Nov 20

“The Piano in the Shed” – Film Review from the 18th Japanese Film Festival (Australia and New Zealand)


Eden Law (Fukushima-ken 2010-2014) reviews one of the smaller films of the 18th Japanese Film Festival, “The Piano in the Shed”. The producer Yuto Kitsunai, made a surprise appearance at the screening of this film in Sydney. Created by the people of Kori, Fukushima, this is truly a labour of love.

The Piano in the Shed

The Piano in the Shed

“The Piano in the Shed” is a coming-of-age story, centred around Haruka, a final-year senior high school student in the town of Kori, a rural town in Fukushima, in her last summer break during the final years of her senior high school years. Quiet and withdrawn, she is happiest only when playing the family piano in the shed, her place to escape from life and its troubles, which includes the loss of a younger brother, whose death still continues to affect the family, but especially her grandfather, who blames himself for the tragedy. Into all this two further pivotal events occur: her older sister, Akiha, comes back from Tokyo to stay for the summer, stirring up Haruka’s long-held resentment of the attention-seeking, prettier and more popular sibling. The other, far more happier, is the promise of a first romance with Kosuke, recently relocated from the contaminated zone.

There will perhaps be very few other films about Fukushima post 3-11 that wears its heart on its sleeve so openly and earnestly. Like the other film related to Fukushima in this festival, “Homeland”, “The Piano in the Shed” is more focused on telling an emotional story rather than making a critique of the prevailing political and social issues. For the film’s scriptwriter, Hara Misaho, this is clearly a very personal project – both her and the director, Natanai Chiaki, hail from Kori, where the film is set. And by choosing to tell the story from young Haruka’s point of view, they show how the youth can be emotionally affected, just like their elders, forced to cope with the ever present feelings of anxiety and worry that are now an unfortunate part of everyday life. Haruka’s uncertainty about her future after graduation reflects the broader, general uncertainty – for young people like herself from Fukushima, for evacuees like Kosuke and his father, constantly on the move for jobs and shelter, and for the future of farming communities that cannot sell their produce to a frightened and paranoid public, as Tokyo forgets and continues the status quo, while frustrated local councils continue to hold meetings about “reconstruction”, a sloganistic message that seems increasingly pointless and empty.

The human story here, from the aspect how the young are coping with the new reality in the wake of the disaster, is certainly a very compelling one. Other subplots such as Haruka’s family tragedy, and her rivalry with her sister, are less successful or not as well-developed by comparison, and could probably have been dropped in order to make the film feel more cohesive and less derivative. But the young actors are lovely to watch (though at the expense of the adults, who, with the exception of the grandfather, are rather less developed). Yoshine Kyoko is the same age as the character she plays, giving Haruka a level of convincing authenticity to her shyness, and her touching selflessness and unexpected strength for someone so young.

As mentioned, there is no denying the amount of emotional heart and soul poured into this film by its creators. Often included are footage of slice-of-life scenes of the town and its people, whether participating in their annual summer festivals, or going about their daily lives. The film’s ultimate positive note conveys the filmmakers’ message: Kori, and places like it, and the people who live there, should not be forgotten, and they will find a way to endure and survive.


The Piano in the Shed (Monooki no Piano) by Natanai Chiaki, released February 9 2014 in Japan, starring Yoshine Kyoko, Koshino Ena, Hirata Mitsuru, Akama Mariko, Hasegawa Hatsunori, Imai Yuto, Kanda Kaori, Orimoto Junkichi.

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