An Interview with Haramura Masaki (Director)
In Depicting This Person, Japan Can Be Portrayed As Seen by An Ordinary Farmer in A Village
Q: Japanese society as a whole is unstable, and it has long been said that we are no longer in an era where everyone can progress aiming at the same things. What do you think the importance is in modern times of portraying and leaving behind an image of farmers?
HM: Since visiting Takahata-machi in my twenties, I have continued my relationship with the farmers, including Hoshi Kanji, a farmer and a poet, for about thirty years. I feel that compared to people living in an urban environment, farmers have a deeper intellect as human beings. The pursuit of making food is a fundamental part of being human. Through plowing the earth and cultivating food with their own hands, farmers have gained knowledge of what nature really is. They realize that they are living in and being kept alive by the mountains. Some would say that as human beings this is extremely precious. On the other hand, we are now in a competitive society that from a material perspective aims for things that will become precious. This set of values says is it best to go to a good school, get hired at a good company and get ahead. Especially since the post-war period of rapid economic growth, I think mass production and consumption became precious. There are probably some people who are proud of this. In modern times, economic growth has increased to a point, and we are starting to ask ourselves again if the physical items that become precious are actually what were precious. In the midst of this, there still remains the culture in farming villages of living collaboratively in a community. Of course, these kinds of villages have both good and bad points. But aren’t there some things we need to learn from this? This is one of the reasons I am fascinated with farmers.
Q: The image of farmers in Takahata-machi, Yamagata Prefecture and Tenei-mura, Fukushima Prefecture are depicted in your past works as well. Why did you consider trying to depict farmers in the Tohoku region?
HM: As I touched on earlier, it all started when I visited Takahata-machi and first met the farmers thirty years ago. I also had the opportunity to meet Endo Goichi, a farmer, when I went to Tenei-mura, and I met Kimura Michio through Hoshi Kanji.
Q: Why did you try to portray Kimura Michio in this film?
HM: The poems Kimura writes are excellent and very real. He deals with the issues of war and also was around in the post war era when there were many concerns. If you chronologically follow the poems he wrote, I believe you can see the other side of Japan during and after the war. I was also captivated by Kimura’s personality—I hadn’t met a farmer like him before. Kimura worked as the chairperson of steering committee for the Makabe Jin Culture Award and also has a tremendous aura. I was overwhelmed by the figure of him talking regally in front of an audience of hundreds. And yet when I went to another opportunity to see him speak, he was the same way and was able to speak candidly with the regular farmers. There is a difference between these two impressions, yet Kimura is always himself without any kind of acting. While he is a regular person, he studies and is intelligent. He is one of the farmers and also runs the garbage truck, is a migrant worker, and goes to gather remains from the battlefield. I think there are few people with this many varied and colorful experiences. He is charming in this way. The hearts of farmers are warm and deeply spiritual, but these are things that often cannot be easily expressed. But I believe Kimura, through the expression medium of poetry, has communicated what is hidden in the hearts of ordinary farmers. I thought that if I portrayed this person, one would be able to view Japan from the perspective of an ordinary farmer in a village.
(Compiled by Satsusa Takahiro)
Interviewers: Satsusa Takahiro, Suwa Keiju / Translator: Kat Simpson
Photography: Murakami Yuka, Haruyama Kahoru / Video: Oki Seiichiro / 2015-09-10 in Yamagata