In 1961 as a graduate student in anthropology at the University of Chicago, Iowa farm boy Keith Brown went to Mizusawa in northeastern Japan to gather data for a dissertation on Japanese kinship. Out of his immersion in village life grew friendships and family-like bonds that have endured for more than half a lifetime.

As the camera follows Professor Emeritus Keith Brown around the community we sample everyday life in regional Japan, an area of the country bypassed by world media.  Unlike Tokyo and Osaka and other megacities regional Japan must grapple with an aging population and infrastructure, with shortages of young adults and cheap labor, and with downtowns that are hollowing out.

In an era of short attention spans we come to sense the long-wave rhythms of human relations that anchor Japanese society in the currents of global change. And we glimpse Japan’s “greatest generation”---those who rebuilt the country after a lost war and who have opened their homes and made connections with the rest of the world on personal terms.

And in an era of Big Science with its pricey technology and platoons of investigators we get to know a researcher who uses ordinary tools---a bicycle, 3x5 note cards, a simple camera---instead of intrusive apparatus, who steps aside so that a way of life can reveal itself.


Mizusawa Since 3/11/11

Like people everywhere, we are finding it difficult to comprehend the scope of the disastrous earthquake and tsunami that struck northeastern Japan on March 11th, and we offer our condolences to all afflicted.


Read more: Mizusawa Since 3/11/11



Can't Go Native? is being distributed to PBS and cable stations by the National Educational Telecommunications Association. Local stations may permit unlimited downloading of the program for educational purposes. Contact your local station to request a broadcast.