"Little Forest" Shows you the Japan Heartland

It has become my favorite movie after "Happy Feet"

Thats right! I am not 12 years old. I actually have lived half a century as of this year.


Maybe that is exactly why I love Pixar films that show the funny side of nature and also carry a deeper meaning.

I am a huge movie fan and I try to see a film at least two or three times a month. Seeing movies in Japan is quite a joyful experience actually. People are quiet, seats are reserved in advance, theaters are super clean and the popcorn is freshly salted just like the type I loved at Mililani Town Center when I was in High School in Hawaii.

If you are 55 or above you can also get a nice discount on your ticket (when you go as a couple as long as one is 55 or older) so I always try to go with my partner who is 10 years my elder. We munch on popcorn, drink coca cola and laugh together at jokes and antics of the animated characters.

Recently, though, I was out to dinner with director Yasuhiro Hamano http://www.teamhamano.com/index.php
and he told me about a Japanese movie that was causing a great stir and becoming quite popular in China. It is called "Little Forest" and he described it as a simple, beautiful and quiet story of a girl living in the Japanese "Inaka" or countryside.

He is an avid fisherman and owns a fishing lodge in Wyoming, USA where he invites kids to learn about fishing, he is an expert fly fisherman and also knew everything you would want to know about Tenkara (which I wrote about in another article as it is also gaining a huge following in the US via www.tenkarausa.com). Realizing how much Hamano Kantoku loved nature and spoke fondly of Okinawa in a way that melded perfectly with my own love for this great beautiful world, I decided to see what "Little Forest" was all about.

Far Beyond Expectations, I've Already Watched the Film Four Times!

The film was available in the video shop near my house. I found that it is divided into two DVDs, the first is Summer/Autumn and then Winter/Spring.

Everything about the film tells the story of the hard, lovely, simple life of Japan's countryside.

As one of my fellow writers pointed out recently, 'it is very easy to pass by all the little hamlets as you race towards your city destination in Japan', but those little hamlets can be some of the most healing locations of all. The story centers around a place in Tohoku (NorthEastern Japan) called Komori (literally "Little Forest" when translated to English). An actress named Ai Hashimoto spends a year working on her farm, planting and harvesting her rice, making bread in her wood-burning stove, eating fresh tomatoes and downing cool Amazake on muggy Summer days.

This was originally a Manga and I would definitely like to read that as well. But for all of us who are trying to figure out or at least get a glimpse inside this mysterious country, the images in this film, her recipes, how the snow falls, the birds and insects in her rice paddy, the tools she uses, her interactions with the seasoned farmers....everything about it becomes a hint. This film, whether purposefully or not, will let you peek into the hardworking and heartfelt lives of those you wiz by on the Shinkansen as you travel to Morioka or Aomori.

Pick up the DVD, stick it in and maybe check your mails, etc., while you watch. There are few words and the story development is easy to follow. After a few hours of muggy green, cool night skies, heavy snows and blooming sakura, you will know you have somehow felt the heart of Japan and the Japanese mindset of love, hard work, effort and resilience.

There is something inside of all of us that would love to be that girl.


Former Deep Japan Writer

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