[From June Issue 2011]
Arigato (Directed by MANDA Kunitoshi)
This feature film is based on real events that took place following the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake of 1995. The story unravels around FURUICHI Tadao, a senior professional golfer, and the strength of his family’s bonds as the city and its people tried to recover from the devastation. The educational value of the film’s subject matter was approved, and it was eventually chosen as one of the Selected Works by, the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT). It was first released in 2006.
On January 17 at 5:46 am, a big earthquake rocked Furuichi Cameras, one of the many shops sitting along the Nagata-ku shopping avenue in Kobe, Japan. Furuichi Tadao and his wife and two daughters were fast asleep in the residential part of his shop. Once the severe jolts stopped, Tadao and his wife quickly verified their family’s safety. Meanwhile, the arcade covering the shopping avenue had collapsed, as so too did many shops and houses around them.
The fire that broke out in the distance gradually approached the shopping avenue like sea of flames. Confusion gripped the neighborhood as people just stood there panic-stricken – some pushed others aside while they ran for their lives, while others tried to rescue those desperately in need. Tadao, a member of the local fire fighting squad, instructed his wife and daughters to evacuate while he and his squad members tried to rescue people, pulling them out from beneath the rubble.
At a mass funeral nineteen days later, Tadao proclaimed to everyone in attendance that “The earthquake was no one’s fault. Natural disasters happen. We must rebuild the city to be more disaster-proof. That is what we can do on behalf of all the people who lost their lives.” Tadao then started to help the people rebuild their city.
Two years later, the Furuichi family has resumed their lives in a new house. But rather than work, Tadao continues to help rebuild the neighborhood, while relying on his wife and daughters to support their family. Finally, his wife implores him to “start thinking about ‘restoring’ his family,” after which he shows her one of the only things to have survived the fires – a golf bag. Passionately he tells her, “God left me this for a reason. So now, I’m going to become a professional golfer.”
The professional golf certification exam is extremely competitive. Usually, only 50 out of 1,800 applicants pass, with most of those still in their 20’s. At close to 60, the odds of Tadao turning pro were extremely slim. But he didn’t give up and trained vigorously. His wife tells him that while she doesn’t agree with his decision, neither will she stand in his way. But quietly she keeps watch over him.
Eventually Tadao makes it to the final round. He tells himself to “make a miracle,” as he heads onto the green. At the final hole, a problem occurs as his ball lands in the woods, but taking his caddy’s advice Tadao hits a miraculous shot to fulfill his destiny of becoming a professional golfer. He calls his wife to tell her the good news, but she just dryly replies: “good for you, but our phone bills are expensive, so I’ll hang up now,” after which she quietly starts to cry.