盆唄 BON-UTA, A Song from Home

  • BON-UTA, A Song from Home
  • BON-UTA, A Song from Home
  • BON-UTA, A Song from Home
  • BON-UTA, A Song from Home
2019 / Documentary / 134min G
Available Worldwide(except Japan)
English, Spanish (Latin America), Indonesian, Thai, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese


A story of connection between Fukushima and Hawaii through traditional performing arts.

In 2015, four years after the Great East Japan Earthquake, the people of Futaba Town in Fukushima Prefecture, forced to continue to live scattered in evacuation destinations, are concerned about the preservation of their traditional "Bon Uta". However, during this difficult time, they find that the tradition of Bon Odori (Bon dance) has been inherited by people who had immigrated to Hawaii from Fukushima over 100 years ago. The people of Futaba headed to Maui, Hawaii to perform Bon Uta. The documentary follows their journey as they bravely work to preserve their cultural heritage and pass it down to future generations, all while holding onto hope for the continuation of their tradition. As the story unfolds, the "Bon Uta" not only becomes a way for the people of Futaba to share their heritage, but it also unveils the roots of those who have been living away from their homeland. Directed by NAKAE Yuji, who also runs Sakurazaka Theater, the film vibrantly captures the richness of Futaba Town's traditional performing arts, the music of Hawaii's Bon dance and their backgrounds.
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Director Profile


Born in Kyoto in 1960 and later relocated to Okinawa. Nakae has directed several films, including "Pineapple Tours" (1992), "Nabbie's Love" (1999), "Hotel Hibiscus" (2004), and "The Zen Diary" (2022). In 2005, he revived a closed movie theater in Naha-shi and named it "Sakurazaka Theater," becoming a hub not only for film screenings but also for workshops, live performances, and community lectures, making it a prominent cultural center in Okinawa.
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BON-UTA, A Song from Home
Futaba Town in Fukushima’s people, Maui Taiko
Telecom Staff, Inc.
Sakurazaka Theater
Sakurazaka Theater

During Obon, everyone in the village dances “Bon Odori”. The dance is enlivened by “Bon Uta”, traditional songs passed down from generation to generation in each region, each with its unique charm. Interestingly, the term “Bon” used here has little religious significance. It’s a day when people dance with joy while welcoming their ancestors but still let loose and dance without worry. It’s a time when making noise and having fun are allowed, and it happens only once a year. So, how do they spend the rest of the year?
The film portrays the people of Futaba, Fukushima Prefecture, who lost their homes after the nuclear reactor exploded during the earthquake. Their homes were scattered, and they could no longer gather together to practice singing, drumming, or dancing, and certainly, Bon Odori couldn’t be held anymore. “Bon Uta” is in danger of disappearing if things continue this way. From there, the movie delves into the long, profound history of the people of Futaba, who have endured various losses through generations. Behind the songs, hometowns, and lives, one can sense the presence of Japan as a country. Despite their losses, the powerful and vibrant “Bon Uta” created by these resilient people who never gave up on life reveals the coexistence of light and darkness within the nation.

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And “Bon Uta” Continues

For 3 years starting from 2015, we documented the efforts of Mr. YOKOYAMA Hisakatsu and his group to preserve the traditional Bon dance of Futaba Town in Fukushima Prefecture. During that time, the entire area of Futaba Town was designated as a difficult-to-return zone due to the nuclear disaster. People like Mr. Yokoyama who had evacuated from Futaba faced the challenge of showing their identification when entering their own land. When they entered Futaba, they chose not to wear protective clothing. “We got used to it. It’s okay for everyone else to wear it though”, they said. Perhaps it’s just they didn’t want to admit that their hometown of Futaba had been contaminated. Starting a documentary is easy, but finishing it is difficult. In my search for an ending, I proposed, “Can we return to Futaba for just one day and have a Bon dance?” Mr. Yokoyama responded, “I think that’s impossible”. I explained, “I want to use the Bon dance in Futaba as the closing scene of the film”. And he replied, “It’s not feasible. No one is coming back”. While, in the summer of 2023, I received a call from Mr. Yokoyama. He told me, “This year, we’re going to have the Bon dance in front of Futaba Town’s train station. We’re also going to do the dance in front of the ‘Yagura’ (Bon tower) like we did in the film”. And he sounded happy. The Bon dance brings together those who evacuated and even those who passed away. Everyone gathers, and the Bon dance continues.

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  • Mexico

    Un documental realmente hermoso, que logra transmitir el poder de las tradiciones y la importancia de preservarlas a lo largo del tiempo, a través de la adversidad y la distancia. Me encantó la pequeña narración de Sanjiro y su familia al dejar Toyama, la animación resulta sumamente emotiva en su estilo de pinceladas y la bellísima música completa el ambiente sentimental. ¡No se puede decir nada que le haga justicia a la maravillosa música!

  • Australia

    I really enjoyed this documentary! What a beautiful way to preserve traditions and culture – come together and share in it!

  • Canada

    Japan has always honoured its many traditions and the Japanese persevere even in the midst of dislocation. Long may Japan and its many arts prosper. Thank you for sharing this example.

  • Spain

    Very touching and complete documentary about the importance of Bon Uta and what it means to the people of Fukushima who lost everything.
    Beyond a simple tradition, Bon Uta seems to be the very blood that runs through the veins of the dancers, musicians and singers who practice it, and they let us know that the strength and soul of Futaba are still alive in its people.
    An excellent, complete and very enjoyable documentary, thanks to everyone who made it possible!

  • India

    Very touching, shows how Japanese want to preserve their culture in spite of hardships, because culture is what we pass on from one generation to another. They are so much attached to their roots, amazing and incredible love for their soil and culture.

  • Brazil

    A beautiful way to tell a sad and painful story, or actually, many painful and sad stories, while showcasing the resilience and positivity of the Japanese people.

    I learned a lot, got surprised, and emotional many times. I hope the new generations everywhere will keep the traditions and that all the displaced people may return to their home, or find a safe, peaceful one.

  • Germany

    Very touching and really interesting. Thank you so much!

  • Italy

    A deep and composed film that narrates, with exemplary beauty and simplicity, about a land and the difficult story of those who had to leave it. It showcases a peasant culture that submissively and stubbornly resists misfortune and its own disappearance through traditional arts. A gem: Pasolini and Gramsci encapsulated in a haiku. Thank you for letting me see it. Thank you infinitely. P.s. Mr. Yokoyama Hisakatsu, I love you.”

  • Amy

    The spirit lives on for the next generation

  • Indonesia
    Henry Lay

    A touching and heartwarming documentary.
    A beautiful story about preserving culture and tradition.
    My respect to the brave people of Futaba, Fukushima.

  • Germany
    Horst Fabry

    A very interesting but also emotional movie. i learned a lot about historical and recent facts about people loosing their home town and finding a new home and maybe new hope. And overall the steady beat and sounds of Bon Uta. A movie you will think about for a long time.

  • Colombia

    Un documental lleno de emociones profundas, de contrastes entre la tristeza, el dolor y la resiliencia. A través de la música, la danza, la cultura, la tradición, la tierra, la familia, tantos factores que prevalecen incluso en los tiempos más oscuros. En rincones del planeta que muchos no nos imaginamos, ocurren grandes cosas que por lo menos a mi, me enseñan a reafirmar el valor del hogar, el sentido de pertenencia, y el amor por lo que se tiene. Bon Uta, una historia llena de grandeza. Gracias.

  • Hungary

    Moving and informative film, I thank the opportunity for learning pieces of Japanese culture and history. Futaba evacuees’ willingness to preserve their precious tradition is heartwarming ♥

  • Philippines
    Roberto Dela Cruz

    Mahal nila ang kanilang kultura.

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