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Charles Hill 01-23-2011 01:37 AM

Slow Japan
Last year I met two documentary filmmakers completely by chance at a bus stop near my home in rural Japan. I invited them to stay in my home for the night and got to know them better.

They are Max and Gaia, Italians living in Paris and were in Japan filming a documentary on the topic of "speed" in this country. They are truly wonderful people.

Max has recently put up two clips on youtube. Please enjoy!

A personal request. If you like the videos, please let them know in the comments section. I am sure they would appreciate the support very much. Thumbs ups are good too!


guest1234567 01-23-2011 02:58 AM

Re: Slow Japan
Thanks for sharing, it reminds me the beautiful days I had in Tokyo..:)

lbb 01-23-2011 05:46 AM

Re: Slow Japan
I want to say something profound about what's revealed by experiencing the world (the same road, same street, same anything) at different paces, but I think the experience makes it self-evident. Nice work.

Charles Hill 01-23-2011 09:50 PM

Re: Slow Japan
I`m glad you guys liked it.

For those who don`t speak French, they walked from Tokyo to Kyoto. On the way, they passed through Kumano, the place O`Sensei was born and considered his spiritual center. The last part of the second clip looks to me like Kumano.

Charles Hill 06-09-2011 05:21 PM

Re: Slow Japan
Here is the newest clip, a trailer for the upcoming documentary, Slow Japan. This one has more scenes from Kumano, which O'Sensei considered his spiritual home. Enjoy!

guest1234567 06-10-2011 01:12 AM

Re: Slow Japan
Thanks Charles, it is very interesting, please tell Max and Gaia grazie mille.

Peter Goldsbury 06-10-2011 05:57 AM

Re: Slow Japan

Have you read Donald Richie's The Inland Sea, or Alan Booth's The Road to Sata and Looking for the Lost? And there are Alex Kerr's books, which I do not like as much. These are pen pictures, for the authors were not filmmakers.

I hope the two filmmakers do a good job and show unique things that you could not see anywhere else. One of the clips had been removed from Youtube, but you can make a film of a large urban intersection or of people boarding a train, anywhere in the world, and then conclude that living in a large city is 'fast-paced'. On the other hand, I spent several years living in Paris and London and amid all the bustle there are places where life can be experienced at a much slower pace.

The best parts were the reactions of the Japanese natives to the fact that they were walking from Tokyo to Kyoto (which was also one of the best parts of Alan Booth's book) and the destroyed umbrella.

Here in my part of the world, there is a region of Japan that is (happily) missed by most people, which is the Sanin region. I saw a TV programme recently that followed a trip by rail from Kyoto to Shimonoseki, at the southern tip of Honshu. The programme drew upon a vital aspect of modern Japanese culture, which is that of travelling, especially by rail. Of course, Europe also has this tradition, but Europe does not have eki-bento. This really is Slow Japan.

So, having got to Kyoto, I suggest that the two filmmakers make a documentary entitled, Much Slower Japan, and walk from Kyoto to Shimonoseki. There are a variety of interesting routes: through the mountains, along the coast (north or south), via Shikoku, or they can do combinations.

And there there is deepest Kyushu...

Best wishes,


Richard Stevens 06-10-2011 07:16 AM

Re: Slow Japan
I just finished re-reading the Roads to Sata for at least the fifth time. It is definitely one of my favorite books. Booth was actually a big part of what has inspired my dissertation topic. As a geographer, the interpretation of ordinary landscapes has been one of my focuses and the 15 years I spent living in "inaka" in Japan has left me with little interest in major urban areas like Tokyo and Osaka.

Charles Hill 06-14-2011 03:14 AM

Re: Slow Japan
Thanks to everyone for your comments.

Prof. Goldsbury,

I read Roads to Sata many years ago, I will get it again from the library the next time I am in and look for the other one as well.

I suspect that the documentary will not show anything new for those who know Japan well. However, what it will show will surely be beautiful. The film makers, whom I met by accident, are Italians living in Paris and have spent a lot of time in South America. They are multilingual, but sadly do not speak Japanese. They commented that it was difficult finding Japanese who could speak English well enough to be interviewed.

I do understand and believe that a high level of fluency is a necessary minimum requirement to an understanding of this country. Personally, I have found Thomas Cleary's book, The Japanese Art of War, to be very helpful. Your columns are another important source of information and thought.

I am curious as to why you did not find Alex Kerr's books to your liking? I found Of Dogs and Demons to be both depressing and gratifying, perhaps because I am tired of constantly hearing what a "nature" country Japan is.


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