YIDFF 2011 New Docs Japan
Goodbye UR—Japanese Social Housing Crisis
An Interview with Hayakawa Yumiko (Director)

A Final Home, Life, and the Urban Renaissance Agency

Q: What led you to make a documentary about the Takahatadai housing complex?

HY: Originally, I was curious as to why rents are so high, and took part in meetings to discuss housing issues. Then it all began when I met people from block 73 of the Takahatadai housing complex. “Ordinary” people who were troubled by the prospect of eviction were talking with each other and trying to solve one problem at a time, such as the way they sought the release of information, and what they would do in cases where the landlord would not accept payment of rent. As someone who isn’t in regular employment, the sight of elderly people being forced out of inexpensive public housing made me envision my own future, and I was interested in the process by which the members’ solidarity gradually grew and became stronger as they found themselves in difficult situations.

Q: What was your intention in structuring your film from interviews with numerous people?

HY: The Takahatadai housing complex issue is a complicated entanglement of views from many different standpoints, so I tried to include views from many different perspectives in this film, such as the residents and the people who devise national policy. In the interviews, I wanted people to voice their opinions, but there were also some who even tried to refute my statements by citing the opinions of experts. I told them, “I’m not looking for correct opinions. I want you to tell me your thoughts about your own living situation,” and in some cases I put a note on a desk that said “Let’s talk using our own words” when I conducted the interviews. I realize that it was quite an impudent thing to do, but I was desperate to get a grasp of each person’s humanity.

Q: The scene where an enka song plays is quite humorous.

HY: Right from the start, I knew I wanted to use enka in this film, and when I went to shoot a family living in the complex, they began singing karaoke in their apartment, and told me about a local song called “Takahata Fudo.” Despite the fact that the Urban Renaissance Agency (formerly the Japan Housing Corporation) was attempting to evict residents on the grounds that the building wasn’t earthquake-proof, they had no problem brokering units that were even older than this one. This was ridiculous, so I thought this song was perfect to express that. I’m always looking for music, like a sound collector, because I want to use music that I like in the films I make. For the trailer, I used music by a person who plays violin on the streets of Shibuya.

Q: Not only do we see residents who fight in court to continue living in the complex, but also people who move out.

HY: For most people, the decision to leave the complex or stay was a difficult one, with a very slight margin in between, and their feelings wavered from day to day. Staying and fighting, or moving—both are tough choices. I also spoke to residents who had been born in Manchukuo, or had escaped the Battle of Okinawa by the skin of their lives. These people, who had been forced to uproot themselves because of the war, are now in the twilight of their lives and their homes are under threat once more from government policy, in the form of a reduction in the number of housing complexes. I wanted to convey that it isn’t a matter of leaving or remaining in the complex, but of how the government’s whims determine where people live and where they die. Right now I’m not shooting any more, but I attend meetings and court trials. Overturning the decision of the Urban Renaissance Agency, and effectively the government, is an especially difficult task, so it’s obvious that the difference in clout between the two sides will result in defeat for the residents if they fight by the rules. However, the residents of block 73 of the Takahatadai housing complex aren’t the only ones who are affected by this issue. If the general public take an interest, I believe there could be a chance of winning. With that in mind, I completed my film before the trial reached its verdict. From now on, I want to screen this film as much as possible.

(Compiled by Arakaki Maki)

Interviewers: Arakaki Maki, Hanaoka Azusa / Translator: Don Brown
Photography: Sato Hiroaki / Video: Hanaoka Azusa / 2011-09-25 in Tokyo