The Ballad of Narayama (1983 film)

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The Ballad of Narayama
Ballad of Narayama 1983.jpg
Poster for Ballad of Narayama (1983)
Directed byShōhei Imamura
Written byShōhei Imamura
Based on楢山節考 (Narayama-bushi Kō)
by Shichirō Fukazawa
Produced byGoro Kusakabe
Jiro Tomoda
StarringKen Ogata
Sumiko Sakamoto
Takejo Aki
Tonpei Hidari
Seiji Kurasaki
Kaoru Shimamori
Ryutaro Tatsumi
Junko Takada
Nijiko Kiyokawa
Mitsuko Baisho
CinematographyMasao Tochizawa
Edited byHajime Okayasu
Music byShin’ichirō Ikebe
Distributed byToei Co. Ltd.
Umbrella Entertainment
Release dates
April 29, 1983 (Japan)
September 7, 1984 (U.S. limited)
Running time
130 min.
Box office¥1.79 billion (Japan)
23.7 million tickets (worldwide)

The Ballad of Narayama (楢山節考, Narayama Bushikō) is a 1983 Japanese film by director Shōhei Imamura. It stars Sumiko Sakamoto as Orin, Ken Ogata, and Shoichi Ozawa. It is an adaptation of the book Narayama bushikō by Shichirō Fukazawa[1] and slightly inspired by the 1958 film directed by Keisuke Kinoshita. Both films explore the legendary practice of ubasute, in which elderly people were carried to a mountain and abandoned to die. Imamura's film won the Palme d'Or at the 1983 Cannes Film Festival.[2]


The Ballad of Narayama was filmed in Niigata Prefecture and Nagano Prefecture.[3]


The film is set in a small rural village in Japan in the 19th century. According to tradition, once a person reaches the age of 70 he or she must travel to a remote mountain to die of starvation, a practice known as ubasute. The story concerns Orin, who is 69 and of sound health, but notes that a neighbor had to drag his father to the mountain, so she resolves to avoid clinging to life beyond her term. She spends a year arranging all the affairs of her family and village: she severely punishes a family who are hoarding food, and helps her younger son lose his virginity.

The film has some harsh scenes that show how brutal the conditions could be for the villagers. Interspersed between episodes in the film are brief vignettes of nature – birds, snakes, and other animals hunting, watching, singing, copulating or giving birth.


Box office[edit]

Upon its Japanese release in 1983, the film earned ¥1.05 billion in distributor rentals[4] and ¥1.79 billion in gross receipts,[5] equivalent to 1.6 million ticket sales.[6]

Overseas, the film sold 21.1 million tickets in the Soviet Union,[7] 844,077 tickets in France upon release in 1983,[8] and 1,696 tickets in the Netherlands, Switzerland and Spain between 1996 and 2018,[9] for a combined estimated total of approximately 23.7 million tickets sold worldwide.



In early 2000s, the movie had a chance to be released in China, on condition that the sex scenes were censored. The director Imamura consulted some Chinese directors. They replied that the sex scenes were necessary contrast to the scenes of death. Imamura decided to turn down the proposal.[11]

Home media[edit]

The Ballad of Narayama was released on DVD by Umbrella Entertainment in May 2010. The DVD is compatible with all region codes and includes special features such as the theatrical trailer.[12]


  1. ^ O’Donoghue, Darragh (February 2013). "Ballad of Narayama". Cinémathèque Annotations on Film (66). Retrieved 19 August 2016.
  2. ^ "Narayama-Bushi-Ko". Festival de Cannes. Retrieved 19 August 2016.
  3. ^ "The Ballad of Narayama (1983) - IMDb". IMDb.
  4. ^ "1983". Eiren (in Japanese). Motion Picture Producers Association of Japan (MPPAJ). Retrieved 12 April 2022.
  5. ^ "邦画興行収入ランキング". SF MOVIE DataBank (in Japanese). General Works. Retrieved 19 February 2019.
  6. ^ "Statistics of Film Industry in Japan". Eiren. Motion Picture Producers Association of Japan (MPPAJ). Retrieved 2022-04-13.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  7. ^ "Narayama Bushiko". Kinopoisk (in Russian). Retrieved 27 March 2022.
  8. ^ "Narayama bushiko (The Ballad of Narayama) (1983)". JP's Box-Office (in French). Retrieved 27 March 2022.
  9. ^ "Narayama Bushiko". Lumiere. Retrieved 12 April 2022.
  10. ^ "Narayama-Bushi-Ko". Festival de Cannes. Retrieved 19 August 2016.
  11. ^ China Times (中國時報) in Taipei. Date unknown.
  12. ^ "Umbrella Entertainment". Archived from the original on 19 October 2013. Retrieved 22 May 2013.


External links[edit]