Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea

0:31:22 Shinkai Bokujyou (Deep Sea Ranch)

0:32:55 Umi no Okasan (Mother of the Sea)

0:36:51 Nami no Sakana no Ponyo (Ponyo of the Fish of the Wave)

0:38:37 Fujimoto no Tema (Fujimoto’s Theme)

0:41:12 Himawari no Ie no Rondo (Rondo of the Sunflower House)

0:44:29 Haha no Ai (Mother’s Love)

0:45:21 Imouto-tachi no Katsuyaku (Little Sisters’ Activities)

0:46:12 Haha to Umi no Sanka (Song of Praise for Mother and the Sea)

0:46:59 Gake no ue no Ponyo (Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea)

Laputa, Castle in the Sky

0:50:29 Hato to Shounen (Pigeons and a Boy)

0:52:54 Kimi o Nosete (Carrying You)

0:57:51 Taiju (The Huge Tree) ~Porco Rosso~

1:01:55 Kaerazaru Hibi (The Bygone Days)

1:43:21 (Encore) Porco Rosso: Madness

1:06:50 Hayao Miyazaki’s Video Address to the Audience

Howl’s Moving Castle

1:08:42 Symphonic Variation “Merry-go-round”

1:15:51 Cave of Mind

1:18:13 Jinsei no Merry-go-round (Merry-Go-Round of Life)

1:21:32 Joe Hisaishi presents Ayaka Hirahara

Spirited Away

1:22:05 Inochi no Namae (The Name of Life)

1:26:28 Futatabi (Reprise) ~Tonari no Totoro~

1:31:03 Kaze no toori michi (The Path of the Wind)

1:32:08 Sanpo (Stroll)

1:36:40 Miyazaki-san and Lasseter-san sing Sanpo

1:37:11 Tonari no Totoro (My Neighbour Totoro)

1:41:13 The “Mysterious Guest” revealed!!!

1:43:21 (Encore) Porco Rosso: Madness

1:47:29 (Encore) Princess Mononoke: Ashitaka and San

Background Image: Fair Use by ND SA 3.0

Dream Songs The Essential Joe Hisaishi

If you like Joe Hisaishi as much as we do this is the perfect album. It features all the songs we have included in this article and many others. The best album I’ve heard in a long time. These are the links to Amazon and iTunes. Joe Hisaishi Essential songs

Did you know...?

Hayao Mizaki, Howl’s Moving Castle director, commented once that this was his favourite movie from his filmography.

The film grossed 235 million worldwide, thus becoming one of the highest grossing films in the history of cinema in Japan. It was also nominated for Best Animated Film at the 2004 Oscars.

The first piece that Joe Hisaishi proposed Miyazaki (the director) to be the main theme for the film was “Mysterious World”, but he wasn’t satisfied. Then Hisaishi played 3 new melodies to Miyazaki and he chose our waltz “Merry-go-Round of Life”. Goodness! 🙂

🤔 Google most searched question about Joe Hisaishi

Why did Joe Hisaishi change his name?

His real name is Mamoru Fujisawa, but he changed it to “Joe Hisaishi” to make it easier to pronounce for his international public.

The name in kanji (Japanese writing) is 久石 譲, that can be read Kyūishi Jō. If you notice, it sounds a bit like Quincy Jones, the famous American music and composer, who happen to be Joe Hisaishi idol.

Here’s how to pronounce his name in Japanese:  

How old is Joe Hisaishi?

Joe was born on December 6, 1950 in Nagano (Japan). As of 2020, he is 69 years old.

Howl's Moving Castle Cast. Which are Howl's Moving Castle voice actors?

These are the actors that give voice to Howl, Sophia, Calcifer and other main characters from Howl’s Moving Castle in different countries.

The most famous actor from the list is Christian Bale who plays Howl’s role in the English version of the film:

christian bale howl's moving castle

 Howl’s Moving Castle Cast

Much more | Versions, Social Media...

Technical Note about Joe Hisaishi and Merry-Go-Round of Life

  • Is Merry-go-Round of Life a waltz? Why?

Yes, it is, because a waltz recalls movement, and the movie is just about that, a castle in montion. What a great idea for Hisaishi to use a waltz!

  • What is Joe Hisaishi’s musical style?

It’s a harmonious mix of electronic music, Japanese tradition, European classical music and over all the constant seek for simplicity and minimalism.

  • In the soundtrack there is a music piece for each character, just listen:

Sophie’s theme is our “Merry-Go-Ride of Life that is constantly playing in the film score, like: 1. Opening – 3. A Walk in the Skies – 6. Sophie in Exile – 12. In the Rain – 20. You’re in love – 24. Sophie’s Castle

Howl’s theme is a more sad, but it still has a magical touch. You can find it in the soundtrack: “Track 16. The Secret Cave”. It also has its own complete song called “The Cave of Mind”, here it is:

Sophie and Howl’s themes mixed in “Track 25. The boy who swallowed a star”. Jaime Altozano, explains it much better than me, but our conclusion is the same, what Hisaishi does is terrific:

  • Merry-Go-Ride of Life Chords

C minor 7 9 (C – E – G – B – D) – D Major 7 b9 (D – F# – A – C# – D) – G minor (G – B – D) – G minor 7 (G – B – D – F) – E Major Maj7 (E♭ – G – B♭ – D) – F Major 7 (F – A – C – E) – B Major Maj7 (B♭ – D – F – A). It is a complex and beautiful harmony.

  • Merry-Go-Ride of Life Musical Structure

As it is a waltz, the piece generally holds its strong 3/4-time signature beat. The piece consists of three sections, the third being a variation of the first. It consists of 16 bars phrases of melodic material and some bridging bar in the middle. It also modulates (change from one key to another during the development of a work) upwards in the final part which makes you want the music to carry on.

Joe Hisaishi explains how to compose music for an Anime

It’s always the same process for each film, Hisaishi says. The production lasts from two to three years because director Miyazaki is very picky and demanding.

Before handing me a true screenplay, he gives me a rather simple kind of storyboard, he introduces the characters to me, and he speaks a bit about the story. Then he starts working, while I advance on my own.

He also gives me ten keywords, on which I construct my work.

In the first year, I begin to compose the music and after one year it is possible to make a CD: it is the first CD of the film, the image album, that is released before the full realization of the work.

This image album has two purposes: it allows me to realize what the music will be like later, but it also allows Miyazaki, who continues to draw, to work while listening to the music.

– Joe Hisaishi in Oliver Fallaix, Ilan Nguyên. Interview with Joe Hisaishi. “Anime Land” special issue (January 2000) –

merry go round of life

Image_Symphonic_Suite_Howl’s_Moving_Castle_Booklet_Front | Fair Use (Under CC-BY-SA)

howl's moving castle
howl's moving castle

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The best Jon Hisaishi songs 🥇

As i know that you have fallen in love the music of this unique composer, we’ve gone through all Joe Hisaishi albums and selected (along with the songs that we have already presented in the article) the best works.

Joe Hisaishi Playlist includes: Silent Love (from Takeshi Kitano “A Scene in the Sea”), “Princess Mononoke” main theme, Turning Season (from “KiKi’s Delivery Service”), Spring, Water Traveler, The Rain, etc.

To listen to the complete playlist you’ll need a free Spotify account.

TUNES

The best song, full of emotion, selected by Trembol for you.