Documentary Film:  Their Beats Must Not Be Stopped

Three traditional festivals that continue to this day in Ikebukuro, a mega-town within the Tokyo metropolis.

Declining birthrate and aging population, the COVID-19 pandemic...
the local residents must face these changes, but still their beats go on.

Nagasaki Shishimai (Nagasaki Shishi Ren)
Fujimoto-bayashi (Fujimoto-bayashi Renchu)
Zoshigaya Kishimojin Oeshiki Mando Nerikuyo (Zoshigaya Kishimojin Oeshiki Rengo-kai)

Directed by: Mile Nagaoka | 2022 | 84 minutes


This documentary film, "Their Beats Must Not Be Stopped" follows three traditional festival performance groups that remain active today in Toshima City, Tokyo: Nagasaki Shishimai, Fujimoto-bayashi, and Zoshigaya Kishimonjin Oeshiki Mando Nerikuyo.

Festivals and community events around the world continue to be cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and Toshima City is no exception. In 2021, the annual Folk Performing Arts in Toshima event had to be cancelled again. This cancellation sparked the start of this project, with the goal of making a visual record of the community’s folk arts. 

As times continue to change, why do people still love festivals? From autumn into winter, Mile Nagaoka spent three months talking mainly with members of the Nagasaki Shishimai Ren, Fujimoto-bayashi Renchu, and Oeshiki Rengokai, and captured their perspectives and thoughts on video. 

Everyone is welcome to watch and experience this record of the little-known folk performing arts that carry on within the Tokyo metropolis. 


Nagasaki Shishi Ren

Fujimoto Bayashi Renchu

Zoshigaya Kishimojin Oeshiki Rengo-kai

Director's Comment

Maybe this doesn’t need to be said again, but in every era, you find someone who was making a record of that era. And it was probably someone who just happened to have the connection and took on the job. I may not remember every word and phrase I heard during my time filming, but one thing that sticks with me now is the story about how, “everyone who hears the drums of the Oeshiki is connected.” It isn't the sort of connection that binds tightly, making it hard to move. Perhaps it’s something that’s just always there: expanding infinitely, like ripples. Maybe that’s how those ripples reached me.

As I filmed, I realized that now, because of the pandemic, it was an opportunity not to create a video catalog of each group’s performance, but to record this experience of not being able to hold the festivals. I realized that I had the responsibility to add this record to the records made before me. Why can’t the festivals be held? What happens when they’re not held? Here's my current hypothesis that I formed in response to these questions through three months of filming.

Not being able to hold festivals, not producing a beat, is strongly connected to the continuation of the community that carries those things out. This is because festivals are a central component in ensuring a sense of community. To take it further, festivals are community, and they are the guardian deity of the community. If no beat is made, it doesn’t echo through that land, the connections aren’t made, and people’s ties to one-another are cut. When the beats stopped, we realized this for the first time. That’s why the beats must not be stopped. Because that’s where people live.

Director: Mile Nagaoka

Filmmaker/ Director at Evolution Co., Ltd
Born in Yotsukaido, Chiba in 1979. After spending several years working freelance in creative industries in Tokyo, Mile moved his base of operations to Tokushima in 2010 with the aim of making a visual record of a more essential way of life and began creating works that look at both a folklore/cultural anthropology perspective as well as a real sense of individual people living in the world. Works include documentary film “Ubusuna” which features marginalized communities around Japan, and “All Alone in Kamiyama” a documentary that follows an elderly beautician for six years. 

Organizers|Toshima Mirai Cultural Foundation / Toshima City /Tokyo Festival Executive Committee[Toshima City / Toshima Mirai Cultural Foundation / Festival/Tokyo Executive Committee /Tokyo Metropolitan Foundation for History and Culture (Tokyo Metropolitan Theatre / Arts Council Tokyo) ]
Planning and Production|Toshima Mirai Cultural Foundation
Support|Supported by the Agency for Cultural Affairs, Government of Japan in fiscal 2021

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