An Interview with Mikami Chie (Director)
Okinawa Must Not Be Made a Wind Shield for Japan
Q: The film made me feel that I should think for myself and deliberate properly on Okinawa and Japan. Can you explain the meaning of kaji kataka, that memorable word used in the Japanese title?
MC: Kaji kataka means “wind shield” or “bulwark” (in the Okinawan language). In the film, the term has three meanings: “the parent shielding the child”, “Okinawa shielding Japan”, and “Japan shielding America”. In the opening scene of the community gathering, Koja Misako’s warabigami (the protector gods of children) sings of a parent’s hope to shield a child from storms until coming of age. The lullaby was sung for the young girl who was abused and killed by an American soldier. Knowing that, I had to plug my ears in order to stop myself from breaking down. As if to be a wind shield for their children, the Okinawan people are now rising up in determined action to become kaji kataka for the next generation. Meanwhile, mainland Japan is trying to use Okinawa as their own kaji kataka. I wonder how many people realize this. Or are they just trying to avoid facing reality?
Q: Compared to your previous films The Targeted Village and We Shall Overcome, this film captures the lives of Okinawan people not only through their political protest, but also through their regional culture, like song and dance. Why so?
MC: I started out as an anthropologist, and I’ve always been fond of the island folk culture. When I’d report on festivals, I would feel the strength of the people who formulate communities. In Okinawan main island cities like Henoko and Takae, where residents have been engaged in sit-ins for decades, they are worn out. But in Miyako Island or Ishigaki Island, the people are not as fatigued. There’s still more to do in protest and they are not cornered into deadlock. Yamazato Setsuko of Ishigaki sang a famous local song from her island, the soulful tubaraama, for me. Setsuko sang, “We refuse to be made a military island again, because we’ve been through the war before.” Since the Ishigaki people have a special dialect, I understood only half of the lyrics, but nevertheless the song made me cry. The tubaraama has a distinct melody but the lyrics are improvised. Setsuko’s tubaraama consists of a culmination of the many voices she has heard in her 78 years. Emotions speak louder than a million words, don’t you think? She told us, “Our island is not rich in belongings or money. But we have song and dance. With that, we’ve been able to fill our bellies and purify our hearts. That’s why we are able to carry hidden within us, the conviction that our song and dance will somehow get us through the crisis of the deployment of Self Defense forces.” I hope that the audience is able to understand what that means, through the Okinawan culture and traditions in this film.
(Compiled by Yoshioka Yuki)
Interviewers: Yoshioka Yuki, Nakane Wakae / Translator: Fujioka Asako
Photography: Satsusa Takahiro / Video: Nomura Yukihiro / 2017-10-11