Lights of Japan

Lights of Japan

What the world needs now is the light of “Resilience.” With thanks to people all over the world, we would like to create things that serve as lights to the world. This film was created for “Japan Night,” a side event of World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2012 at Davos.

Come for the music. Stay for the story.  This beautiful short film, Lights of Japan, must be seen by more people than those lonely few who visit the Japanese Government Internet TV site.  I have a feeling Lights of Japan has been seen exclusively by a select group of the world’s elite cozying up at Davos.  That’s not good enough.  It must be seen by the masses, because it’s the elite and the masses who are going to rebuild Japan.

When I asked my Sophia students if they had seen the film, they all said no.  Hmm, I thought.  Why is this such a hidden gem?  I realize that it was made for Japan Night at Davos, but it is a public domain film or it wouldn’t be linked to the Japanese government website.

The Japanese government produced the film with private partners and the film production quality is high.  The problem is the distribution, which is a critical part of the planning for any film.  If Marshall McLuhan’s “the medium is the message,” still applies, then the message of Lights of Japan is suffering due to poor media distribution.  You won’t find this film on YouTube (yet), nor will you find it easily on the Internet.  I had to dig and dig until I found the “Japanese Government Internet TV” webpage.  Believe me, that URL does not glide off one’s tongue.

Watch the film and tell me what you think.  What’s your favorite scene?  Mine is that lengthy pause before Nobuyuki Tsujii starts playing the first notes on the restored piano.  The classical music is extraordinary and the first time I watched this I had tears in my eyes.  It is truly inspirational to watch the resilience of the Japanese people a year after the earthquake and tsunami.  The message of resilience and hope is a message that is ripe for the world, so I hope the world will see this.


30 thoughts on “Lights of Japan

  1. Hi, it’s been a while. But I want to let you know that the the video is now on YouTube “辻井伸行 石巻市のピアノ Nobuyuki Tsujii – Ishinomaki piano ‘lights of Japan’ ” , at

  2. This video was so nice. It really touches your heart. I too agree that this needs to be sent out to the masses. I think the problem is that Japanese are slow to catch on with the social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Nowadays if you want to get your message across, it needs to be through the Internet, but preferably those three networks that I listed.

  3. I thank you for introducing this video. It’s really beautiful and I almost cried in the class. I live in Tokyo and it didn’t have major damage except transportation was all stopped on the day. The aftermath was all over the news and we had no time to forget but now it’s been more than a year and some people are not aware of the issues left behind anymore, including rubble and nuclear power plants. People have to raise a voice now. We can’t just forget.

  4. Let’s figure out a way to upload this to YouTube. I have a YouTube page: thesnowmachine. I’m willing to post it there. My students can’t understand why this isn’t on YouTube. It needs global distribution.

    Well, the problem is intellectual property right. Especially since this is a government production, I don’t think they would appreciate having their video uploaded without permission. I actually have a copy of the video, and can upload it to my YouTube account if I want to. But I think it is best for you, perhaps along with your students, to write to or call the contact information listed on the page — namely:

    Public Relations Office, Cabinet Office, Government of Japan
    1-6-1 Nagata-cho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-8968, Japan TEL. (81) (3) 5253-2111
    Copyright Cabinet Office, Government of Japan. All Rights Reserved.

    Perhaps you can start a letter campaign to ask the office to consider uploading the original video to YouTube. I hope you will!

  5. Let’s figure out a way to upload this to YouTube. I have a YouTube page: thesnowmachine. I’m willing to post it there. My students can’t understand why this isn’t on YouTube. It needs global distribution.

  6. Beautifully written, Alisa. Please share “Lights of Japan” with everyone and let’s try to get it on YouTube. I don’t see why the Japanese Government would mind. It’s an inspiring message from Japan to the world.

  7. I am afraid that this might be not answering your question but Japan does have a strong media but in unofficial area. Our country is famous for digital devices such as in places like Akihabara where it is also called “the Mecca of Geeks.” People who are familiar in those places are experts in computers and other digital devices more than people working at the computer company. By viewing YouTube for example, things related to anime or manga are very fast to get online even though some of them aren’t so famous.

    Listening to Mr. Shikata’s lecture, though he is trying to make official things look more familiar to us, it cannot easily be actualized since he stands in an official position. I think to use Japanese culture or private citizens in those places in a more official way will promote Japan more frankly in a good way since that is the core part of Japan.

  8. My favorite scene in the film is when they show the great things that Japan has helped to create such as the Shinkansen, Boeing 787, and Hayabusa. It shows just how much Japan contributes to society and how strong they are that they won’t let something like the tsunami and earthquake get in their way of progression. My favorite line in this is, “When all is enveloped in darkness, you must create your own source of light.” I think that this is a truly inspiring quote that makes you want to look past the hardships and try your best move forward.

  9. I was really impressed by this movie when I watched it in the class. The smashed piano came back to life and now it plays really beautiful melody, as if nothing has happened. In this movie, the piano is the Japan itself and the restored piano even looks like it got stronger than before. This movie made me feel that Japan will be once again as fine as it used to be or she will be much stronger than before. I think this movie can get lots of sympathy and attention from the world if only we could make them to watch it. It is so regrettable that many people do not know this movie. I can’t understand why Japanese Government TV won’t upload to YouTube. My favorite scene is that the sun rises in the sky above the Japanese city. I felt that the sun lights up not only the city but also the future of Japan. I think this is so inspirational. I also like the scene that the setting sun shows up in the center of this screen. I thought that they wanted to show the national flag of Japan (the rising-sun flag). The rising-sun shines well and I again thought that this tries to light up the future of Japan.

  10. The video is so beautiful that it made me wonder why this video is not on YouTube. The distinctive feature that video has is two meanings of ‘move’. One is actually meaning, it has moving with music, as Mr. Tsujimoto plays the piano beautifully in the video. Another meaning is that video can move people. The scene which the mayor says about his town and how to overcome sorrow of his lost wife on 3.11, his facial expression and the way he speaks makes me cry. I think this video has to spread all over the world, for it moves people, lets people know how Great East Japan Earthquake damaged Japan, and shows how to overcome the sorrow.

  11. It was a great opportunity getting to see this short film in class. It was beautiful. The message, the melody and the picture made a wonderful combination and as a whole aroused people a sense of hope and pride as a Japanese. This video allows us not to forget about the tragedy that took place an year ago, yet keeps us hopeful. The video was inspiring, and I too believe it ought to be known by many people around the country and the world. It reminds me of the commercial run on television by Suntory right after the great earthquake where many people came up and sang “Ue wo muite arukou (上を向いて歩こう).” It is not as carefully edited as this short film, but holds power to move people. I cried when I first saw the commercial when I was feeling depressed over the tragedy. I hope you take a look at this commercial too.

  12. You are welcome, Kumiko. Let’s keep sharing “Lights of Japan” and think about our own lights of influence in the world. I too was very moved by the Korean and Chinese presidential visits to the disaster region. They looked genuinely saddened and emotionally moved by what they saw.

  13. This film is very moving and touching, that even after class I could not stop watching it. A year ago seems like a long time ago for me, but I am glad we saw it in class because it bought me back to when the earthquake had happened and it reminded me of how devastating this was for all of Japan to see. My favorite part was when I saw the Korean president and the Chinese president come to pay their respects to all the people who have lost their lives in the Great East Japan Earthquake. Even though we have disputes with our neighboring Asian countries, in times of disaster everyone becomes one. It was not just Asia, but countries all over the world that have heard about the disaster. I felt that this video had shown a great sense of unity among Japan and foreign countries as well as among Japanese citizens.

    Thank you for sharing this video in class!

  14. Very well written, Nao. I do not know the background for the “Lights of Japan” production, but I believe the piano repair and renovation project was also presented in the mainstream media. If so, then it wasn’t a project necessarily driven by the Japanese government but certainly elevated in order to make such a powerful narrative to this piece.

  15. This “Lights of Japan” absolutely is one of the most impressive images I have ever seen. The gradual process of repairing the piano parallels with how Japan strives to retrieve pre-earthquake Tohoku and smiles on its people, which touched me especially since I still remember horrified screams of the very same people from a year before.

    However, I wonder if the images were recorded by the Japanese government precisely on purpose from an early stage to make such a documentary. I would like to think that the government got the idea for this film’s structure from reviewing previous news reports, that the repairmen actually wanted to fix the piano first on their will without an official demand. Or else, too much propaganda essence would get in to reduce the sympathetic feelings of unity among viewers and Tohoku people. I think in this way because I believe a true resilience needs to sprout out itself instead of being planted by someone else.

  16. I promise to show it in all my classes in America. It has a universal message to do public good, to live well, to give back after unspeakable hardship, and to take on causes that are greater than oneself.

  17. How wonderful it is I thought when I watched this video in the last class. I was moved and I was almost tearing up when I saw the sorrowful face of the mayor of Rikuzentakata. I can’t imagine how hard it is for him to stay strong and lead people after missing his wife by tsunami. He is doing great work which other people can hardly do. I really hope as many as Japanese people and the people all over the world watch this film. This video tells us not only the resilience of Japan but also the thankfulness to help by other countries. I would like to share it with my friends all over the world.

  18. Personally, I think the soundtrack of this video is top-notch. The intermix of silence, music, and the sparse narrative was masterful. A pianist who lost his light gives us a light with a piano that survived and revived from Tsunami. I admire this poetic line shown on the screen: “A single pianist imbues the piano with light.”
    Considering that Nobuyuki was born blind, he did not exactly “lose his light.” By coincidence, I came across this Japanese blog post earlier today, entitled 光と闇 (light and darkness), which has a moving paragraph about the blindness of Nobuyuki Tsujii (

  19. It was impressive to see how well the mayor of Rikuzentakata had worked since right after the earthquake, even though his wife was missing. He encouraged many people, including me, to do what we can do. Also, the music played by Nobuyuki Tsuji is pretty symbolic. A pianist who lost his light gives us a light with a piano that survived and revived from Tsunami.

    I agree that this video is worth watching by the public, especially the first half scenes. If this video had been broadcast on TV as a public advertisement via the AC (Advertisement Council) with Japanese subtitles, it would be easier to spread this video.

  20. There is no question that if the video were on YouTube, it would get much more views. I am personally capable of uploading the video to YouTube, but I assume that doing so would not go over well with the Japanese government.

    I think the lack of attention in Japan to this video may have a deeper cause. My sense is that many in Japan are not happy with the actions of their government — or lack there of — in addressing the sufferings of the victims, and perhaps there is also a battle fatigue among the Japanese citizens about 311.

    So I have come to think that what Mr. Nobuyuki Tsujii does on his own is probably a better approach. He emphasizes the positive as he tours around the world, thanking people in foreign nations (Taiwan, France, Switzerland) for the help that they provided to Japan for 311. And this past March he personally performed in the Tohoku region, which is still under the shadow of the Fukushima disaster, making public appearances to promote their local businesses.

    For its artistic value alone, this video deserves some accolade.

  21. I just felt this video was really beautiful. It is a waste that it is not on YouTube where it is more likely for more people to watch. I didn’t know the mayor of Rikuzen Takada’s wife was one of the victims of the tsunami and I could really feel for his loss. I could feel tears filling in my eyes watching him trying to stay strong for others in the city even though he is still not over his loss. It was a short video and yet it has the effect to bring tears to my eyes. I think this is incredible. Some people may feel the video to be propaganda by the Japanese government, but I think it shows how Japan is trying to recover from the disaster and trying to look on the positive things Japan still holds and stays strong.

  22. >I wish that I could meet him in Tokyo.
    Professor Snow: I thought I would mention that Mr. Nobuyuki Tsujii is performing at the Suntory Hall in Tokyo on August 21
    However, tickets for the concert (as for all other concerts in Japan in which Nobu appears) sold out instantly after they went on sale.

  23. Professor Snow: Thank you for your response to my comment. I of course agree with you that government propaganda not withstanding, this video is extraordinary and that Mr. Tsujii is “is an wonderful cultural ambassador for Japan.”
    By coincidence, back in August 2011, I wrote a piece entitled “辻井伸行 – 平和大使 Nobuyuki Tsujii – Peace Ambassador”—2

    I am very glad that Nobu has a new fan in you, Professor Snow. By the way, Mr. Tsujii lives in Tokyo.
    Another BTW, In another life, I was a Fulbright Professor (though not in Japan.)

  24. How wonderful to hear from you and thanks so much for sharing the link from your website that gives more information. I did not know Mr. Nobuyuki Tsujii until I watched this video. He is an wonderful cultural ambassador for Japan, as well as exquisite pianist who breathes so much emotion into every note. I look forward to downloading some of his music for my enjoyment and meditation. I greatly appreciate your note. Btw, every government uses propaganda. That’s to be expected. I once worked at the United States Information Agency (USIA) and we were the government propaganda agency responsible for “telling America’s story to the world.” Such films like “Lights of Japan” are going to present a positive, forward-looking message. We saw all the negative media stories coming out of Japan. We know that many mistakes were made by the Japanese government and private industry regarding not only a lack of information but even withholding of information about the dangers in the aftermath. This film has a different purpose, propagandistic, I suppose, but nevertheless a beautiful, powerful message that doesn’t seem to do harm but uplifts. As I say at the beginning of my blog, “Come for the music. Stay for the story.” If nothing else, just watch the video for the music.

  25. Hi, I am American and I know this video well. In fact, I created a page about it on my website for international fans of Mr. Nobuyuki Tsujii: On the page you will find extensive information about that video collected by me.

    You are right. This video is not well known in Japan, mainly because it is not on YouTube and even more so because the narrative is in English. Mr. Tsujii’s own official site mentioned the video in a January 2012 entry on this page, ending with “全編英語。” I have also heard from some Japanese citizens that they thought the video has too much government propagandizing.

    I agree that it is a beautifully made video. I teared up also when I watched it for the first time (after waiting for a very long time for it to show up on the web — in fact, I wrote to notify the webmaster of Mr. Tsujii about the video’s appearance) and again when I read that Mr. Tsujii begged, during filming to be allowed to play one more piece, an elegy ( それでも、生きてゆく) that he wrote for the earthquake victims. Of the three pieces that Mr. Tsujii played on the restored piano, only Liszt’s “The Sigh” was finally used on the soundtrack for the video.

    As you can easily tell, I am a huge fan of Mr. Nobuyuki Tsujii. He has made numerous performances to raise funds for the earthquake reconstruction, the latest in March in Paris at a UNESCO concert with Mr. Yutaka Sado and others. When he performs abroad, such as last week in Taiwan, he also gives thanks for help offered to Japan during the 2011 disaster.

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