Junichi Kajioka – Japanese Actor Director Love for Manipur

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I will do further editing of my short film Imphal 1944 and screen it in Japan with Japanese subtitle around October this year in a commemoration ceremony for World War 2 reconciliation. I am visiting Japan with the Burma Campaign Society in October.

Junichi uses symbols and relics in his short film to represent the reconciliation process. The handkerchief which a Japanese war survivor Japanese returns to another survivor in the United Kingdom means a lot.

He uses symbol and lyrics. It shows the humane side of the Japanese soldier who overhears the story of the handkerchief which an allied soldier from London has with him. Many years he travels to England and tries to give back the handkerchief to the soldier’s friend. The handkerchief was given to the soldier by his beloved before he set out for war as a soldier. The Japanese soldier has fulfilled something by giving back the handkerchief which is a symbol for his reconciliation work.

The friend who receives the handkerchief after 70 years gives the handkerchief back to the Japanese soldier in return which mark the beginning of his own path of reconciliation.

It is significant that both Japanese and British ex-soldiers are intent on reconciliation.

It is a fictional film inspired by Masao Hirakubo a Japanese War veteran who survived the Second World War and dedicated his life to reconciliation.

Making of Imphal 1944

Junichi took 6 full days to shoot the film. From pre-production to post production it took him four months to produce the short film which he will now be reworking with Japanese subtitles and a final editing touch.

Imphal 1944 is the first directorial short film of Junichi.

The film was shot in London. His team members included 10 actors, most of whom offered their services for free. The make-up artists and post-producton music were also paid, while the rest of the team including crew volunteered for this film.

“I had to find a new make-up artist for the very next day as one left unexpectedly and I had to find a new one immediately. For me every day was a struggle. Three hours of makeup was needed as I was playing an old man character in the film” says Junichi.

He uses roses, cherry blossom and lillies to represent England, Japan and Imphal respectively in his movie.

“I completed the short film in a very short period of time in order to screen it at the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Imphal.”

Imphal 1944 was shot with a very limited budget. The movie is 30 minutes in length. “The main thing I could ensure that the film carries an important message of peace and reconciliation. It was interesting to see how I could do this with such limited resources,” Junich explained frankly. “I need support for making a full length version of the film.”

Dreaming of shooting a feature film on world war two at Imphal:

He wants to imbue the full length film with the rich culture of all three nationalities portrayed in the film. “Although the film will need to show the reality of the battle of Imphal”, says Junichi, “it will also show human values, and eventually a way forward from the tragedies of war.”

Junichi is keen to shoot the war time scenes in Manipur and hopes that the film can show the beauty of the area as well as the horrors of war. He also expressed that his film could be a starting point for better tourism for Manipur. “When people who see the film learn some of this ‘forgotten war’ they will hopefully want to learn more and start to trace the locations and places which are currently unknown to them. Film is a good medium for people to discover more stories”.

Junichi Kajioka’s career in films.

“I started acting in 1988 in Tokyo.  After seven years, I tried to find a new scene and went to drama school in China and then moved to the United Kingdom. Now I am trying to discover myself in Manipur! It’s been a short time here so far but has influenced me a lot. I have been acting for 25 years but now I have started directing to express my own artistic side

Being an actor is a small part of the participation in a film, but being a director allows a much greater scale of input. I am quite satisfied with my new career direction of being both an actor and a director. I have lots of ideas, and feel I can do a lot more!

My first drama film is a small budget film. I play around with two Japanese, two British people and some sound effects. If the budget is bigger we can create so  much more. I want very much to engage people in our recent history and help open up inquisitive debate. Young people  in particular would benefit a lot from learning about our past.

So far Junichi Kajioka has acted in more than 46 projects.

Most interesting role so far – “I have to say Imphal 1944. That was interesting!

I got connected to Manipur through the Burma campaign society. Akiko the chairperson of the society lent me a lot of books to read. One of the books was written by Masao Hirakubo. Akiko contacted Rajeshwor a member of the Burma campaign society in Manipur who was a very valuable local contact.”

His love for Manipur

“I came here and connected with Manipuri people. I know the Manipuri people like Japanese and found out how they interacted with Japanese soldiers during the war time. This was a new discovery for me and that interested me greatly. I started thinking how to connect all things together in stories. ‘My Japanese Niece’ a film I signed up to with Mohen Naorem, a filmmaker in Manipur, will hopefully be made some time soon, but in the meantime I decided to make my own film and I asked Rajeshwor for permission to show the film during the 70th Anniversary of the Battle of Impham. That was what spurred me on to complete the film in such a short time. I think the 30 minute version was right for this Anniversary commemoration but I will now be editing a shorter version which is more suited to other international audiences.”

Personal life

I left Japan when I was 25 years old in 1995. For three and half year I was in China and then moved to London, alhough I know have very fond feelings also for Manipur.

“I eat the pholla a local food here yesterday and it’s so  tasty!” says Junichi.

Hobbies

“ – making films is my new hobby, you have to be so dedicated and determined otherwise you can’t make a proper film.

But at present I am needing to do a lot of my own publicity, keeping everyone up to date with Imphal 1944 through social media sites like Facebook. It’s helping me get a lot of support for my film-making.”

Message

“– I would like to collaborate with the local film makers, DOPs, make-up artists and will need to rely on them a lot.  Anyone interested in the project is welcome to get in touch.

I’d be interested in connecting with local singers and musicians so that the background music can be authentic and relate to regional Meitei songs.”

Junichi also wishes to bring in some film makers from England and other parts of the world and organize film festivals in Manipur. Hopefully then they will go back home and spread the word about Manipur. “Film makers from all over the world come and make films here!”

Tour and travels in Manipur

While Junichi was in Imphal he visited Loktak Lake, Ima Keithel, INA Museum and Kangla. He planted some flowers at Ima Keithel and planted trees at Heingang supporting Blooming Manipur in their cause for a green environment.   “It takes time for these plants to grow but it’s way of making a direct contribution to the environment and in time we will have more and more blossoms growing in Manipur.”

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