Shiga movie: Satoyama (里山)

A full-length movie filmed in Shiga Prefecture called Satoyama (里山) will be released to theaters in Japan from Aug. 22, 2009.

In July, I was invited to a movie screening in Tokyo. The movie is a narrated documentary showing how people in Shiga interact and coexist with nature. The term “Satoyama” literally means “Human habitat and Mountain.”

A farming couple growing mushrooms on numerous tree branches, a honeybee keeper making sweet honey, etc. Besides people, the film also shows fantastic scenes of insects, birds, boars, and other wildlife. A pair beetles wrestling and one loses by being flung off the tree. A bird plunging into the river water to catch a small fish in its beak (shown in slow motion). Amazing how the photographer was able to plant the camera at the right places.

It is a very beautiful and engrossing film. The cinematography is first-class and the movie has won several international awards. Much of the movie was filmed in Takashima (probably Kutsuki) and Maibara. Shiga photographer Imamori Mitsuhiko also appears in the movie showing kids around the wilderness. The movie was produced by NHK and it was originally shown on TV as an “NHK Special.” Parts 1 and 2 of the Satoyama TV series were re-edited and combined with additional footage to make this fantastic movie.

See the movie trailer at the official Web site: (broken)

Amazon sells a DVD of the movie.

The Japan Times also published an excellent article about the meaning of the word “satoyama.”

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