Synopsis by Brian Whitener
When an unusual cold snap put the lives of the Furuyashiki village farmers in jeopardy, Shinsuke Ogawa and his camera crew went high into the mountains of northeastern Japan to investigate. What they found was a beautiful landscape, a local culture rich in tradition, and unexpected reflection of modern life in this out-of-the-way, decidedly unmodern locale. The resulting documentary is as much about the plight of these hardworking villagers as it is about the modern Japanese state. Divided into two sections, the first part is a meditation on rice farming, science, and the weather. The second deals more directly the villager's lives but in a way that places emphasis on the impact of history. Ogawa attains this reflection through interviews with several village war veterans and through a stunning sequence of shots where an old man, in full military uniform, bugles against the country landscape. While not one of Ogawa's best known documentaries, A Japanese Village is nonetheless an interesting, free-form examination of lived experience in the context of history and environment.