Staff | Interview with the Director
Interview with the Director

By using animation as an expressive medium, we can easily convey our message to children.I hope our message in 遯カ蟒アAPAN, Our Homeland遯カ魘€ will reach as many people as possible.

"JAPAN, Our Homeland" is your second work following "NITABOH." By producing animation movies, what does WAO Corporation want to get across to the audience?

I believe that today's Japanese children are facing two major problems. The first is "the problem of declining academic standard." The second is "the problem of the mind." There is a solution to the former: by providing educational services at our private clam schools, I think we can promote children's academic development on our own way. The latter, however, is far more serious.

For example, today's Japanese people, especially children, are becoming more indifferent to the others and less appreciative of what they have been given. I wonder if this phenomenon is the reason for the recent crime trends that have never occurred in old days. As I asked myself, "How can I enrich children's hearts?," I reached to the conclusion that an animation movie might be the answer.

By using animation as an expressive medium, we can easily convey our message to children. Animation also helps to incorporate elements of entertainment into education, to create the world of "edutainment" by blending entertainment and education. In other words, animation enables us to entertain children and enrich their minds at the same time. It is our goal to produce an animation that provides family-oriented fun that appeals to all ages.

"JAPAN, Our Homeland" is set in downtown Tokyo in the 31st year of Showa Era (1956). What was your purpose of choosing this specific timeframe?

Although this story is fictional, it certainly does reflect my own childhood history. In 1956 I was a freshman in junior high school in Kiba, Tokyo. This is my hometown where I grew up, and also where the story takes place. The episodes about a transfer girl and the death of classmates are both true stories that happened in my childhood.

But there is more meaning to the setting of this story, "1956".

This year Japan joined the United Nations to cooperate with the rest of the world again. As the economic newspaper "Keizai Hakusho (Economic White Paper)" declared, "the post-war is already over," Japan was about to achieve the rapid economic growth. 1956 was a turning point of the concept of value in Japan. However, I can't stop wondering if we Japanese, during half a century that has passed since the end of the war, have lost the "spiritual richness" and unique culture and traditions we used to cherish, while we all sought material wealth. Doyo (Japanese traditional children's song), one of the key components of the movie, is an example of our forgotten heritage. It's been long since I last heard Japanese children sing Doyo songs. Let's rediscover what we have forgotten ? that's the message I want to share with the audience.

At the same time, by dealing with the death of two people in the movie, I strongly emphasize the idea of helping and caring for others as an important theme of the story. Two movie characters pass away, one because of war and the other in an accident. But both characters will live in the hearts of those who knew them, because they share a "bond of souls." I hope this movie will give children an opportunity to think about their own lives and the others' lives.

Both of your movies have musical motifs: Tsugaru Shamisen in "NITABOH" and Doyo in "JAPAN, Our Homeland." Why do you give an important place to music in your work?

When great music meets great visual and story, the result will attract more and more children. There's something about music that touches our souls - this is exactly why I emphasize Doyo in the movie. Also, as I mentioned earlier, one of the key components of the movie is "the recovery of Japanese values." I want Japanese people to realize that Japanese Doyo, as well as Tsugaru Shamisen, is recently getting highly valued overseas. Thanks to Mr. Tsutomu Aragaki, KOKIA and chorus groups including Suginami Children's Choir, I believe the overall quality of "JAPAN, Our Homeland," especially the music side, turned out very good, even better than my first movie.

Finally, please tell us about your plans for the future.

In 2006, we mark the 30th anniversary of the founding of WAO. As an anniversary event, we will hold a nationwide celebration screening for the students of our schools and our business partners. The theatrical release for the general public is expected during this fall or winter. Just like "NITABOH," we will promote "JAPAN, Our Homeland" in several ways, such as launching digitally based Movie Caravan Project around 2007 and submitting the movie to various international film festivals. We also seek to maintain good relationships with the places with which we have associated through our educational service and screenings of "NITABOH," and we would like to promote our new movie "JAPAN, Our Homeland" and its message to a huge audience.