SXSW 2015: “Made in Japan” review

Photo provided by TCDM Associates

Photo provided by TCDM Associates

Music has the ability to amaze and engage a crowd like just about nothing else, and Tomi Fujiyama, one of Japan’s first female country singers, is a living example of its power to engage people of all cultures and backgrounds. “Made in Japan” is a comedic and touching documentary about “Japan’s first lady of country music.”

Review by Sara Eunice Martinez

The movie starts off with Fujiyama’s history in country music. Before becoming the world’s first Japanese country western music superstar, she traveled around Japan performing at U.S. military bases. Her career culminated in 1964 when she performed on the same night as Johnny Cash, one of her inspirations, at The Grand Ole Opry.

Since the Grand Ole Opry showcases America’s biggest stars, Fujiyama was one of the lesser known acts set to perform. The tables turned that night when she wowed the crowd and was the only artist to receive a standing ovation. By outshining the rest of the performances, Fujiyama’s name became well known in the country music industry in both Japan and the U.S.

After this, Fujiyama went to Japan and found that western country music isn’t as well taken as it used to be, but she decided that this would not stop her from her dream, and she has been playing country music ever since.

The rest of “Made In Japan” is dedicated to Fujiyama’s journey to perform once again at The Grand Ole Opry forty years later. She takes her husband, Shoichi, for the ride as she establishes connections in Japan and the U.S. to fulfill her wish to perform there again.

Watching this film was inspirational because it showed that there are no limits when it comes to music. No matter what country it originates from, it can cross borders and change people’s lives. Fujiyama’s journey and outlook on life is wonderful, and seeing this film made me realize that, in reality, she was way overdue for a documentary film.

Her sweet and humorous interactions with Shiochi during the movie were a great touch as well. Shiochi’s desire for his wife to fulfill her wish and following her wherever she went showed the loyalty and understanding they had as a married couple.

Going from being a little-known country singer to a Japanese superstar with five albums and 21 singles from Columbia Records, Fujiyama sets the example of how far dreaming can take a person. “Made in Japan” is the film to watch if you’re looking for something inspirational for this year’s SXSW.

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