Alan G. Chalk Guides to Japanese Films
Lesson 1: Geography: The Village, Farm, and Rice
Viewing: Tune in Japan: Approaching Culture Through Television, 1995
Seven Samurai, 1954, Kurosawa
The Japanese Farmer, 1987,The Faces of Japan I
Rice Farmer, 1988, The Faces of Japan II
Suggested Reading: "Rice: It's More Than Food in Japan," 1993, Linda S. Wojtan, is available online.
Suggested grades: 9-12, one to three classes.
The central idea:
What follows in the over three hour film classic is the search for noble samurai who will take up their cause and lead the battle against the forty bandits. For the purpose of this lesson, however, the final ten minutes of the film (from the point where the samurai leader says "There are only thirteen left. Let them all in.") allows us to see the concluding battle followed by the victorious farmers all returning to the joyful ritual of rice planting. In an ironic reference to Japan's postwar attitude toward militarism, the surviving samurai leader says, "The winners are the farmers. Not us." The final image is a silhouette of the graves of the samurai who died defending the farmers. These two clips and Kurosawa's image/symbols can lead to the discussion of village-life, farming, and rice traditions of historic Japan.
To bring the rice issue into the present,
docudramas, The Japanese Farmer and Rice Farmer, reveal
the plight of today's farmers. The recent changes in the government's
policies of price support and import restrictions has
weakened the position
of farmers to the point they may not be able to continue. In a country
which already imports over 53% of its food, this is a serious
with the decline of rice farming in Japan, the continuation of rice as
a cultural and spiritual symbol of Japan must give away to
the new values
of a changing Japan.