Shinsuke Ogawa

Shinsuke Ogawa was born in 1935 in Sagamihara, Kanagawa, Japan. He began his film career in 1960 by making public-relations films, but soon left this lucrative career to devote himself to the production of independent documentaries. His first two films, Sea of Youth (1966) and The Oppressed Students (1967), documented early Japanese student protest movements, which presaged the worldwide student rebellion of the late Sixties.

In 1968, at the height of student activism in Japan, when student protests joined with workers' revolts, Ogawa and his staff moved to the farming village of Sanrizuka. There, over the next ten years, they produced a series of seven films documenting the political struggle against the Japanese government, which was attempting to evict local farmers from land on which they had lived and worked for generations to build a new Tokyo International Airport at Narita.

Among the best-known films in the Sanrizuka series are A Summer in Narita (1968), Peasants of the Second Fortress (1971) and The Building of the Iwayama Tower (1972). While recording this sustained and often violent conflict, Ogawa and his crew also began to investigate the local farming culture, and the pace and rhythm of village life.

In 1974, as the protest movements waned, Ogawa Productions left Sanrizuka and relocated to Kaminoyama, Yagamata. The Ogawa filmmaking collective established their base in an abandoned farmhouse where, over the next thirteen years, they documented local agricultural life. Both to support themselves and to learn first-hand about the nature of the agricultural work they were filming, the filmmakers cultivated their rice fields. The results were A Japanese Village - Furuyashikimura (1982) and Magino Village - A Tale (1986), in both of which rural village life became a microcosm of the postwar history of Japan.

Magino Village proved to be Ogawa's last completed production. He died unexpectedly, at the age of 56, on February 7, 1992.

Icarus Films is proud to distribute two documentaries that elucidate and exemplify the pioneering documentary approach of Shinsuke Ogawa. Discover more of our featured filmmakers.

A Visit to Ogawa Productions, produced in 1981, features fellow Japanese 'New Wave' director Nagisa Oshima, who traveled to the Yamagata countryside to visit the Ogawa Productions collective during the filming of A Japanese Village - Furuyashikimura. The two filmmakers engaged in a wide-ranging discussion that offered a rare insight into Ogawa's social and cinematic philosophy.

Red Persimmons, on which Ogawa had begun production in the late Eighties, was completed in 2001 by his Chinese disciple, Xiaolian Peng. Although the ostensible subject is the growing, drying, peeling, and packaging of persimmons in the small village of Kaminoyama, the larger subject of the film, like all of Ogawa's work, is a record of the ineluctable forces of modernization that are slowly bringing to an end a centuries-old way of life.


A visually elegant paean to the cultivation and harvesting of the sweet red fruit, and the disappearance of a traditional way of life in rural Japan.

Shinsuke Ogawa & Peng Xiaolian | 2004 | 90 minutes | Color | Japanese | English subtitles

Nagisa Oshima - the 'New Wave' Japanese director - visits the filmmaking collective led by Shinsuke Ogawa, to discuss the social and cinematic philosophy of one of Japan's best-known documentary film collectives.

Oshige Junichiro | 2004 | 62 minutes | Color | Japanese | English subtitles