Usuzumi no sakura (1977) - full transcript

Haneda's first independent film, a project she honed over several years, is a paean to a millenary cherry tree that can be found in the Neo village in the Gifu prefecture. The film deals with the history of this magnificent tree, the changing social life of the community living around it and the filmmaker's memories. As Haneda wrote, this personal film became an act of self-discovery, both a gesture of celebration and mourning, which allowed her to find a new path in filmmaking.

April, 1969.

In the upper reaches of the Neo River,
Gifu Prefecture, I happened
to come across an old cherry tree.

Even after three and a half years passed,
I remained determined
to make a film about that tree.

And so, on the spring of 1977. the work
you are about to see was finally completed.

Sumiko Haneda

The Cherry Tree with Gray Blossoms

The day passes...

the moon waxes and wanes...

time flows...

5 years, 10 years, 50 years...

People know the weight of 50 years.

Some even have
a whole century behind them.

The day passes...

the moon waxes and wanes...

time flows...

200 years... 300 years... 500 years...

Such spans of time no one can know.

700 years...

A thousand years...

Everything is drowned in misty shadow...

On the upper reaches of the Neo River, that
flows from deep within Gifu's Mino Mountains

there is a lonely cherry tree.

It stands at the foot of the mountain,
across the Neo River

that flows near the village.

According to the
signpost next to the it...

this tree was planted personally
by His Majesty the Keitai Emperor.

When Emperor Keitai was a
child, he hid in this Neo Valley...

from persecution by
the Emperor YĆ«ryaku.

When he was eighteen years old

he had to go back to the
Capital to succeed the throne.

It is said that he
planted this tree then

as a token of gratitude
for the villagers.

This tree has always been called
"The Cherry Tree with Gray Blossoms"

It is said to be at least
1300 or 1400 years old.

That strange shape...

covered in cracks and crevices...

Some wounds become knotty bumps.

The regal trunk rises from the
ground spreading its arms wide...

The moss-covered branches no
longer give off the look of a plant...

It rather looks a
part of the earth itself.

From that earth, young branches grow.

They really look young...

On those young branches,
leaves grow thick...

And flowers bloom...

Its age...

1300 years...

or 1400 years... one knows anymore.

Surrounding the cherry tree,
there are six farmer's households.

It's been like that a long time,
the number of households

neither increasing nor decreasing.

The local healer and
priest, Sumiyoshi Heiroku.

His regular job is on the mountain.

Sumiyoshi Ippei, who lives
right next door, is his grandson.

He works in a factory with his wife.

Next to him, the household of Sumiyoshi
Satoru, Heiroku's distant relative.

Satoru is a labourer.

Across the road is the
house of Hatanaka Kannichi.

Kannichi raises pigs.

His wife lives with their
son Yoshiki's family.

Yoshiki is a day labourer, so he
leaves home very early in the morning.

Kannichi has granchildren,
Yoshiki's children.

A little closer to the mountain
is Hatanaka Kazumi's house.

He is Kannichi's cousin.

He raises cows near
Kannichi's pigsty.

Hatanaka Masaji's house
is right under the cherry tree.

He is Kannichi's relative too,
Kannichi's houshold is their head house.

Masaji's wife works as a
day-labourer and a factory worker.

These six households

were related to Hatanaka and
Sumiyoshi families for generations.

Everyday life starts at daybreak.

The first to wake up is
Heiroku, the village priest.

He is up at 4.

It's difficult for the light
to shine in around the tree,.

since the sun is blocked
by the mountains.

And so, every day, it is
greeted by a shadowy dawn.

Heiroku does his morning
service before breakfast.

The first thing all households do after cooking
is to set aside some rice for altar offerings.

At Kannichi's house, aside from
making offerings at the Buddhist altar...

the great-grandfather also recites prayers
before a talisman from Toyokawa Inari

that is enshrined in the house.

After that, he carries the rice offering to
the Goddess of Mercy shrine next to the tree.

The Goddess of Mercy is carved
out of the broken branches of the tree.

Every morning Kannichi takes
the rice offering to the shrine,

and brings it down it at dusk.

Supervision of the tree is officially the
duty of the village Board of Education.

However, everyday care is
entrusted to the villagers here.

Even though it is mostly
Kannichi who does the work now...

the role belonged to Heiroku's
father while he was still alive.

They say that the cherry tree next to the
shrine was raised by Heiroku's father...

from the seed of "The Cherry
Tree with Grey Blossoms".

This Goddess of Mercy
shrine was carved in 1912....

when a strong
typhoon shook the tree.

It was concluded after
some deliberation that

even if the cherry
tree were to fall

it would still live on forever
if it were made into a shrine.

When we were children,
this cherry tree...

this whole area,
it was covered...

with all sorts of trees...

So around that
time, and even after

sightseers and carefree people
would climb the trees...

some would even lie on them.

It's forbidden now, you
can't do anything like that.

So when we were in primary school...

around second or third grade,
I think, about sixty years ago...

around that time we marked
a perimeter around the tree.

At that time the village headman
was a man named Kajiwara Sonosuke.

The whole place really
looked pitiful up until then...

so when they did that, and
banned climbing on it and such...

I remember they'd scold us if
they saw us climbing the tree...

So we didn't do such things anymore...

So as agreed, we cleared
the terrain around the tree.

And marked the boundaries...

from somewhere in the middle of that
rice field, all the way up to that house.

And also all the way until
that rice paddy over there.

This part was clear, so that's where we
took all trees and branches we cleared...

We gradually finished
the job in this manner.

We brought it back to life.

That's the way it was, and then...

the village headman, he
gave the orders and gradually...

a lot of people started coming.

So they limited how many people
can come within the boundaries we set.

So people who had
some work to do here...

And people like photographers
could get near, but that's about it.

About sixty years ago,
standing by this cherry tree...

We found bones right here.

At that time we had about 10 labourers,
all sorts of people cleaning around here.

So they ended up
finding the bones.

The doctor came to take the bones.

He said he was going to take them
and verify if they are human or not.

Foxes often brought their prey here,
so we thought it might've been that.

Some time later, he said that
they were human bones, no mistake.

So here's what we later
reasoned must've happened.

Somewhere below this spot,
a burial mound was made...

and it just lay here,
forgotten by the people.

Was there ever any talk before
of this place being a burial mound?

Yes, there was.

In the past, this tree...

People used to take parts of it
home with them to make firewood...

A legend says the tree trembled as if in
anger, and blood gushed out of its trunk.

And after that, any branches the
people took for firewood would be useless.

That's what they say.

That's the story...

Is that so?

The cherry tree was
on a burial mound...

Oh, burial tree!

Who is it that you hold in
the darkness of the earth?

Resentments, sorrows, joys...

Everything is
swallowed by the earth...

never to rise again.

A multitude of lost memories...

...suspended in time.

This is the house of the
doctor who examined the bones.

The doctor passed
away a long time ago.

And his sons moved out of Gifu.

No one lives here now.

Kunii Hospital

No one knows what happened to
the bones he brought back here.

The lonely house slowly
crumbles away, covered in grass.

Whose bones were they?

What happened to them?

A cherry tree that cradles
the dead in its arms.

The day passes...

The moon waxes and wanes...

And with the moon,
the years pass.

Blood thins, flesh decays...

and bones return to the earth.

And all resentments will one
day belong to the cherry tree.

And all resentments will one
day belong to the cherry tree.

Once twilight descends,

the rice offering for
the Goddess of Mercy shrine is taken down.

Night is the time of the spirits...

Time when the curses of
the deceased resurface.

The tree that keeps the
darkness at bay emits a deep sigh.

Resentments envelop everything.

In the stillness of the night...

they spread out like a ripple.

Autumn is the most beautiful
season here in the valley.

The people work, preparing
for the coming winter.

A man from town hall comes to check
the cherry tree's supports before snow.

Only about 30 years ago...

it was believed that this
tree will wither and die.

At that time, a dentist name Maeda
Toshiyuki financed a restoration project.

Mr. Maeda, took the roots of
238 young mountain cherry trees...

and used them to
reinforce this tree's roots.

When they dug up the old roots...

they were withered and
damaged by termites.

The cherry tree was
coming back to life.

Life returned to the old tree.

Even though it has
lived for too long...

Even though its
longevity is at its limit.

It still survives...

borrowing strength from
the roots of younger trees.

How many lives has this tree witnessed,
standing immobile at this place?

How many people being
born, growing old, dying?

Before its gaze,
the elders of today...

were but children
only the day before.

And tomorrow...

they will find eternal
rest here by the river.

When the mountaintops
turn white...

the snow starts descending
into the valley, too.

The time the cherry tree spends
in the sun is getting shorter...

and the winds
are getting colder.

The cherry tree
endures the snow...

It endures the cold...

It endures facing the future...

and its own fading life.

And it cries:

I still live!

I'm still alive!

The spring comes
almost unnoticed.

The buds on the southern
branches start blossoming.

The white bell-shaped
flowers cover the treetop.

Is this the cherry tree's spring?

A once-a-year festivity.

The flowers bloom...

Like a joyous song...

Like love overflowing...

Oh, cherry tree, that year by year...

is adorned by clear white flowers!

Did someone see your
flowers a thousand years ago?

Your small, white flowers...

Even today, people are
spellbound by them.

Their faces filled
with uncontained joy.

With the flowers, the people also return to
the formerly desolate foot of the mountain.

Around the tree, from early in the
morning all the way until sunset...

a festival is held.

The 10 people who live here
don't let this opportunity go to waste.

The ladies association
opens up the oden stall.

The wives of Hatanaka and
Sumiyoshi families who work at the stall.

There are also sweets carrying the name
of the "Cherry Tree with Gray Blossoms"

Kannichi, who sells the sweets.

The flowers are light pink at the
beginning, but turn white as they open.

Not long after, they
become gray, like diluted ink.

This is the origin of its name,
the cherry tree with gray blossoms.

The color of the
flowers fades day by day...

creating a grey shroud of flowers.

The flowers cover the tree...

like a funeral kimono.

The festival is over.

The cherry tree lives on.

One more year...

It is likely to outlive all of the people
who saw its flowers in bloom this year.

The cherry tree that lay in this
valley for the past 1000 years...

As soon as the flowering season is over,
and all the way until the next spring...

the villagers mostly
forget about the cherry tree.

Below the cherry tree,
Kannichi is spreading sheets...

to catch the falling fruits of the tree.

They can collect
quite a lot of it like this.

Kannichi has been sowing
cherry seeds for years...

trying to grow seedlings.

However, they are mostly
not sprouting these days.

There are but a few seedlings
that managed to grow until now.

Rain falls...

It's raining from
cloudless skies.

It rains on both the
living, and the dead...

Time flows...

Time steadily marches on...

Both for the living,
and the dead...

A year passed.

The life around the tree
goes on without change.

Rain falls...

Time flows...

A thousand years... And
countless centuries more.

This tree has witnessed them pass...

Oh, cherry tree, your
emotions burning in cold flames.

You who douses those
silent flames in falling rain.

Are you too a living thing?

You always appear to me,
when I think of the end.

In the end, with the
passing of eternity...

fruitlessly gasping for air.

Time flows...

All memory is but a shimmering haze...

Translation: NN
Revisions: angurafilms