Japanese filmmaker Kitano
“Beat” Takeshi has made his mark with a number of violent, emotional, and
yet also very funny movies. From his days as part of a popular manzai-style
comedy duo (from which his nickname arose), Takeshi-san has become a media
icon, working on film, television, writing for several papers, painting,
and still working in comedy. After a motorcycle accident in 1994, which
broke half the bones in his body, he changed dramatically. Aside from the
permanent scarring and now-famous facial tick he acquired, his work become
more introspective. With the international success of “Sonachine” (1993),
a moody gangster piece about a doomed mob boss living out his final days
on Okinawa, the world became acquainted with his very unique take on an
otherwise tired genre. Most notable is his ability to shift rapidly between
scenes of quiet natural beauty and bloody carnage, leaving the audience
stunned. “To me, depicting the gentle love and the intense violence is
like both ends of the pendulum,” says Takeshi. “It’s like ‘potential energy
theory’ in physics.”
Nowhere is this better proven than in his masterpiece “Hana-bi” (“Fireworks”, 1997).
Takeshi-san plays Detective Nishie, a tough and weathered cop whose wife is dying from leukemia. When Nishie leaves a stakeout to visit her in the hospital, his partner Horibe is shot and paralyzed. Nishie tracks down the shooter, only to get another cop killed in the process. Meanwhile, Horibe’s family leaves him, and he attempts suicide. Horibe’s slow recovery involves painting, which is a small autobiographical nod on Takeshi-san’s behalf (painting was his therapy after his motorcycle accident, and most of the paintings in the movie where actually done by him.) When the hospital is unable to care for Nishie’s wife anymore, he decides to take her on one final trip, which requires a loan from a disreputable minor yakuza boss. His trip leads to inevitable death and misery, as one thug after another is sent after him. A movie really about the grief and desperation caused by having to watch loved ones suffer, its nearly impossible not to be moved to tears by the persistent nature of the film’s imagery. Even at its most comic moments, there’s an atmosphere of sorrow present that few movies can create.
Viewers should consider themselves warned: the violence in the movie is strong enough on its own, but it’s the savage brutality and melancholy that fuels it that makes the film so harrowing (one scene demonstrates the previously unknown threat of ocular trauma that chopsticks pose). The tenderness that Takeshi-san displays makes it ever more unbearable; this is a character who doesn’t want to fight, but has no choice, another recurring characteristic in Takeshi-san’s recent films. His wife’s final lines (the only lines she has in the entire picture) bring the poker-faced Nishie to the edge of a breakdown, and the audience is right there with him.
Hi! I’m Yuki Niino. I’m a Japanese intern. I came here in August. This
is my second time coming to Oshkosh. I lived in Nagasaki, which is in the
southern part of Japan, so I feel very cold
here. I’m very scared of snow, but I think I will make it because the English translation of my name, Yuki, means snow in Japanese! Doo zo yoroshiku! (Glad to meet you!)
Some time ago my wife and
I had the opportunity to visit in Japan. That one week visit was part of
a 30 day trop to several countries in Asia. Our daughter in law, Mayumi,
is Japanese. She has traveled extensively in several parts of the country
and he gave us advice about where to go and what to do in the one week
we were in Japan. Our flight from Hong Kong to Japan touched down
in Narita Airport, just outside of Tokyo, the capital and largest city.
Our arrival at Narita was late at night, and with our non-existent knowledge
of the Japanese language we were somewhat anxious about our introduction
to the country. Fortunately, most of the direction signs were in both Japanese
and English, and many of the people we met had some knowledge of English;
and we were able to manage the necessities, including fining the toilets,
a place to eat, and the bus to our hotel, which was nearby.
Our first “crisis” in Japan faced us the next day when we were attempting to take the train from Tokyo to other parts of the country. All of the travel literature and our acquaintances who had been to Japan told us about the great transportation system here, and how trains were always on time; and, what do you know, our first Japanese train was late, very late. We heard a lot of talk on the public address system, and assumed it was aboutour train, but we had no idea what was being said. Just as we were about to panic, a college age woman came up to us, recognized our plight, and told us in fluent English that there was a wreck on the track and that our train would not be coming. She took us to the ticket office, worked out a new travel schedule for us, waited until we had our revised tickets, and even took us to the track where our new train would arrive. We will never forget her kindness.
We were soon to discover that our first encounter with friendly Japanese strangers would be repeated many times over. We were delighted to find kind and helpful people all over Japan. Sophisticated urbanites in Tokyo steered us around the Ginza, the city’s famous shopping center. Maintenance workers in Kyoto stopped to chat with us. School children in Nara seemed to be fascinated with sharing their basic English with us. Shopkeepers all over were more than patient with our stumbling attempts to tell him what we wanted to buy.
Despite all the things we loved in Japan, the best part of Japan was the Japanese people. The Japanese we have met in the U.S. has always impressed us, but, of course, tourists and exchange students (and our daughter-in-law) are not necessarily representative of the people of any country. The people we met in Japan, however, made us think that the Japanese are just nice people, at home or away. We look forward to visiting there again.
Halfway Around the World - USA Summer
By Erika Fleisner
Many college students worked
all summer long at ajob they leave when the school year approached. Many
of these students didn’t’ enjoy their jobs, or at least didn’t want to
remember exactly what they did. Unless, they did something that had a large
impact on their lives that will remain with them for the rest of their
Autumns, Winters, Springs, and Summers to come. I, like seven other
individuals from UW-Oshkosh had an experience that will remain in our hearts
of the rest of our lives. We were American Counselors at an English Teaching
camp for Japanese students on the islands of Kyushu and Shykoku. The founder,
Guy Healy, has been doing this camp program for seven years. Most of the
counselors were high school-ers or college students. We started off on
this long journey on June 24th• Most of us were strangers, but soon became
acquainted at the Dallas/Fortworth Airport where everyone finally met up.
There were three locations of the English camps. The first was on Kyushu
Island in Isahaya, where we had three camp sessions with Soseikan High
School. Next was held in Sasebo, where we had one session, then went to
Shykoku Island and had a camp session in Uwajima. Lastly, we went back
to Sasebo for the last camp session. For 6 1/2 weeks, the counselor’s main
goal was to teach English to Japanese students who ranged in ages from
2 to 70. However, we gained so much more from that experience than just
teaching a language. We taught them how to communicate, but also to have
fun. The counselors had the responsibility to create programs for the students
to learn English in everyday conversation. The counselors also taught the
students American games. Sure it was hard to get some of the students to
understand, so the counselors demonstrated, and having a blast doing so.
Students were quizzed on conversational phrases and questions such as “help,”
“can I go back to my room,” and so on.
There were so many things the counselors gave to the campers; and in exchange a life long memory given to us from the campers. Along with the camp, the American Counselors had Japanese Counselors who put in long hours working with us. There were seven Japanese counselors who were translators for the camp. We learned much from these wonderful people who made sure everything was going smoothly.
Besides camp, the American counselors stayed with host families from the following cities: Nagasaki, Fukuoka, Isahaya, and Sasebo. We stayed with our host families in between camp sessions. The purpose of the host families was to help the American counselors learn more about Japanese culture outside of the camp.