Kita no Zeronen


Year One in the North


The former home


The new land

Year One in the North


Movie Data

Title: Year One in the North
Original title: 北 の 零年 Kita no Zeronen
Published: 2005
Lenth: 168 minutes

Director: Isao Yukisada
Script: Machiko Nasu
Music: Michiru Oshima

Sayuri Yoshinaga - Shino Komatsubara
Ken Watanabe - Hideaki Komatsubara
Etsushi Toyokawa - Ashirika
Toshiro Yanagiba - Denzo Mamiya
Yuriko Ishida - Kayo Mamiya
Teruyuki Kagawa - Kurazo Mochida
Satomi Ishihara - Tae Komatsubara
Sadao Abe - Matajuro Nakano
Yu Fujiki - Kamejiro Nakano
Mitsuru Fukikoshi - Keiichiro Hase
Mitsuru Hirata - Eita Kawakubo
Renji Ishibashi - Kahei Horibe
Haruko Mabuchi - Sue Hase


Komatsubara Shino and her husband Hideaki live with their little daughter Tae on Awaji Island in central Japan. The story takes place at the time of the political upheavals after 1868. The shogunate was overthrown and the emperor was reinstated as head of state. The rebellious Inada clan is exiled to Ezo (renamed Hokkaido), the northernmost island of Japan. The family begins their struggle to build a new life in the rugged wilderness, but nothing wants to grow in the cold and adverse country.
Hideaki leaves the village to find out about new agricultural technologies in Sapporo. His family is waiting in vain for his return. A few years later, American advisors arrive in Hokkaido and Shino is running a farm with the help of an Ainu man named Ashirika. The Ainu are an indigenous tribe in Hokkaido.
However, the government orders them to give up the horses, they rely on for agriculture. They are to be used to quell an uprising in the south. Ex-husband Hideaki was chosen for the requisition. He is now married to another woman in Tokyo.
The film is a remarkable epic that shows the Meiji restoration, the colonization of Hokkaido and the social upheavals in large images for 2 hours and 48 minutes.
After the country was forced by the Americans to open its frontiers, the shogunate that had ruled for almost 250 years was overthrown and the emperor was reinstated as head of state. A smart move by the political pullers. These upheavals led to local civil wars.

Hokkaido was colonized for several reasons:

  • Japan wanted to profile itself as a great colonization nation in the world.
  • The island was taken as an outpost against Russia.
  • The Americans who have threatened Japan since 1853 should be given a friendly vote.
    As "Yankees of Asia", the Japanese partially adopted the American way of life.
And they also took the opportunity to disempower and banish rebellious clans.
The film shows how the old family (clan) system is being replaced by a central civil administration system. The samurai lose their privileges.
The Americans appear in the film not only for better selling the film in the USA. They had actually set up an agricultural institute in Sapporo after 1870. This should support the colonizers in the development of the country. Of course there were also losers. The indigenous Ainu were pushed back, decimated and assimilated on Hokkaido.