Spreading the charms of Japan to the world from Fukui




Cannes Palme d’Or winning film “Shoplifters”



Recently, at the 71st Cannes Film Festival, Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda’s “Shoplifters” won the Palme d’Or. In Fukui, its advance screening was held last weekend and I went to see the film.


On the surface, modern Japan is thought to be affluent.
But it has problems piled up that we should discuss more seriously.
Seeing the film, various keywords related to the problems crossed my mind one after another. And, Kore-eda’s screenplay and direction reflects the problems without feelings and messages. In addition, all the cast members’ performance beyond acting creates the overwhelming reality. The two child actors are also really great.
Gradually, I didn’t feel that I was watching a film any more.
And, maybe the reason there were many eating scenes is that we cannot live without eating.


Director Kore-eda doesn’t make us cry easily and see things in black and white.
He purposely avoids them. I felt that his pride that he would not make a shallow film such people could cry easily and this is a right answer.


I don’t think that this film should not be criticized posing as a critic.
Nobody could say anything in a know-it-all attitude.
Even after you see the film, probably you don’t have the answer.
However, the film will give you a chance to think deeply once again about poverty, good and bad, life and death, love of family. (H.S)


Academy Award-winning film “The Shape of Water”



The winners of the 90th Academy Awards were announced last week and
“The Shape of Water” won the Oscar for best picture.
The film is now showing in Fukui as well and I went to see it.


(Photo from Fox Searchlight Pictures official Facebook page)


The film has warmth for vulnerable people who live quietly on the fringe of society.
One day, an amphibian man who had been worshiped as a god in a remote part of the upper Amazon, was carried into the hidden high-security government laboratory where Elisa (Sally Hawkins) works. Elisa got to communicate with the creature and she tries to get him out of the laboratory somehow. Elisa is a mute. Her friends Giles and Zelda who always support Elisa, both have a problem, actually.


The director Guillermo del Toro is well known as a big fan of Japanese cartoons and special effects movies. So I guess that the amphibian man’s body is a little bit like Ultraman. :) The director himself looks like a cute mascot character, and the amphibian man is well-balanced portrayed not too grotesque, kind of cute, not only he has intelligence but also has a living creature’s instinct.


When I saw the scene of wrecking of a new Cadillac, I felt the Mexican director’s criticism toward today’s America. The enemy role is Strickland, who is offensive to women, brutal and makes racist comments. And the scene of counterattack him by sign language is piquant.
The film was set in 1962 but it is like nowadays because of sexual harassment and political situation. I wonder why an amphibian man? As a matter of fact, the director del Toro saw the film “Creature From the Black Lagoon” a long time ago, and he felt sympathy for the creature, so he created this film. That sounds like him.


Even if I wrote that this is “A love story between female human and an amphibian man”, those who have not seen the film may not be able to imagine. But communications are not just limited to between humans. As there are several stories of marriage between a human and a non-human being all over the world, I recall a Japanese folktale “The Greateful Crane” and a legend of dragon god of Yashaga Ike Pond in Fukui. Also, I felt an animistic reverence for nature and non-human creatures. (H.S)



The film “A Street Cat Named Bob"



I saw such a lovely film which was a perfect one for this time of year.
The film “A Street Cat Named Bob” is based on a miraculous true story which was about a street musician in London and a stray cat Bob.


The leading actor, Luke Treadaway‘s natural acting is very good. Although he acts a fragile drug-addicted man, he makes me feel “He will be all right. I am sure that he will be able to retrieve himself.” I wonder it’s because of his eyes. Besides, Joanne Froggatt, who played Anna in “Downton Abbey”, played a strict and gentle woman in the film too.


And, after all, Bob!
Bob himself plays Bob in the film!
What a clever and cute cat! He is really a good boy.
Bob was always beside James when he performs on streets, sells THE BIG ISSUE and even when he was suffered from withdrawal.


The camera work through the eyes of a cat is interesting and it depicts how cats live well.
Especially, I understood completely James’s depression when Bob had gone missing.
Because I have the same experience.
I am sure that the film makes everyone happy at the end. (H.S)


Award : National Film Awards UK – Best British Film : 2017



Bob appears on the cover of THE BIG ISSUE JAPAN with a special edition
“Bob and James go to Tokyo”.
FYI, VOL. 316 which Bob first appeared is sold out!
And, Bob has London Underground’s commuter pass.


”Fukui saving dogs and cats team” displays the panel and a donation box is placed
during the period of the film showing.

The Japanese documentary film “A man named Kamejiro, who was feared most by the U.S. occupation”



I went to see the documentary film “A man named Kamejiro, who was feared most by the U.S. occupation” the other day.



The film is about a hero of Okinawa, Kamejiro Senaga, the only person who was against the U.S. occupation without fear of clampdown during occupation period in Okinawa.
Although I love Okinawa, I didn’t know that there was such a really great person in Okinawa. An Okinawan folk song group, Nenez even sings the song “Tell me, Kamejio”.


Originally, this film was a TV documentary program and broadcasted in August last year and
it produced a lot of reaction, despite it was a local one in the Kanto region. So the director Tadahiko Sako (53 years old) decided to make a film, collected from other sources,
re-edited and completed the film. The film has been a hit since its advance screening in Okinawa. Ryuichi Sakamoto, who supported the film’s purpose, wrote its original music and also an actor Ren Osugi narrated in the film.


[Repression on people]
Maybe there are only few people who associate this word with Japan.
However, in Okinawa, where was under American military occupation after the war,
people had been suffering from their tyranny.
An former marine who was involved in the reversion of Okinawa to Japan said with a destressed look, keeping his tears back, “It was a dishonorable history of America. The U.S. Government was quite afraid of Okinawan people.”
In 1955, under the occupation, a rape murder of a young girl occurred in Kadena village
in Okinawa. The victim, only six-year-old Yumiko died biting down on her lip and keeping a grip on a few grass. The criminal, a U.S. soldier got the death sentence by court-martial but he was commuted to a life sentence after all. And, crimes and accidents by U.S. military have been happened over and over again. Furthermore, on 13th of this month, a window of a large transport helicopter of the U.S.marine fell in the school yard of an elementary school in Futenma town.


In the film, I was impressed that Kamejiro, who became a Diet member and raised questions sharply and honestly to Eisaku Sato, Prime Minister of the time. Sato tried to answer diligently but I could see the difficult situation at the time.


The director, Sako said “I hope the film leads you to think about the shape of a future Japan through Kamejiro, who is the origin of Okinawa, beyond conservative and reformist.” (H.S)


The director, Tadahiko Sako, who visited a theater in Fukui City in advance of the screening. (From Fukui newspaper on November 24th)

“Hacksaw Ridge” directed by Mel Gibson



I saw “Hacksaw Ridge” directed by Mel Gibson.
The title “Hacksaw Ridge” means Maeda escarpment in Urasoe City, Okinawa Prefecture,
where was the most fierce battlefield during World War II.
Even the US Army described it as “Gathered all Hell”.


The movie is about Desmond Doss, a combat medic.
It depicts battle scenes realistically and its another major theme is belief.
There is a scene that “Murder is the most serious sin” from the Bible.
I felt something was wrong about saying “It’s the most serious sin, so you must not kill people” (Maybe it was because of the Japanese subtitles).
Doss said “I also fight for my country. But I want to save people, not kill.” and he persisted his belief.


Meanwhile, he said that the attack on Pearl Harbor made him decide to volunteer for the army. And it reminded me how American people were shocked by the attack.


In the film, needless to say, the war was absolutely depicted through the eyes of the US Army. It didn’t touch on frightened Okinawan people at constant naval gunfire and fire radiation by the US Army at all. According to the US Army, the Japanese soldiers who are not scared of dying were very eerie in the film. And, from the Westerners point of view, probably “Harakiri” is a must, so a Japanese soldier was taken in close up only in the scene of killing himself.


According to the History of Urasoe City, about 45 percent out of its 9,217 population died in then Urasoe Village. 549 people were killed in Maeda district alone. With the film release, Urasoe City had associated events. And, a guide who shows around Urasoe Castle ruins said that she has guided over 100 people including US personnels in a day.


Near the end of the film, the US troops forced to retreat many times raised morale again and rushed to Maeda escarpment. When I saw the scene, I felt bitter resentment because I couldn’t understand why they still charge, what lay ahead. Is this justice, bringing the death of many people?


Desmond Doss passed away in 2006 aged 87. After the war, he visited Okinawa twice
and had given a media interview. In Okinawa, a fund-raising activity has started to build Doss’s monument because he tended the wound of Japanese soldiers too.
When it is built finally, it will be a new monument symbolizing peace in Okinawa, where the phrase “Life itself is a treasure” still keeps living. (H.S)


From “Hacksaw Ridge” Japanese official website


Photo from a battle site tour of Maeda escarpment (From the official website of Urasoe City)


On Google Maps, “Desmond Doss Point” is marked on the Maeda escarpment.