Noilly Prattle: Throw Away Old Ladies Mountain

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Throw Away Old Ladies Mountain

It sounds better in Japanese: obasuteyama 叔母捨て山」」. In modern American slang we might say “throw grandma under the bus”. There is a legend in Japan about this mountain for discarding no longer productive people over 70-years old. Did such a strange custom really happen? The legend has been made into a classic movie titled “Narayama Bushiko” (The Ballad of Narayama) twice, in 1933 and 1983. It takes place in rural Japan sometime in the unspecified past. The original film was shot in pre-war Japan in sort of a mixed western play and Kabuki style. The 1983 version is filmed in a more natural world and is rather explicit in some of the scenes. It's basically a story of survival and family relationships in a subsistence level society.

The time has come for two of the old villagers to go to Mt. Nara to die—one willingly the other not. They must be carried by the eldest son just before the first snow flies so that they will not have anything to eat and potentially survive on the mountain. It is a very moving tale of what it really means to be alive and human in a world of scarcity where an extra mouth to feed can mean hardship for an entire family.

Click on the title for a trailer of the 1983 version with English subs.


Anonymous said...

Particularly interesting. Used to always imagine, in our throw away society, that the older people would have no place. A universal theme. Couldn't find the newer version on your site. Thank you for sharing…Ronnie

Noilly Prattle said...

Ronnie, If you google "Narayama Bushiko" you'll get links to various renditions. I think there is even a complete movie of one of the versions in serial form, but in Japanese of course.