When I told a good friend back in England that I wanted to make a documentary that showed Japan wasn’t just a country of weird things and people, he replied bluntly:
“But Japan is weird”
Though I am Japanese, I was born and raised in the UK, and knew little of my own country outside of Japanese and English media representation. I never felt compelled to live in Japan when I was young, but in 2008 I took a chance and moved here to be with my Japanese wife to be. Oddly, I felt more Japanese in England than I did in Japan; over here I felt almost like an undercover westerner – for the most part able to blend in with my inconspicuous looks and clumsy but linguistically correct Japanese. Under this casual ruse, I began to observe how far the portrayal of Japan by western media was warped due to the innate focus on the sensational, the crass and the disturbing elements of a complicated culture, and a part of me felt a desire to redress this inbalance.
It was during my first stint living over here that I happened to become friends with an American artist who was, by a convoluted chain of events, renting a small house in Yadorigi as a second home. He had in turn been befriended by Tanaka-san, a brilliant bio-chemist and obsessive hoarder, who had helped him settle in this remote village. When I visited there and met Tanaka-san for the first time, I was immediately charmed by his friendly manner, as well as his fabulous collection of “junk” that threatened to consume his whole house. I soon learnt from him of other fascinating characters in the village, and I became enamoured with the idea of documenting them all, to reflect a more human side of Japanese people and society that often gets overlooked.
In 2010, I was forced to move back to the UK for my work, however the desire to make this documentary was stronger than ever. Having kept in contact with many of the people in the village, I returned early the following year for a month shooting what would become the short film “Yadorigi: A Village in Portraits” and the start of the bigger project.
Shot on a cheap consumer camera, with no budget, and with the help of old colleagues from the Farm Post Production, Dan Gill and Desiree Ivegbuna, it was polished up and, to our joy, was accepted by the prestigious Encounters, Raindance and Hot Springs film festivals.
The festival run inspired me to start this blog, and complete the story. During the course of this project, I will be posting more videos and articles, including making the full 30 minute version available to watch online. I hope to learn and show more about the people of Yadorigi throughout the whole gamut of personalities and backgrounds, and create a discussion on modernity, and on both the positive and negative aspects of rural communities in general.