Unseen Japan

Following several difficult years, Japan is opening up to the world again. We hope that many of us will be able to enjoy its culture with all our senses again. The theme of Eigasai 2023, the 16th edition of Japanese film and culture festival, is Japan that is not apparent at a glance – Unseen Japan.

Few Japanese get to visit all the islands in their lifetime, and fewer still get to know all the secrets of the diverse cultural life in distant locations. Traditions and rituals are intrinsically linked to nature and the cultural history of each specific place, and not ready for viewing at all times even for tourists from among Japanese citizens. Travellers from the rest of the world stand an even smaller chance to see and, more importantly, understand them. The things that remain out of our sight are not secret – they are just private, unseen, or forgotten to an extent. So, we invite you to a tour of Japan in space and time where we will get acquainted with it together and step by step.

We will begin in the freezing north, on the Hokkaido Island. Ainu Mosir will show you the meaning that bear has for the local citizens. Certain traditions could be considered cruel. We should not forget, however, that they often reflect thousands of years of cultural development and are vital for preserving the Ainu people’s cultural identity, especially in modern times, and as such they hopefully are also understandable.

Killing will take us to relatively recent history. After 250 long years of peace under the rigid shogunate, the imperial power is about to be renewed with the Meiji reforms and the final battles in the spirit of the samurais are ensuing. The film will show us the life of the ronins – samurais without a master. The traditional upbringing determines young men to desire a heroic death, but they have to find the path to reach their destiny all by themselves. 

Raising a little child as a single parent is difficult in any country and at any time. The film Step shows a young man fulfilling this task while giving up what appears to be the single most important thing that businessmen – modern-day samurais – have: his own career for the sake of his daughter. It is a film about the strength of the family, which even death cannot defeat.

On Gaku: Our Sound will take us to the world of music and animation. Many high school students form bands, but few possess as little talent as the three protagonists of the film. Despite that, they hope to find success at a rock festival. Hope is the last to die, even if a gang from a rival school is after you. The film was made using the rotoscope method by a single person over a period of seven years, and it captures the atmosphere of Japanese rock music in the early 21st century with incredible fidelity.

Sanka: Nomads of the Mountains will take us to the Honshu Island. The local free nomads roam the landscape, collect firewood, hunt, and help out in fields and farms for living. Japan has almost forgotten the very existence of this part of society. Technological development has caused it to disappear completely. Along with nature, the people gave way to Japan’s economic development.

We will complete our journey together on the isle of Okinawa with Born Bone Born. The final farewell to a family member, the senkotsu funeral ritual traditionally takes place several years after the person’s passing. Although very touching and intimate, even such a family reunion can lead to a string of unexpectedly funny events.

The Saturday animated film for children will illustrate what it is like to continue the tradition of running the onsen rural spas. It will not be an easy task for Okko, a city girl, especially when an annoying schoolmate who is managing a hotel resort in the neighbourhood despite her young age keeps preaching to her all the time. The heroine has a secret weapon, though – ghosts and spectres who are always ready to help Okko out.

The films for this year’s edition of the festival were provided by The Japan Foundation in cooperation with the Embassy of Japan in the Czech Republic and the Articlefilms and Nikkatsu distribution companies.

In conclusion, allow me to thank you, visitors, for coming, and all sponsors and partners as well as everybody involved for their support and love of Eigasai. We trust in a better future and are looking forward to seeing you in the Lucerna cinema and at other events organised by the Czech-Japanese Association.

Klára Poskočilová