Situated between the mountains of Kumano and the deep blue sea, the population of the rural seaside fishing town of Nigishima falls neatly into one of three categories: mountain people, sea people and outsiders. Tatsuo is one of the first of these, a rough and boorish lumberjack who not only depends on the wooded forests above the town for his economic survival, but also takes an almost primal delight in hunting, setting snares for wild animals and standing naked in the rain communing with the ancient goddess of the mountain. Plans for the development of a new marine park, whilst broadening the economic base of a community that has hitherto been dependant on logging and fishing for its survival threaten to disturb the region’s natural equilibrium.This new outside economic incursion is strongly welcomed by the town’s fishermen, not to mention such operators as sleazy land broker Mr. Yamakawa. Tatsuo’s refusal to sign away his house to the developers, effectively blocking the project, strains his relationship with the local community, and when an oil slick leaves a wake of dead fish floating belly up in their nursery pool, the fingers of accusation point to him for sabotaging the project. After he believes he has been spoken to directly by the Shinto gods of the forest, Tatsuo violently interrupts the town’s traditional annual purification rites, the hi-matsuri (the fire festival) before returning to his home to slay his family before turning the shotgun on himself.
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