The Ballad of Narayama
If you’ve ever seen Shohei Imamura’s 1983′s stunning, The Ballad of Narayama, you will have an inkling (but only an inkling) of what my similarly themed, The Survivors of Mt. Obasute, is all about. Whereas Imamura’s tale takes place 200 or so years ago, my version of the practice — where the sick and elderly are left to die at the top of a mountain, is a modern day story whose two main characters are an elderly Japanese woman, Ume-san, and a (at the beginning) young American man, Thomas.
The Practice of Obasute
The Survivors of Mt. Obasute is a love story of sorts and unlike most obasute stories (obasute literally means ‘throwing away the elderly’) which naturally have unhappy endings, this one will have you crying happy tears. Ask any Japanese about the practice, and almost all of them will shudder with unhappiness, shame, and fear at the mere mention of idea. Many years ago when there were famines to contend with, this was one of the most common methods that rural communities used to survive. But that doesn’t mean they liked doing it. This story will certainly have you thinking about how we treat our elderly today, and what it must feel like to grow old and unloved.