Mile Nagaoka

Marginalized communities, mountain priests in Yamagata, a secret festival on Okinawa’s Kudaka Island, forestry in Tokushima, organic farming in Shimane and a rain-making ceremony deep in Yamanashi Prefecture. …… When seemingly unrelated things are linked by the word ‘Ubusuna’, something we have all but forgotten today is brought back to life. “Ubusuna” is a documentary that helps us understand what kind of a country Japan is.

In 2012, immediately after the Tohoku earthquake, a caravan of foreign filmmakers from various countries, led by filmmaker Mile Nagaoka, travelled around Japan’s farming, mountain and fishing villages, visiting mountain priests and traditional hunters in Yamagata, organic farming in Shimane Prefecture, forestry in Tokushima, marginal settlements in Nagano and Yamanashi, and the mysterious remote islands of Okinawa.

When Nagaoka was hesitating over how to summarize the wide-ranging content they had collected, he suddenly thought of the word ‘Ubusuna’.

‘Ubusuna’ refers both to the land of a place, and to that place’s local deity. Its spirit is said to protect a person from birth to death.

While traveling with foreign writers and others, I came to believe that the acts and customs of the Japanese people, such as naturally putting their hands together in prayer, or bowing their heads to something, are what makes them both unique and strong. A the same time that we continue to engage in overexploitation and environmental destruction on the one hand, we also have a culture of praying for a single plant or tree. It may seem trite, but at a time when such things are being lost, I wanted to preserve those customs in some form. The completed film Ubusuna has been shown in many places in Japan and abroad, and even today, 10 years after its completion, the film is still receiving a lot of sympathy and acting as a trigger for people to take action themselves.



Mile Nagaoka