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Fuon (The Crying Wind)
Director: Yoichi Higashi
Scriptwriter: Shun Medoruma
Cast: Muneo Uema as Seikichi Toma
   Haruko Kato as Shiho Fujino
   Miho Tsumiki as Kazue Shimazaki
   Tomoya Iju as Masashi Shimazaki  
Toei Video, 2004, 106 min., DVD

A kamikaze pilot's skull, placed high on a cliff ledge next to the seashore, makes a crying sound when the wind whistles through a small hole made by a bullet. Many Okinawan villagers living near the skull find spiritual meaning in its crying. This fictional story, which includes many documentary elements, relates the happenings in this unnamed village when three visitors arrive about the same time from mainland Japan and stay there for one week. Kazue, along with her 4th-grade son Masashi, unexpectedly visit her mother's home. Shiho Fujino, about 70 years old, visits the village and stays at a seaside minshuku inn in search for some information about what happened to her boyfriend who perished in a kamikaze attack near Okinawa. Fuon (The Crying Wind) explores the continuing influence of WWII on two of the main characters and also touches on modern-day concerns such as domestic violence.

Okinawa's beautiful beaches and sea, along with native animals such as hermit crabs, praying mantises, and sea urchins, get displayed throughout Fuon. The film, shot entirely on location in Okinawa, also depicts Okinawan traditions such as spear fishing and an open-air burial ground. The film's writer, Shun Medoruma, won the Akutagawa Prize for literature in 1997. He based the film's plot on his previous short stories, but he also wrote a novel entitled Fuon that was published at about the same time the movie was released in 2004. The novel provides many more details regarding the background and motivations of the film's main characters, but the plot for both is almost the same. Medoruma uses extended flashbacks to give details regarding the history of the main characters.

The movie starts with the unannounced arrival of Kazue and her son Masashi at her mother Makato's traditional home in which she was raised. Makato guesses that their unplanned arrival with little luggage means that she has experienced domestic problems with her husband. Masashi quickly gains a friend and playmate in Akira, a 6th-grade boy who lives with his grandfather Seikichi since his mother died and his father works away in mainland Japan. Akira introduces Masashi to four other boys, and they quickly become friends although they sometimes tease him since he is slightly younger and smaller. They fish together with Masashi catching a small fish that Akira puts in a water-filled glass jar for him. Next they go to visit the place where the kamikaze pilot skull sits on a protected shelf on a cliff. Masashi and Akira bet the other boys that the fish can live for one week next to the skull, and Akira climbs up the cliff to place the jar with the fish next to the skull. This jar causes the skull to stop crying.

Shiho Fujino has been coming to Okinawa for several years in remembrance of her boyfriend who had died during WWII in a kamikaze mission toward Okinawa. Fujino asks Seikichi, an older fisherman in the village whose father had recovered the body of a kamikaze pilot during the war, for any information about him. He says nothing during her initial visit and just continues sharpening his spears for fishing, but during her visit the next day he asks her boyfriend's name. She replies Shinichi Kano, and he says that he knows nothing about him. However, after she leaves his home, he pulls a fountain pen from his drawer with the name of Shinichi Kano on it. While Fujino rests in her room at the minshuku inn, she appears to be suffering and takes some medicine as she remembers in a flashback when her doctor told her that she had cancer and did not have long to live.

Shiho Fujino shows Seikichi
a photo of her former boyfriend,
Shinichi Kato, who died near
Okinawa as a kamikaze pilot

 

Seikichi goes at night to the cliff where the skull is located, and he sees the jar with the fish placed next to the skull that has stopped its crying. He then remembers in an extended flashback the time when he and his father found the dead kamikaze pilot washed up at the water's edge after his plane had been shot down. Seikichi's father carried the corpse to an open-air burial ground, and he prepared the body for its final resting place by cleaning it. Seikichi noticed that a fountain pen dropped on the ground when his father was carrying away the pilot's clothes. On the way back to the cave where they had been hiding from American bombardment, his father gets hit with shrapnel from a bomb dropped from the air. Seikichi later goes out alone from the cave to forage for food, and he returns to the burial ground and retrieves the pilot's pen. He notices that hermit crabs have covered the corpse and are eating the flesh.

In a humorous scene Kazue receives gifts of food from two local men competing to show her their hospitality. Meanwhile in another amusing event, the boys get chased by a bicycle ridden by an older man nicknamed Old Cut-Ear after he finds them playing around his property. He catches Masashi, who runs the slowest being the youngest of the group, and brings him back to his home. Old Cut-Ear barbeques some delicious eel (unagi) for the boys to eat, but then he tries to fool them into thinking that they have eaten a local type of venomous snake (habu). Despite these humorous incidents, the film's overall mood remains ominous as Kazue keeps getting phone calls from her husband.

Fujino goes alone to look at the skull, and then she reads a letter given to her by her boyfriend when they met together for the last time prior to his suicide mission. She remembers in a flashback this last meeting when she sang a song to him and he gave her the letter to read the next day as he was leaving to catch a train to return to his unit.

Masashi and Akira are playing along the shore, but Masashi blacks out when he sees cobalt blue tropical fish in the water that remind him of those in the aquarium at his home in mainland Japan. At his grandmother's home he lies resting on the futon mat with a fever, and he remembers in a dream how his father physically abused his mother and him. He dreams of the time when his mother tried to take her life by swallowing pills with alcohol.

Seikichi and Fujino meet together in front of the skull later in her week-long visit, and he tells her that the skull has been waiting for her all these years, which seems to imply that the skull must be Shinichi although he never directly says so. At her mother's home Kazue receives a phone call from her husband, who has arrived from Okinawa and wants to meet her. They meet together at the beach, where Kazue says that she wants to leave him. He pushes her down, pulls out a knife, and rapes her. Afterward, Kazue sees the knife next to her in the sand, so she picks it up and stabs her husband twice. He falls dead into the water.

Seikichi comes out on the beach and sees Kazue right after the murder. Without saying anything, he takes her back to her mother's home in his pickup truck. He returns to the beach and disposes of the body. He then comes back home to tell his grandson Akira that Masashi must go away immediately. Akira asks his grandfather to wait 20 or 30 minutes, and he runs to the cliff to see whether the fish in the jar has survived. As Seikichi is about ready to leave with Kazue and Masashi for the Okinawan capital Naha, Akira returns with the jar and tells Masashi they have won the bet since the fish lived for the week.

Fujino places flowers below the skull as she is leaving, and she finally hears the skull's crying for the first time since the jar has been removed. When leaving by taxi, Seikichi politely tells her, "Please come again." He then returns to the open-air burial ground and buries both the knife used by Kazue in the murder and the fountain pen from the kamikaze pilot. While riding the taxi, Shiho carefully tears Shinichi Kano's letter that she has kept for over 50 years. She throws the pieces of paper out the window as the taxi passes over a bridge. They go floating away in the wind with one piece, which has Shiho Fujino's name on it, falling next to the skull.


Kazue walking with her son Masashi
to visit her mother's home

The kamikaze pilot Shinichi Kano typifies the difficulty most young men had in telling their families and friends that they had been assigned to a kamikaze squadron that would carry out a suicide mission against enemy ships. In the film Shinichi cannot bring himself to tell Shiho directly what will happen, so he gives her a handwritten letter as he is leaving her home. Even the letter does not explain explicitly that he has become a kamikaze pilot but only that he will go to Okinawa in order to fight. In the letter he mentions his strong feelings for Shiho, but he makes clear that they will not share their lives together when he writes at the end that he wants her to remain alive and to have a family with which she will have good fortune. The film's characters in present-day Okinawa all seem to respect the actions of kamikaze pilots, represented by Shinichi's skull, for what they did to protect them. Although the movie strongly suggests that the skull must be Shinichi's, the flashback to WWII shows Shinichi's bullet hole on the right side of his head whereas the skull has the small hole from the bullet on the left side.

The DVD also includes two special short features. The first describes the filming on location in Okinawa between August and September 2003. The second feature shows the 2004 Montreal World Film Festival, where Fuon received the Innovation Award for its poetic quality.

This high-quality Japanese film by a native Okinawan writer allows viewers to get a glimpse of rural life on the island and the influence that the tragic events of WWII still have on Japan's oldest generation.