The Ballad of Narayama (1983 film)

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The Ballad of Narayama
Ballad of Narayama 1983.jpg
Poster for Ballad of Narayama (1983)
Directed by Shōhei Imamura
Produced by Goro Kusakabe
Jiro Tomoda
Written by Shōhei Imamura
Based on 楢山節考 (Narayama-bushi Kō)
by Shichirō Fukazawa
Starring Ken Ogata
Sumiko Sakamoto
Takejo Aki
Tonpei Hidari
Seiji Kurasaki
Kaoru Shimamori
Ryutaro Tatsumi
Junko Takada
Nijiko Kiyokawa
Mitsuko Baisho
Music by Shin’ichirō Ikebe
Cinematography Masao Tochizawa
Edited by Hajime Okayasu
Distributed by Toei Co. Ltd.
Umbrella Entertainment
Release date
April 29, 1983 (Japan)
September 7, 1984 (U.S. limited)
Running time
130 min.

The Ballad of Narayama (楢山節考, Narayama bushikō) is a 1983 Japanese film by director Shōhei Imamura. It stars Sumiko Sakamoto as Orin, Ken Ogata, and Shoichi Ozawa. It is an adaptation of the book Narayama bushikō by Shichirō Fukazawa [1] and slightly inspired by the 1958 film directed by Keisuke Kinoshita. Both films explore the legendary practice of obasute, in which elderly people were carried to a mountain and abandoned to die. Imamura's film won the Palme d'Or at the 1983 Cannes Film Festival. [2]



The Ballad of Narayama was filmed in Niigata Prefecture and Nagano Prefecture. [3]


The film is set in a small rural village in Japan in the 19th century. According to tradition, once a person reaches the age of 70 he or she must travel to a remote mountain to die of starvation, a practice known as ubasute. The story concerns Orin, who is 69 and of sound health, but notes that a neighbor had to drag his father to the mountain, so she resolves to avoid clinging to life beyond her term. She spends a year arranging all the affairs of her family and village: she severely punishes a family who are hoarding food, and helps her younger son lose his virginity.

The film has some harsh scenes that show how brutal the conditions could be for the villagers. Interspersed between episodes in the film are brief vignettes of nature – birds, snakes, and other animals hunting, watching, singing, copulating or giving birth.




In early 2000s, the movie had a chance to be released in China, on condition that the sex scenes were censored. The director Imamura consulted some Chinese directors. They replied that the sex scenes were necessary contrast to the scenes of death. Imamura decided to turn down the proposal. [5]

Home media

The Ballad of Narayama was released on DVD by Umbrella Entertainment in May 2010. The DVD is compatible with all region codes and includes special features such as the theatrical trailer. [6]

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  1. O’Donoghue, Darragh (February 2013). "Ballad of Narayama". Cinémathèque Annotations on Film (66). Retrieved 19 August 2016.
  2. "Narayama-Bushi-Ko". Festival de Cannes. Retrieved 19 August 2016.
  4. "Narayama-Bushi-Ko". Festival de Cannes. Retrieved 19 August 2016.
  5. China Times (中國時報) in Taipei. Date unknown.
  6. "Umbrella Entertainment". Archived from the original on 19 October 2013. Retrieved 22 May 2013.