Director focus:

Noriaki Tsuchimoto


Noriaki Tsuchimoto is one of the most important figures in the history of Japanese documentary, famous for his compelling films on the shocking mercury poisoning incident in Minamata, Japan, and for his fascinating portraits of a modernizing Japan and a changing Asia. Tsuchimoto was involved in over 100 films, of different topics and styles, and Zakka Films is introducing four of those, starting with Minamata: The Victims And Their World, one of the masterpieces of world documentary; On The Road: A Document, a traffic safety documentary that was so powerfully critical of modern Japan it was shelved for 40 years; and two rare documents of Afghanistan filmed in the 1980s before the Taliban, including Traces: The Kabul Museum, the world’s only moving image record of a priceless collection that was largely lost to bombs and looting. The DVD comes with the booklet, The Documentaries of Noriaki Tsuchimoto, which includes a critical evaluation of Tsuchimoto’s career and commentaries on each film by prominent scholars.

DOWNLOAD our Noriaki Tsuchimoto Filmography here (pdf).


This link takes you to an enormous lode of data on Noriaki Tsuchimoto including production notes, scenarios, articles,  interviews, lectures, etc. Before entering the fount of his wisdom, you need to get a key to open the gate.  Send your name and e-mail address, and they will send you the key. All the data is in Japanese.



CINEASTE: Noriaki Tsuchimoto’s Living Records by Aaron Cutler

“Tsuchimoto reinvents himself on the basis of the subject matter. He never seems to be imposing the style on a given subject, but actually searching into the nature of a particular subject and then arriving at a style which is very specific to that film and not to any other.” — Jonathan Rosenbaum, Film Critic

“Years since its first appearance, Tsuchimoto Noriaki’s seminal Minamata: The Victims and Their World has lost no measure of its power to shock, enrage, and inspire. A landmark of socially-engaged documentary, Minamata continues to sound a global alarm about the human and environmental consequences of industrial pollution, searingly evoked through Tsuchimoto’s patient, compassionate lens.” — John Gianvito, filmmaker, Associate Professor/Emerson College

“A sobering, forceful case history that leaves little doubt as to the dire results of man’s current approach to the disposal of modern-living wastes.” — A.H. Weiler, The New York Times, September 20, 1974

“A distinguished Japanese documentary film-maker whose work displayed a consistent political commitment.” The Times of London

Minamata: The Victims and Their World: chosen as one of the “Ten documentaries that shook the world” by the critic Mark Cousins.

“A powerful filmmaker.” Japan Times

“Along with Ogawa Shinsuke, … Tsuchimoto was the most important postwar Japanese documentarist.” – Aaron Gerow, Associate Professor, Yale University

“Traces: The Kabul Museum, 1988, is significant because it represents the most comprehensive film documentation of the Kabul Museum in existence”


Available from Zakka Films:

The Shiranui Sea—Minamata Series Part II

The Shiranui Sea (Tsuchimoto) from Zakka Films Total running time: Approx. 150 minutes. / color

The Shiranui Sea is the second of the Minamata documentaries released by Zakka Films and widely considered to be Tsuchimoto’s masterpiece. If Minamata: The Victims and Their World (also released by Zakka) follows the victims in their struggle for compensation for suffering from Minamata disease, Japan's most notorious case of environmental pollution, The Shiranui Sea provides a beautifully lyrical and compelling portrait of their everyday lives and difficulties. It is both a profound expose of how government and industry can undermine the environmental foundations of daily life, and a model for how documentary can humanely reveal human suffering.

Minamata: The Victims and Their World

Minamata: The Victims and their World (Tsuchimoto) from Zakka Films Total running time: Approx. 120 minutes. / monochrome

Celebrated as a masterpiece of documentary, MINAMATA follows the victims of Minamata disease, Japan’s most notorious case of environmental pollution, in their struggle for recognition and compensation.

On the Road: A Document

Total running time: Approx. 54 minutes. / monochrome

Filmed through the eyes of a taxi driver, this powerful, award-winning documentary by Noriaki Tsuchimoto deftly critiques a newly modernized Japan of 1963.

Traces: The Kabul Museum 1988

Traces: The Kabul Museum (Tsuchimoto) from Zakka Films Total running time: Approx. 32 minutes. / color

The only filmed record of the Kabul Museum and its priceless antiquities before 70% were destroyed or stolen, Tsuchimoto's documentary offers a one-of-a-kind glimpse into this treasure house of Afghani history and culture.

Another Afghanistan: Kabul Diary 1985

Another Afghanistan (Tsuchimoto) from Zakka Films Total running time: Approx. 42 minutes. / color

An engrossing portrait of Kabul in the days before the Taliban, Tsuchimoto's documentary reveals the everyday life of Afghanis -- particularly women -- when few foreigners were allowed to film in the country.