Yamagata Through Images

Moving pictures give us a real and vivid taste of unknown worlds. However, also projected onto the screen are places we already know and take for granted—screen fragments of hidden histories to which we are still connected, with the power to awaken our sleeping imaginations. At YIDFF, where moving images are gathered from all over the world, this program aims at an appreciation of the vast unexplored world of films from the place that makes the festival possible.

Screening and Q&A Living in Snow Country! What is Seccho?

In 1933, the former Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry’s Research Center for Rural Economies in Regions with Heavy Snowfall (Seccho) was established in Shinjo City, Yamagata. It was a pilot program that brought to light realities of life in snow country and experimented with a variety of methods for coping with severe snow accumulation. In addition to introducing a range of activities to help farmers continue production during the snowy season, the first head of the center, Yamaguchi Hiromichi, also recommended the adoption of local handicrafts, and with the help of the likes of Yanagi Soetsu, Serizawa Keisuke, Charlotte Perriand, and Kon Wajiro, Seccho became a center of the Japanese folk art movement. Join us as we examine Snow Country’s depiction of snow-covered Shinjo City and, together with archival footage from Seccho, look at the history of trying to live creatively in snow country—as well as at what the future may hold.

Snow Country


JAPAN / 1939 / Japanese / B&W / 16mm / 38 min

Director: Ishimoto Tokichi
Photography: Hashimoto Tatsuo, Inoue Kan, Ryujin Takamasa, Kurose Susumu, Narita Tsutomu
Line Producer: Koyama Yoshio
Supervision: Japanese Society of Snow and Ice, The Japan Folk Craft Association
Producer: Omura Einosuke
Production Company: Geijutsu Eiga-sha
Source: City of Shinjo Snow Village Information Office

Released six years after Seccho was established in Shinjo City, Snow Country meticulously presents the conditions of the people living there beneath tremendous snowfall, astonishing the viewer and bringing about a deeply moving awareness of the work of living. Omura Einosuke and Ishimoto Tokichi of the Geijutsu Eigasha production company spent three years on the ground shooting the film and bringing it to completion. Considered by some to be the origin of Japanese documentary filmmaking, it is not only a testament to the necessity of Seccho, but also a powerful and unsurpassed visual text in and of itself.

Post-Screening Talk

With a clear awareness of snow-inflicted damage and possible countermeasures, Seccho took a second look at life in regions with heavy snowfall and translated it into science. Moreover, its work went beyond merely helping the local industries, also becoming home to a universal cultural movement ahead of its time that found great value in local handicrafts and folk art. Join us for a closer look at its history and future possibilities.
*No simultaneous English interpretation is available for this event.

Yuki Tomio (Folk Researcher, Writer), Naruse Masanori (President of Hijirisha), Takahashi Shinichi (Farmer, Representative of Workshop Straw)
Chair: Kuroki Aruji (Writer)


16mm Film Screenings from the Yamagata Prefectural Education Institute

Located in Tendo City, the Yamagata Prefectural Education Institute houses a collection of 16mm films numbering close to 500 among its audiovisual materials. This includes many works that were produced or filmed in Yamagata Prefecture, precious local archival materials documenting a former time that are rarely made available to the public. This year we have selected three works from the collection that will bring Showa era Yamagata to the big screen. The landscapes etched into these films, as well as the people we see there busily going about their daily lives, offer some great clues for a deeper understanding of Yamagata.

Mogamigawa no uta: Mokichi

(Mogamigawa no uta: Mokichi)

JAPAN / Production Year Unknown / Japanese / Color / Blu-ray (Original: 16mm) / 46 min

Director, Narrative Structure: Matsuoka Shinya
Script: Shimizu Nobuo
Narration: Suzuki Mizuho, Kishida Kyoko
Supervisior: Tanaka Ichimatsu
Presented by: “Mogamigawa no uta” Production Committee
Production Company: Matsuoka Productions

Saito Mokichi’s poetry and the natural beauty of the Mogami River weave together in this Ministry of Education special selection, to depict the history, culture, and industry of the river basin and the people around it.

Wakai chikara

(Wakai chikara)

JAPAN / Production Year Unknown / Japanese / B&W / Blu-ray (Original: 16mm) / 16 min

Production: Yamagata Prefecture

Rural youth as they set their sights on starting up a new farming operation, seeking to heighten their ambition and skill.

Yamagata: Mizu to kurashi

(Yamagata: Mizu to kurashi)

JAPAN / 1979 / Japanese / Color / Blu-ray (Original: 16mm) / 28 min

Presented by: Yamagata Prefectural Board of Education
Produced by: Yamagata Prefectural Education Institute
Production: Yamagata Prefectural Audiovisual Library Council

Made by the Yamagata Prefectural Audiovisual Library Council to encourage reflection on what should be done to preserve our rich natural environment for the future to deepen our understanding of how water is connected to our way of life, and its importance.


Yamagata Through Images Special Edition

Handicapped-Accessible Screening (with Japanese subtitles and audio guidance)

The World’s “Top” Theater

(Sekaiichi to iwareta eigakan)

JAPAN / 2017 / Japanese / Color, B&W / Blu-ray / 67 min

Director, Narrative Structure, Photography: Sato Koichi
Narration: Osugi Ren
Producer: Takahashi Takuya
Supported by: Yamagata University Institute of Visual Culture
Produced by: Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival

Sakata, a merchant town that is half the adage “Sakai in the west, Sakata in the east,” was home to the Green House—a cinema dubbed “the world’s most deluxe theater.” It all but disappeared from popular memory, however, after the 1976 Great Fire of Sakata, which broke out in its interior. Following forty years of silence, this film shares precious testimonies regarding the theater from those who loved it.

Exhibition Movie Theaters in Yamagata

From the latter half of the Meiji period, when the first movie was screened, up until the present year that marks the film festival’s thirtieth anniversary, how did Yamagata City become involved with cinema and build up its film culture so that it could now be recognized by the UNESCO Creative City Network as a City of Film? This year at YIDFF there will be an exhibition of documents that tell the history of film exhibition in Yamagata City. Building upon the success of “The History of Yamagata as the City of Film,” which was a special exhibit held previously at the Yamagata University Museum, newly discovered materials will be on display.