SATOYAMA

Synopsis
Transforming nature's fury into bounty

Nature is rich in blessings but can also be harmful to human life. People across Japan have been resilient, learning their lessons and passing them on for generations. Their countless efforts to cope with the harsh environment eventually created a world of bounty -- a world that's sustained by a delicate balance between diverse plants and creatures. Satoyama is a living history of humans, animals and the natural environment that have survived together for centuries. This 8K documentary series captures the supreme beauty of the Japanese countryside -- a place where gentle slopes left by landslides have been carved into rice terraces, where meltwater from heavy snow is used to nurture colorful carp, and where lush grasslands have been created on volcanic ash. And it shows how people can rediscover traditional, sustainable agriculture and benefit from the unique satoyama ecosystem.

Niigata: Living with Snow

The terraced rice paddies with their breathtaking views of the stars reflected in the water mirror. It is 'tanada,' terraced rice fields in Hoshitoge, the name of the hamlet, meaning Star Pass in Japanese. The tanada is a treasure trove of small creatures like endangered Japanese ricefish and red dragonflies, creating a typical 'satoyama' landscape quite nostalgic to the nation, the place where people and nature live in harmony. But it is only for half a year that this satoyama in the Chuetsu region of Niigata is teemed with life. The region is known to receive the heaviest snowfall in the world. And it is also prone to natural disasters like landslides from earthquakes. The episode takes viewers on a journey into a small, beautiful farming village deep in the snowy mountains in Japan, where people have tenaciously addressed nature's fury and kept their old farming method to this day to produce the best rice in the country. A year of the snowy satoyama -- it is a story about the bonds among the people and those between the people and the creatures, about the old wisdom the modern world tends to forget.

Aso: Living with a Volcano

On the caldera plain of Aso in Kumamoto stretch vast grasslands, the largest in Japan. Mount Aso at the center is an active volcano that is still repeatedly erupting. Fresh volcanic ashes with almost no organic matter easily turn this land totally infertile. So, people have to keep tending the grasslands to protect the green by burning grass and keeping cattle. The human activity to improve the soils here is thought to have continued for ten thousand years here. Today, the open pasture is home to many endangered species of life, too, like lovely little wildflowers, pretty butterflies, and thumb-sized field mice. Though constantly threatened by volcanic eruptions and annoyed by ashes, the people make the volcanic heat for their everyday use. This is a story of a satoyama on a pastoral land where people and cattle live together with an active volcano at their doorsteps. Explore an year of the grassy satoyama and see how the idyllic scenery has been protected by the people's constant effort for a mindboggling time and how ancient wisdom still supports the lives of the locals.

Episode list

1. Niigata: Living with Snow
2. Aso: Living with a Volcano

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