国際交流基金 The Japan Foundation Performing Arts Network Japan

Artist Interview アーティストインタビュー

Aug. 31, 2021
Nao Yoshigai
Photo: Natsuki Kuroda

言葉になる前の情動を
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Dancing and filming pre-verbal emotive impulses

Nao Yoshigai (choreographer, dancer, filmmaker)

Nao Yoshigai (b. 1987 in Yamaguchi Prefecture) is a choreographer, dancer and filmmaker. After studying dance in Japan Women’s College of Physical Education’s Department of Dance, she went on to study at the Graduate School of Film and New Media of Tokyo University of The Arts. Yoshigai began activities as an artist in the 2010s. Since then her works combining physical expression and filming as essential elements have won high acclaim internationally, as exemplified by the selection in 2019 of her film Grand Banquet (2018) for the Director’s Fortnight Short Films category of the 72nd Cannes Film Festival. Yoshigai was born and raised in what is known in Japan as the “lost 20 years” after the bursting of the country’s “Bubble Economy,” a turning point in the country’s postwar economic history that occurred in 1990. She grew up at a time when digital technology was familiar from childhood, but her elementary school years were a time that saw the subway poison sarin gas terror incident and the Great Hanshin Awaji Earthquake, the pass-times were video games, and the young girls groups were their “idols,” beginning with the Morning Musume group. These the iconic symbols of the times. Yoshigai says that she began to think about artistic expression during her teen years spent in a rural regional town, and in this interview, we learn about how she saw the society around her and what led her to the unique forms of expression.
Interviewer: Chie Sumiyoshi

Hottamaru-biyori (Hottamaru Days) (2015)
(C) NaoYoshigai

The initial encounter with dance

May we start by asking what led you to begin dance?
My mother says when I was about three years old and there were drummers performing at an event in the local park, I began dancing as if saying, “Look at me.” I began learning ballet from the age of 12, but at the time the popular thing was to form groups and dance together on the streets, so I got together some friends into a group. I did all the choreography, and I wanted to practice together more as a team, but the other members weren’t as intent on dancing seriously like me, so it didn’t last long.

From around that time, I was sure that I was going to be a dancer, and I was intent on doing it professionally. At first I danced to the music of the pop group B’s and the popular young female singer Namie Amuro, and I learned some hip hop and house dance from a well-known local [male] street dancer. During high school I also went to a jazz dance class. In short, I tried my hand at everything that was available on our locality. At that time, I also got to know the “WOMAN” stages that Grammy Award winning female singers like Alicia Keyes, Beyoncé and Destiny’s Child participated in, and I looked up to them and their performances. I became absorbed in that kind of music with strong vocal parts, and I loved to play that music alone at home and improvise dance to it.
Ballet has its classical forms of movement, so didn’t you feel any incongruity in doing that at the same time?
I did, but I felt that in order to become a professional dancer I had to do that too. At the time, the manga “Glass Mask” (a saga depicting the devotion of the main character Maya Kitajima to the performing arts as a professional stage actress, and her competition with her skilled rival) was turned into a TV drama. It was full of stoic training scenes like eating a dirt ball and making it look delicious to hone one’s acting skills, and I loved that kind of drama (laughs).

I also happened to be in a chorus at the time and we did a performance of Timpani, and in the interview after the performance, I raised my hand and spoke out, saying , “I want to become so famous at something that my name is known around the world.” I was full of that kind of unfounded confidence, and I really wanted to stand out.

I think we may have been the last generation that could live with an almost carefree mindset, we may be the last generation that could still dream about our futures. I really believed that I could become a back-dancer for Beyoncé’s performances when I decided to move to Tokyo. My parents kept saying, “What ridiculous things are you thinking?” But I was sure I could do it.
So you went to Japan Women’s College of Physical Education to major in dance.
I didn’t do much of dancing things that other people choreographed, but rather I would learn some of the basic techniques of ballet, jazz dance, hip hop and then compose original dance freely from that for myself. In my second year at college, I discovered how fascinating film could be, and from the second half of my time in college I spent most of my time in the film/video editing room. I had decided to go on to the Graduate School of Film and New Media at Tokyo University of the Arts, so I didn’t even take part in our college’s graduation performances.

What got me so into film was a particular work I was choreographing. I had gotten the idea that I wanted to fill a bath with water and then do a piece where I slapped the surface of the water, and I had an image in my mind of what the edited images would look like, and that led me to think that int would be better to film and work from that to get the kind of image I wanted. In the end, I couldn’t get the image I wanted, but I really got into the process of filming things myself and giving directions to the performers and then making a film from it.

I actually feel somewhat inhibited when I choreograph dance. It comes from a weakness I have, actually I have always had difficulty in fully grasping things 3-dimensionally. For the stage, you have to be able to create things in a way that looks good from any place in the audience, and you can’t dictate a fixed point where the audience will view things from. But with film/video, when you are editing it is with 2-dimensional data, it has a fixed camera viewpoint, and from there you can think about how you are going to show things. What’s more, when you are dancing on stage, you can’t see yourself, but with film you can project what you feel through the camera’s eye. Also, you can reproduce images in repeated progressions, so you can verify again and again what the effect will be when a certain cut is followed by a number of different ones. And during this process, I am stimulated anew by my emotional responses, so the editing process itself becomes an act with a feeling much like dancing. With film, you can retain a degree of objectivity even as you are getting absorbed in the process, and fortunately, I have the feeling that I have a certain capability with regard to this editing process.

The challenge of creating film works

After moving on to graduate school, what kinds of works did you undertake?
Before I entered graduate school, I was filming images that had sound, like music videos. First of all, there was music as the starting point for me to develop my images from, so, my situation was that I couldn’t create works if there wasn’t music. Also, I had the preconception that dance was something inseparable from music, so I had no idea of how to create time (the timeline of dance) without music. First of all, there had to be music, and then from that structure I could somehow begin to create my physical story, and what’s more, the music would create an element of atmosphere for me. But when I first saw the films of Rosas danst Rosas, I understood. The Rosas works were choreographed in a strict way, in which Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker took every note of the musical score and choreographed the movement to it note by note. That was something that I longed to be able to do, but I also felt that if people were already creating works that way with such a high level of artistry, it would be meaningless for me to try to pursue that same direction.

So, when I went to graduate school, my aim was to work through a process of trial and error to create dance films without using music.

I thought that if I recorded the sounds and rhythms coming from the body, like footsteps and the sound of breathing, and if I took samplings of ambient sounds from nature, they might become music. When I began to concentrate on film in that way, I gradually became able to find my own stories. When I asked myself why a certain person moved or acted in the way they did and tried using the rhythm of sound and film and alone to connect to that emotive element, I got the feeling that something was being born inside me. It is a difficult process, but I found that working to transferring “my own music” into the bodies of others became what I might describe as a rewarding process, and for the first time I found that it was leading to results that I could finally call [artistic] “works.”

When I first started applying sound to film images, I didn’t even have any concept of post-recording work (dubbing), so I was filming and recording sound simultaneously on site. At those times, when the microphone would pick up something like the rhythmical cooing voice of pigeons, I would take that as one key, and then I discovered that the sound of footsteps might mix into that. Now, in addition to such simultaneously recorded sound, I am also adding things from other sound resources, or adding sounds of things that are not seen appearing in the filmed images. For example, in the work Nashi-kun Tamako to Kiba no Yukue (A Fang and a Pear’s Journey, 2020), which I refer to as “There is a movie theater inside the maiden’s mouth,” I sought a state where the sound of biting into the fruit became an explosive sound that envelopes the listener’s the entire body.
Besides Rosas, are there any other experiences of works that have influenced you or serves as a foundation for the work you are doing now?
To name one, I would definitely say the music videos of Aphex Twin directed by Chris Cunningham. These works are perfectly in line with Anne Teresa [De Keersmaeker]’s words when she says she wants to make dance something that one listens to and music something that you see. In these videos by Cunningham, all of the movement is completely in sync with the music. If you turn of the sound and watch them, you can hear sound. The film images are perfectly rhythmical, and I have been influenced very much by this.

In another context, since I have worked on the filming staff for the dance company of Kakuya Ohashi-san, who studied Butoh, I feel connected to him in some ways at the root level. As a film staff member, I experienced filming the dancers live in stage performance in an improvisational way that covered their every move in close-up. By seeing so much of the way Ohashi-san creates his so-called post-Butoh style works, I believe that I now have a drawer-full of resources inside me now. And I feel that he has influenced me in areas that the influences of Rosas and Chris Cunningham do not extend to.
After leaving graduate school, you have released a succession of works. These include the work Bicycle Girl (2013), in which you ride a bicycle through the countryside of Nasu Kogen while giving your own narration about each of the changing landscapes, Hottamaru-biyori (Hottamaru Days) (2015), in which dancer nymphs living in an old wooden house give physical expression to its this-and-that, and your short film Grand Banquet (2018. Invited work for the 72nd Cannes Film Festival Director’s Fortnight for short films) in which a young woman disgorges flowers instead of words. All of these have won high acclaim for the outstanding artistic sense combines dance movement with a fine rhythmic quality to the film editing.
For a while, I got a job at a film production company, but it turned out to be a company that trained producers, so I quit it after about nine months. That was because I had a strong desire to direct my own works. Before I quit, I submitted a work titled Mizukuroi (Grooming) to a contest held by the Yamaguchi Center for Arts and Media (YCAM) and it won an Excellence Prize that included some prize money. I used that to film Bicycle Girl, and I asked a senior member of the production company I was working for to serve as producer.

Then a friend who was doing film research at the Waseda University to become a producer offered me a chance to make a film together. This led to the film Hottamaru days. We made this film with the intention of entering it in the MOOSIC LAB 2014 competition, with for both independent young film directors and musicians. The competition didn’t offer any production funding, but we entered it because it guaranteed that the submitted films would be shown in front of audiences in a movie theater.

Since it would be a film to be shown in a movie theater, we couldn’t shoot it alone. We would have to get together a staff and production money. I feared that if I worked in my usual way of piecing together images in a collage pattern, it could cause the production workplace to collapse. If I had enough images, I felt I could put together a story I felt comfortable with, but I would still have to present it in a way that the other people on the staff would understand.

So, I decided to present it to them in the form of a picture-card show. As I drew the picture cards, I could change the order and make cuts and simulations as we filmed and edited it. But after putting together about 140 of the picture cards to show to the producer and the staff, they still didn’t get the idea 100%. Well, I have to admit that the pictures only showed a housemaid similar to the character May-chan in the animated movie Totoro jumping around, so they were quite different from real live film images (laughs). When, for example, I handed out a printed plot storyline, I was still told that they couldn’t imagine what to film in order to make the timeline come together as a story, but if I presented it as a play I was able to get them to say that they still weren’t sure, but it looked interesting. In that way I was able to give the staff a shared image that enabled us to go into filming.

The Dance plus Film workplace

What was the filming process like for your film Hottamru days?
The filming site was one wooden house that hadn’t been lived in for about 10 years, and it was left just as it had been when the former residents were living there, so it was a sort of special “house studio.” So, all of the furniture, the books and the pictures done by children belonged to the house’s owner. Since we were on a limited budget, we worked on a regular film production schedule, where everyone came well-rehearsed with a clear knowledge of what portion of the scenario would be filmed on any given day.

The five dancers who performed in the film were all my former classmates or upper classmates from college, so they had a mastery of a lot of the same body movements. So as long as we decided on the atmosphere and rules of the choreography, we were able to have them move freely together and create a good rhythm. We didn’t need to explain things in detail verbally, I was able to say, “Like this,” and just show them the movements I wanted, and they would understand.

The name Hottamaru is a word I coined that is made of two Japanese words, “Hotteoku” (leaving something as it is) and “Tamaru” (accumulating). It means the things that accumulate if we leave something as it is. The longer one family resides in a house the more it acquires the “smell” of the family and becomes “customized” with their unique placement of the furniture. Like an extension of the body, the house becomes assimilated to the bodies of the inhabitants and with time there is an accumulation of smells as well. That was something I felt clearly when I went to my grandmother’s house. I felt like my grandmother was living with her own accumulation of such things, and it wasn’t something like a person’s personality, but something like an accumulation of protein itself. That is part of what I wanted to try to express. I also wanted to depict the fact that leaving a house with its accumulated substance could also be a form of being “born anew.” And that led to the depiction of a child who had been in a warm bath so long that they didn’t want to get out, but then suddenly getting out of the water and standing on the floor on their own feet and then starting to step around [joyously].
You have presented Hottamaru days in places like live-performance music clubs and gallery spaces as combinations of film screenings, exhibitions and live performances.
I had the experience of exhibiting film works at a sake brewery in Nagano prefecture. At that time there was a time set aside for an artist who was on a gallery tour to give an explanation of their works. Seeing that, I thought that rather than verbal explanations, showing works would communicate more, so I decided to do an actual dance performance while showing a video of a drum performance, and that turned out to be very well received. So, that experience and the impression it gave me that this kind of presentation could be expanded was the impetus behind these mixed showing, exhibits and performances.

So under the title hottamaru days 4DX, we have presented the work as combined screenings and performances in a number of places. Between the movie screen on the stage and the audience seating area, a sort of theater set is created as a part of a home, and incense is burned to create a space with the visual effect of a gradation from the film screen down into the real-world dimension of the performance set. The same scene that is being shown on the film screen overlaps with the performance of the live dancers. When we did a performance at a gallery in Nagoya, for the scene where a nymph is being punished in the film, we used actual water. When water flowed out of the screen and accumulated on the floor of the stage, it looked as if water was actually seeping into the house, and when the film image was then reflected of the water surface, it created a visual effect of a mixing or reality and fiction. By changing the way the work is shown in places like a gallery this way, it changes the feeling that the audience gets from the work and that can create a new story, I believe.

Hottamaru-biyori (Hottamaru Days) (2015)
Directer: Nao Yoshigai
Performer: Risa Oda, Satoko Shibata, Yu Goto, Kaho Kogure, Ayaka Suga, Yui Yabuki
(C) NaoYoshigai

In 2021 during the COVID pandemic, you participated in an international collaborative project between the Japan Foundation’s New Delhi office (Japan Culture Center) and India’s Attakkalari Centre for Movement Arts (hereinafter Attakkalari Centre). The results of this project were presented in India and simultaneous in Japan online. Would you tell us what kind of project it was?
I am told that it was originally to be a project where Japanese and Indian dancers collaborate to create a work in residence in India, and then the work would be performed in India. But then with the worsening of the COVID pandemic, it became difficult for the Japanese dancer, Ryu Suzuki, to travel to India. So, it was decided that we would film Suzuki dancing and send that film to India for the Indian dancer to do a duet to. I was chosen to be the filmmaker for that.

It was a difficult request because I was asked to film Suzuki-san’s identity as a dance artist to send to India. But when I thought about it, I came to see it as a great theme to undertake. I was told that, because just filming Ryu-san doing a dance and sending that to India to be screened with the Indian dancer doing a dance in from of it would not make it a duet with the Indian dancer, they told me that they wanted me to do the kind of close-ups of Ryu-san’s body that I had filmed in Hottamaru days and make a sort of landscape of Ryu-san’s body. But I thought that doing that alone would not communicate anything more than the information that could be seen by just the eyes. If Ryu-san had been able to go to India, he would surely have had tea with the Indian dancer and talked about this and that and created a work together in close proximity. But since in the [COVID] time that was not possible, I would be the one to have tea with him and find out what kind of person he is. That became my starting point.

When I first talked to him on ZOOM, I found him to be a brisk and clever person, and when I actually met him and had tea with him, I found more and more nuances of his character. He was completely open with me, and he even let me film him in his home. In his rooms there were lots of stuffed animal characters, and I found out he had given each one of them names. But they were not like cute dolls to him, but rather he said they were entities that he trusted due to the bonds of consciousness that had been build up over long periods of time. The human body renews itself (through metabolism) every six months, but the stuffed animals are different, so he says that keeps them to verify the fact that his own consciousness has not changed. I felt that I could understand his meaning, so I used his stuffed Doraemon character as a key point when I filmed Ryu-san. And I felt that by doing so, the dancer in India could see another aspect of Ryu-san, even though he was not there in his physical person. In the end, it became a documentary about Ryu-san with me introducing him through my own narration of the film.
It was expected to be film reference material about the dance Ryu Suzuki, but it turned out to be such a complete documentary about him that it has been shown and broadcast widely as such, hasn’t it. I believe that this is truly a testament to your skills as a film director and your skills in delving deeply into the human nature of your subject. What are the aspects of your subjects that you are drawn to?
I don’t know whether this is an appropriate expression or not, but what really makes my antenna start ticking is definitely when I sense that I am meeting a person or a thing that is “strange” in some way. When I say “strange” it may be something that I didn’t expect or something that happened unexpectedly, and when I meet such a person or event that is when I start thinking it needs a documentary. That is the kind of dance I want to do, and it has led me to focus on improvisation in the past.

It is not just concerning people but concerning situations as well, and there are times when issues that I am concerned with link to the subjects I choose to film. For example, last year, the photographer Naoki Ishikawa asked me if I would like to make a film about the town of Sharicho on the Shiretoko Peninsula (Hokkaido), and I went to film it. The result was the film Shari (*) that will be released in October [2021]. The natural environment in Shari is harsh, and so it is a land where the habitats of the humans and the animals cannot be clearly separated. Even though it is a place where the people moved in and created a town on land that once belonged to the animals, when bears come down from the hills into the town, they sometimes have to be killed, even though the people don’t want to kill them. The people there have lived with the natural environment while facing many such conflicts like this. When I create dance or films, one of my long-held themes is how close I can come to being something non-human, to crossing that boundary, and I think that is why my concerns linked naturally to those of Shari. And in that sense, I think everything you see in Shari can be seen as dance.

Shari (2021)
The photographer Naoki Ishikawa discovered the appeal of the Shiretoko peninsula, and in order to explore and communicated this appeal with the local photography lovers and the town of Shari (Shari-cho) started the “Photography Ground Zero Shiretoko” movement and made this film with Nao Yoshigai as director. From 2019, research began on the natural environment, and life in Shari and people who live there. In the film, Yoshigai takes the guise of an “Akai-yatsu” (Red thing) that exists between the people and the wild animals (or “beasts” as she calls them) and narrates the film herself as she roams around Shari, interweaving the wild landscape and the sounds it emits into a collage work that is part documentary, part fiction.
Director: Nao Yoshigai
Photographer: Naoki Ishikawa
Assistant director: Naoki Watanabe
Music: Kazuya Matsumoto, Acoustics: Masaya Kitada
Appearances by the people of Sharicho, the surrounding sea, mountains, ice and “Akai yatsu” (the narrator Yoshigai)
(C) NaoYoshigai

Shari

Photo: Naoki Ishikawa

Shari

Working with Women of the Same Generation

A lot of the creation you do is with women of your same generation, isn’t it? In recent years, we have seen a change from the mainly male-oriented values and judging standards that have been predominant in film festivals and arts festivals to a new trend toward increase attention on works motivated by women’s values and sensitivities. Although you may dislike being referred to as “specifically women centric” (Kotosara Josei), is there something that you specifically want to achieve as a woman artist?
Regarding the themes of my work and the motivations behind them, I am often asked why I only film young women, and to tell the truth, the only answer I can give is because I am a woman. But regarding work with women of my same generation, I feel there definitely is a natural affinity. As for my underclasswoman from college, Kaho Kogure, and the others that I cast as dancers in Hottamaru days, when we were in college, although we couldn’t name it, we wanted to work to get better, and as we worked together we found it increasingly interesting. Another underclasswoman dancer from college, Yu Goto, and the photographer Natsuki Kuroda are enjoying working with me on a project we call “White Leotards.” Rather than being specifically for dancers, we want to contribute to the health of a wider range of people in the world with different bodies. So, we made an Instagram account and we post a variety of health information for free. But I have to admit that part of the motivation for me is that I want to film Yu-chan in her leotard (laughs).

I also feel that another thing I have to work hard on is films. So, last year I got together a group of films I have made for a special film event I called “Dancing Films” that we showed at movie theaters. But the distributer told me it was hard to attract viewers to a movie theater with that kind of film, and I was told that it may be good for film festivals where they will be meaningful and approved of (for creativity, experimental quality, etc.), but for the movie theater audience the distributer wasn’t sure it was fitting. But even despite this situation, when I looked at the responses and thoughts of audience that had seen it, regardless of whether they were men or women, I got the feeling that it is gradually becoming an era when people are more interested this kind of film. Rather than that, however, I got the feeling that what people want now when they come to a movie theater is not the usual “story” of a film but rather some kind of “experience” that is completely unique and something they have never seen before. And perhaps my films have fit that description. The overall response of the audiences was better than I had expected, and I felt that regardless of whether it was movie industry people or dance scene people, they all found it interesting on a simple and pure level, which was gratifying for me.
The way you film the physicality of women is highly experimental, and it seems that we are entering an era where a variety of different physical sensibilities can be viewed with a flat (indiscriminating) acceptance. For example, in tour film Grand Bouquet there is a woman who disgorges flowers instead words, which is a violent form of expression of an outpouring of emotions. In a previous interview you talked about your desire to film the type of violence depicted in films like Fight Club (directed by David Fincher) and Mad Max (directed by George Miller). May I ask what kind of desire is that?
I have a strong desire to do a film like Fight Club. It has very strong bodies coming in, and what’s more it has a great entertainment appeal that I really enjoy as well. But male directors seem to have a patent on that type of movie. But the fact is that women also like these movies that until now only men have made, and I would also like to make a film that has that kind of wild, impulsive violence and emotion. But my body simply doesn’t have that kind of strength and musculature, so a film like Grand Bouquet is what comes out. So, that in my equivalent of Fight Club and Mad Max. Right now, I am focusing on the kind of strength to be found in Asian women with their medium weight and height. It is a kind of strength that is different from that of someone like Beyoncé. There haven’t been any entertainment films made yet from that point of view, and since I am an Asian woman, I would like to be able to make a film that focuses on my type of body and its merits.

Grand Bouquet (2018)
Written and Directed by Nao Yoshigai
Cast: Hanna Chan
(C) NaoYoshigai

Text, Fiction, the body and internal emotions

You have also made films in which you do a narration yourself. May we ask what your thoughts are about adding narration (text) to a film work from the perspective of the filmmaker or the sense of physicality?
Until recently, I have tried to make films like Hottamaru days that use as few words as possible, and I have felt at home doing that and using sounds in place of words. But with the film Seizasha (2017. A film about the Okada style seiza health method popular in the 1910s and 20s) and other films with a documentary aspect, there inevitably becomes a need for some explanation due to the ethnographic aspects that can’t be understood without some explanation.

In my new work Shari, I think the amount of text appearing in is the largest of any of my films to date. At first, however, I was planning to use just the taped words of the local people in Shari-cho that I interviewed and not use any narration but just link the cuts together using editing tricks. But, after doing that I was told that some of the parts were interesting but there was no consistent line of interest continuing throughout the film. So, I thought, OK I will use fiction to link it together by applying narration in an old folk tale style, and once I started doing that I got carried away and an eruption of words came out! From there I discovered new ways to combine words with the film images one after another. I was afraid at first that adding words of description would define the film images in a restrictive way, but it turned out that wasn’t the case. Instead, I finally accepted the fact that, if done well, applying words and sounds and music to the filmed images could actually expand their possibilities almost infinitely.

It is the same with dance, I have come to the realization that adding a few words to the dance can actually open up its expansive possibilities. Now I have come to feel that it is OK to do anything that makes a work more interesting (laughs).
The animated film Neon Genesis Evangelion and the music videos featuring Hatsune Miku both have a form of expression that uses words along with the film images and the viewers are now used to this style, and this has become an era where the creators tend to work alone in their rooms mixing the video footage and words and making the music all on one computer. And although there may be questions about the creators’ artistic sense and aesthetics, in the case of your works, there is a natural rhythm that you create with your narration, like breathing, that it brings to the film, and I feel that this adds a different layer of meaning to the film images.
It is true what you say about the new era of creators working alone in their rooms, and we may be right in the middle of this era.
We are now in an era where creators can get absorbed a world of delusion or fantasy and then use IT to easily create things that don’t exist in the real world, but what I would like to ask you is what the attraction is for you in creating fiction in your works.
I recall a time when I was at Tokyo University of The Arts that they showed us videos of the Takarazuka (musical theater) review company performances. I told the teacher that I didn’t like Takarazuka because I couldn’t stand the stories of the musicals and the whole atmosphere it creates is so contrived and full of [romantic] lies, and the teacher’s reply was that, “Isn’t it those very lies that they are acting out that can lead us to a grasp of what is real?” At the time I couldn’t understand what the teacher meant, but I finally understood the meaning when I discovered the movies of film director Shinji Somai. The works of Somai often contain scenes in which the directing seems to be excessive in some ways. By creating scenes that deliberately show a lie as if it is real, and when I realized that there are people who would conceive such unbelievable directing, when I realized that there are people who would go to such lengths to make movies that showed a lie as something real, that is when I realized what wonderful things movies can be.

How people can use their imagination to create fiction and how fascinating it can be when mature adults go about creating films about outright lies with such serious artistic dedication was something that I also felt anew when I was working on Hottamaru days. When I was seriously trying to explain to the performers in that film that my concept was to take the smells that had accumulated in that old house and dissolve them in the bath water so that they could leave the house in the form of memories, it may have seemed like something from a cult religion, but I felt it was something that could really be made to happen in the world of film. And I felt that in fact this kind of outlandish lie can really be communicated to the viewer through film and awake new sensations in them.

There was a man in Aomori Prefecture who saw Hottamaru days and told me afterwards that those scenes from the film would probably flash through his memory again before he entered the coffin. He worked in agriculture and had a strong muscular body so different from mine, and it surprised me that my physical sensibilities had communicated something that clearly to him. It felt to me as if, in spite of the fact that my physical presence is nowhere near as powerful as such dancers as Sylvie Guillem, Israel or Galván Reyes or Beyoncé or Mariko Kakizaki, through fiction I had been able share something with such a person [the Aomori man] as I would never have expected.

Recently, I have been teaching at the college level, and I do a class in which I have the students consider their own body, by touching it and filming it and using words to describe it. No matter how plain a body may appear, there is always some idea or some words that can only come from that body, and there is no one that should be dismissed as commonplace. If it is shown skillfully, there will always be a way that it will stand out as exceptional. Even though I don’t have a body like Brad Pitt, I believe that there is always a way to create entertainment that is interesting by filming the things you find around you.
Rather than historical events or stories with the possibility of winning large audiences throughout the world, what provides you with motivation to create appears to be a belief in the ability to look at the outside world through the window of personal sensitivities and perspectives. In the past, I think there have been many women artists who believed to strongly in their own sensibilities and perceptions, with the result being works in which they simply spilled out their guts as a raw form of expression. In contrast, your works seem to possess a sort of objectivity derived from using your sensibilities for careful and minute observation of the world, so that even if there is strong expression, it is never offensive or negative in a bad way.
As I have been talking about my work now, I have come to a feeling that I don’t have anything that I can call “myself.”

I was born and raised in the countryside in Yamaguchi Prefecture, I began dancing to the pop music of the B’z band, I don’t have any exceptional parentage, and I wasn’t raised o have a special appreciation of the arts. The earliest things I remember were my mother reading children’s books to me out loud every day. I think that is the origins of my picture-card playwriting. Then, when I went out into the world, I met a lot of different and interesting people who I found to have ways of thinking that I’d never imagined, and a sampled some of them along the way and undertook a number of my own new challenges one after another. I’m such an exceptionally ordinary person, and perhaps my only real strength may be that I am rather good at editing. So, to be honest, I don’t think there is anything that absolutely has to be the way I say it should. If I could do what I want to do, filmmaking and dance would both be fine for me, and if it looks like I could do something interesting I would like to use music and words as well. I would even like to try doing a commercial movie.

But, based on my experience thus far, I would definitely say that I have found interest in things that I connect with my actual feelings. No matter how much I am told what issues are especially important in today’s world, I can’t latch onto it as a theme for my work if I feel it is too far from my actual feelings, and I won’t have a sense of immediacy about it. And yet, when I am editing [films] there are times when I get the feeling that both my inner eye and the outside world’s eyes are working together on it, and if I follow that course, it must surely connect eventually to the world at large.
Talking with you, I have come to see that through the “filter” of your physical body and your emotions, your work at times becomes fiction and at times documentary. And I see how your creative process that can acquire and incredibly strong sense of transparency, and your tireless desire for experimentation and absence of obsessions make your work stand out as a pure “Yoshigai world.” In the severity of our lives in these times, where even real physical perceptions of through our bodies is not enough to take in the world, I think the presence of the media of film is going to be increasingly important going forward. So, we are looking forward to your new works to come. Please let me express our thanks for all of the precious time you have given us for the informing interview.