About Tadashi Yoshimura’s maternity clinic where he practice “natural births” deep in the forest of Okazaki (Japan).
The Japan Times wrote:
The pain of childbirth, Genesis says, is God’s punishment for the original sin of womankind — if only Eve hadn’t given Adam that apple! But in Japan, traditionalists contend, it’s to be embraced, not lamented, since the deeper the agony, the deeper the motherly love. So hold the epidurals, please, we’re Japanese.
I don’t subscribe to either view, but as someone who has gone through the whole pregnancy-to-birth process twice as a father — that is, as a supporting player rather than the lead — I understand its huge significance, as well as its vast variations and sheer arbitrariness. Expectant mothers in Japan, where the infant mortality rate is one of the lowest in the world, seemingly have little to fear. But as two new documentaries show, anxieties can still be overwhelming, choices difficult and outcomes hard to cope with — or accept.
Naomi Kawase’s “Genpin” focuses on Tadashi Yoshimura, a guru of the natural childbirth movement, who has attended nearly 20,000 births since first opening his clinic in Okazaki, Aichi Prefecture in 1961. White-bearded, grandfatherly and sagely, Yoshimura presides over a thatched retreat in the woods where pregnant women do traditional chores (split firewood, polish floors), eat healthy traditional foods and otherwise return to the simpler lives of their rural forebears.
This may sound New Age-y and even cultish, but as Kawase reveals in interviews with Yoshimura and his patients, as well as in footage taken at the retreat and clinic, he is no back-to-the- Edo quack. His patients receive the usual checkups with the usual modern medical equipment and, if they have conditions that make natural childbirth risky, are referred to a nearby hospital. Yoshimura also presides over group meetings with parents-to-be, in which he listens attentively to their concerns and provides salty, tough-love advice (“Without a positive attitude, you can’t have a good delivery”).
But the women who go the whole route with him, culminating in a candlelit delivery in the retreat, are glowing in their praise. Also, Kawase, who has won many awards for her documentary and fiction films, including a Cannes Grand Prix for her 2007 drama “Mogari no Mori” (“The Mourning Forest”), not only captures the retreat’s rustic beauty with a sure, delicate touch, but achieves a rare intimacy with her subjects, who reveal themselves beyond the usual limits of the talking-head Q&A. “Listening to people whose baby has died is really hard,” Yoshimura confesses. “How do you face something like that? There’s no clear answer.”
1.59GB | 1 h 30 min | 1016×572 | mkv