The Japan experience – Part 2

Stain glass Urakami Cathedral

The day after returning to Nagasaki from our trip to Nara, we had an interview arranged with Fr. Renzo, who runs a beautifully designed museum dedicated to the 26 Martyrs of Japan. After a brief but informative tour of the museum, it was on to the interview.

Outside the museum there is a huge relief depicting each of the 26 martyrs.

Again, we were working to a very tight deadline and before we got too comfortable, it was time to make our way to our next destination, the Peace Memorial Hall for the Atomic Bomb Victims, where we had three other interviews scheduled.

We were privileged to be able to interview Mr. Yoshitoshi Fukahori, who is also head of the Committee for Atomic Bombing Research and Archive materials and a survivor of the atomic bombing. His interview included a detailed slide show of photos that helped bring his story and experience vividly to life.

Director Ian Higgins and co. producer Joel Fletcher set up the camera angle, while Director Dominic Higgins (off camera) discusses the interview to be filmed with Mr. Fukahori.

After his interview, we showed Mr. Fukahori some of our pre-visual artwork to make sure it was as authentic as possible. Mr. Fukahori seemed impressed with the artwork and told us it was just how it was.

Mr. Fukahori relives his experience as a survivor of the atomic bombing.

A reporter from the Japanese newspaper, “The Yomiuri Shimbun”, was also there at Mr. Fukahori’s interview to talk to us about the film – we appeared in the newspaper the next morning! So we also managed to get some good publicity within Japan.

Our second interview was with Professor Jun. Professor Jun and his students have created a computer generated model of pre-bombed Nagasaki, guided by Mr. Fukahori’s memories. From a research point of view, this “virtual” reconstruction will allow us a fascinating and highly detailed look at the Nagasaki of Dr. Nagai’s youth.

Next we had an interview with Mr. Takashi Morita, the director of the Peace Memorial Hall.

As well as being granted special permission to film and photograph in the memorial hall by Mr Morita, we were given a private view of a special light show on the roof of the Peace Hall, where 70,000 fibre optic lights shine from the bottom of a large tree lined basin of water. Needless to say, once again we felt incredibly honoured and very privileged.

Each light represents the soul of a victim of that day. After we got our footage, we downed our cameras and took a moment to let the experience sink in. It was profoundly beautiful and another memory to treasure.

The beautiful light display on the roof of the Atomic bomb memorial hall.

70,000 lights for 70,000 souls.

Our overriding experience of our time in the Peace Memorial Hall was one of deep contemplation. On one hand, there is a quiet, but very deep and sincere respect for all the victims of the atomic bombings, and on the other, a passionate plea for the world to learn from the horrors endured by the people of Nagasaki on that summer day. There is no trace of bitterness or anger whatsoever, and this is undoubtedly why a visit to a place such as the Memorial Hall has such a profound effect.

The next morning we had an interview with Dr. Masao Tomonaga, whose father was also a personal physician to Dr. Nagai in his final years. Dr. Tomonaga had memories of meeting Dr. Nagai has a child and showed us a first edition of Dr. Nagai’s landmark book, “The Bells Of Nagasaki” which had a written message from Dr. Nagai to his father!

Dr. Tomonaga knew Dr. Nagai personally and gave us some valuable insights into the man and his life.

Dr. Tomonaga’s first edition of “Bells of Nagasaki”, signed by the author.

Dr. Tomonaga told us that he believed our film was potentially one of the most important developments in recent years for the story of all those who suffered through the atomic bombing, alongside Dr. Nagai.

Our final interview was with Mr. Yoshiro Yamawaki, of the Nagasaki Foundation for the Promotion of Peace, who was 11 when the atomic bomb exploded over Nagasaki. Once again, what we heard was a harrowing and intimate account of living through the atomic holocaust. It was a privilege for us to be able to speak to both survivors of the atomic bombing, and our interviews with them enabled us to capture the true human face of the disaster.

The interview was followed by a tour of the atomic bomb museum where we got to see more examples of the destructive power unleashed on that day in 1945. One of the most poignant items on display was a wall clock that had stopped at 11.02am, the exact time the bomb exploded.

Forever frozen at 11.02 am, August the 9th, 1945.

We spent our last few hours in Nagasaki filming in the Peace Park. Standing at the point of the epicentre of the bomb was very unnerving, as was standing before the remains of the original Urakami Cathedral.  We took a moment to let it all sink in, and then, with only a couple of hours to catch our plane we decided to risk a mad dash to Yamazato Elementary School where Dr. Nagai had erected a memorial for all the children who perished there.

It was very long journey home but it was good to be able to sit down for more than five minutes!

The Peace Memorial Park.

The Peace Statue

The 10-meter-tall Peace Statue by sculptor Seibou Kitamura dominates the park. The right hand points to the sky and symbolises the threat of nuclear weapons while the left hand is extended to the side in a symbol of eternal peace.

All that remains of the original cathedral in Urakami.

A reconstructed Dutch settlement in Nagasaki – some wonderful traditional buildings = plenty of useful material for FX shots.

Every so often we had the feeling of really stepping back in time.

During our trip to Japan, we became increasingly aware of just how important our film was to the people we had met, with so many of them thanking us for attempting to make their story and the story of Dr. Nagai better known to the world.

We were incredibly passionate about telling this story before we went to Japan and we were obligated to make the film because of the donations we had received, but now we also have a very personal obligation to fulfil. The film has found its soul.

The “Hibaku Maria” or “Bombed Maria” a statue of Mary from the Cathedral at Urakami that survived the bombing. Preserved today in a small chapel inside the Cathedral, its scared face is a haunting reminder of the human face of the tragedy.

Help make a movie worth watching!

It was thanks to all the kind donations we received via our crowd funding campaign on that we were able to fly out to Japan and film the wonderful interviews and amazing footage we now have. But… we still need to raise a little more money as we turn our efforts to producing the drama aspects of the movie.

The drama will concentrate on the human story behind the facts. We believe that drama is the most powerful way to bring this side of the story to life with the impact that it needs, so we’ve launched one final campaign on Indiegogo  with every penny raised going into the production of the movie.

So once more we are asking  for your support and help in bringing this incredible and important story to screens all over the world and into the hearts of people everywhere, where it belongs.

Below Fr. Paul Glynn explains why he believes the story of Dr. Nagai still remains so relevant today.

To help us make it happen point your browser to our page onIndiegogo.

We’ve also just launched the official All That Remains website  be sure to check it out!

The Japan experience – Part 1

After an epic 22 hour journey from England to Japan, we took a brief walk around Nagasaki to get a feel for the place, and then had an early night, ready for the busy schedule that awaited us over the next 10 days.

Our first interviews were with Tokusaburo Nagai, the grandson of Dr. Nagai and Fr. Jose Aguilar, an expert on early Christianity in Japan as well as the life of Dr. Nagai. After a look around the small museum dedicated to Dr. Nagai, we set up next door in Nyokodo, the little hut where Dr. Nagai spent the last few years of his life.

Nyokodo today– This is the tiny hut where Dr. Nagai and his two children lived after the atomic bombing.

Takashi in Nyokodo

Takashi Nagai at work in Nyokodo. His body is weak, but his mind and spirit are strong. Perhaps his most remarkable achievement is the sheer volume of books, articles and drawings he produced while confined to a bed.

After so many months researching, it was very strange to be actually sitting in his house, but in order for us to be able to faithfully recreate his story on film; the connection we felt walking in his footsteps was vital.

Our next interview was with Sister Kataoka, a historian with a personal connection to Dr. Nagai – her father was one of his doctors. She came to the interview with mountains of research material to show us. It was a fascinating hour or so.

Next on our schedule was an interview with Archbishop Takami. After the interview, the Archbishop gave us a guided tour of the rebuilt Cathedral. In the shadow of the great cathedral stand several atom bombed scarred statues, silent witnesses to an event that today, we can’t really imagine.

Director Dominic Higgins and producer Joel Fletcher talk with Archbishop Takami on their way to visiting the rebuilt cathedral in Urakami.

The rebuilt Urakami cathedral towers majestically above the trees.

We had an earlier than usual start the next day because we had an 8 hour journey from Nagasaki to Nara ahead of us, where we were to meet Fr. Paul Glynn, author of “A Song For Nagasaki”.

We discovered just before leaving for Japan that Nara was celebrating its 1300th anniversary – as the number 13 played such an important part in our previous film, Finding Fatima, we took this as a good omen.

It turned out that our brief stay in Nara would be amongst the most treasured highlights of our entire trip to Japan.

We’ve had many wonderful experiences working on our previous films, but nothing compares to the welcome we received in Nara. On our first night we had a welcome dinner of Traditional Japanese food with Fr. Glynn and the men of “The Glynn club” washed down with Japanese beer and Sake. Unfortunately we had to cut the night a little short as we had to conduct one of our main interviews – with Fr. Glynn!

Fr. Paul Glynn.

Fr. Paul Glynn, author of “A Song For Nagasaki”.

The next morning we were up bright and early to film the Sunday mass, where many of the parishioners had agreed to dress in traditional Kimonos, and in the case of the women, wearing white veils also.

I don’t think any of us has ever heard hymns sung in such perfect harmony as we did in that mass in Nara. There is something very special and pure about the faith of the Japanese Christians we’ve come across in our research, a deep sincerity, which is both humbling and inspiring at the same time, and this is what we witnessed during that mass.

Fr. Paul Glynn gives communion. Note the beautiful headdresses worn by the women.

During the service, Mrs Okada, a local soprano sung “The Bells of Nagasaki” – the theme song to the original 1950 movie based on the life of Dr. Nagai. The performance was stunning and this was among the most emotional moments of our trip.

Soprano Yumiko Okada gives a powerful rendition of “The Bells of Nagasaki”.

We definitely wasn’t expecting what came at the end of the service. First Mrs. Yoshida, who, along with her husband Andy and Fr. Glynn, had helped arrange everything for our trip to Nara, performed a special welcome dance for us, and then we were asked to stand in front of the altar where we were presented with so many wonderful gifts, including an old Noh play mask (Noh is an ancient Japanese form of theatre).

One of the many gifts we received from the people of Nara was this beautiful Noh mask.

Speaking on behalf of Major Oak Entertainment, director Ian Higgins addressed the parishioners, “We came to Japan to tell the story of one man, Dr. Nagai, but now, we realise this is the story of everyone in this church, of every Japanese Christian who ever lived. It is a story of a faith that survived against the odds, a faith that stands as an example to the rest of the world.”

Below Mrs Yoshida performs the traditional dance.

At the end of service we made a special recording of Mrs Okada singing “The Bells of Nagasaki”, for use in our film. We had a farewell lunch with Fr. Glynn and several of the parishioners before a quick shopping spree for traditional Kimonos, to be used as costumes in the movie. Mrs Yoshida kindly offered to come with us (we would have been lost without her!)

We were very sad to leave Nara so soon – but we had a very demanding and tight schedule, so we set off on another 8 hour journey back to Nagasaki.

Director Ian Higgins stands before a monument honoring the memory of the “Hidden Christians” of Nagasaki.

Major Oak meets the Mighty Oak: In Nagasaki's Glover garden, we found a special Oak tree that had been planted to commemorate Nagasaki City’s participation in the UK-Japan Green Alliance 2002 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Anglo/Japanese Alliance. Director Dominic Higgins reads the inscription which states that the tree symbolizes strength, loyalty and longevity.