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Masakazu Kaneko


Masakazu Kaneko, born in Tokyo in 1978, graduated from Aoyama Gakuin University’s School of International Politics, Economics, and Communication. While at the university, he studied Slavic and Russian art, culture and film. After graduation, he studied under director Takahisa Zeze at the Film School of Tokyo. He went on to direct six short films while working on corporate videos, films and TV commercials.

In 2016, his debut feature film, “The Albino’s Trees,” premiered at the Forward Future Section of the 6th Beijing International Film Festival. The film was released nationwide at Theatre Shinjuku and other cinemas, while winning 20 awards globally.

In 2021, Kaneko completed his second feature, “Ring Wandering,” which premiered at the 37th Warsaw International Film Festival and received the Ecumenical Jury Award Special Mention, then domestically at the 22nd TOKYO FILMeX. The film won the Golden Peacock Award (Best Feature Film) at the 52nd International Film Festival of India, and the Best Screenplay Award at the 43rd Durban International Film Festival in South Africa. It also enjoyed successful theatrical runs in Taiwan, Singapore, and Japan.

Concurrently, Kaneko worked on his fourth feature film, “The Water Sprite,” with its pilot premiering at the Tokyo International Film Festival. Recognized by the Agency for Cultural Affairs of the Government of Japan and UNIJAPAN, he was recently selected as one of the emerging directors from Japan to promote Japanese filmmaking internationally, and to participate in prestigious events like the Berlin International Film Festival and the European Film Market.

Currently, Kaneko is in the completion phase of his third feature film.


~Feature films~
Ring Wandering (2021)
The Albino’s Trees (2016)

~Short films~
Suiko -The Water Sprite- (2021) (pilot)
Secret Meeting (2016)
Camera Obscura (2013)
The Man Who Restores (2010)
Lost Story (2009)
Konagona (2009)
Rapunzel (2008)
Sumire Ningyo (2007)

Find them on social media

Official Website
X @kinoneFilm
Facebook Masakazu Kaneko

10+5+5 Questions for Masakazu Kaneko

1. What is the first film in your memory?
“Night on the Galactic Railroad” by Gisaburō Sugii

2. What are some of your favorite films?
“Dersu Uzala” by Akira Kurosawa
“The Color of Pomegranates” by Sergei Parajanov
“Solaris” by Andrei Tarkovsky

3. Which creators have you been inspired by or influenced by?
- Film Directors: Andrei Tarkovsky, Sergei Parajanov, Akira Kurosawa, Kenji Mizoguchi
- Novelists: Gabriel García Márquez, Kenji Miyazawa, Soseki Natsume, Kenzaburō Ōe
- Cartoonists: Osamu Tezuka, Daijiro Morohoshi
- Folklore Scholars: Tsuneichi Miyamoto  - Painters: Hieronymus Bosch, Odilon Redon, Arnold Böcklin, Gustave Moreau, Caspar David Friedrich 

4. What are the films that shook your world or changed your life?
“Dersu Uzala” by Akira Kurosawa
“The Sacrifice” by Andrei Tarkovsky
“Santa Sangre” by Alejandro Jodorowsky
“Heat Shimmer Theater” by Seijun Suzuki
“Underground” by Emir Kusturica
“Talentime” by Yasmin Ahmad
“Embrace of the Serpent” by Ciro Guerra
“The Witch” by Robert Eggers

5. Are there any Japanese directors of your generation you are inspired by?
Kōji Fukada, Sho Miyake

6. What does filmmaking mean to you?
It means to bridge the gap between the world that I myself have felt to be true since childhood and what is generally considered “right” in the world. My life’s work. 

7. What are you interested in outside of films and filmmaking?
Folklores, myths, folk tales, legends etc. Hobbies are viewing paintings and photographs at museums, reading, and mountain hiking. 

8. Where’s your happy place?
A place far from the city, such as a mountain or a river.

9. What are the customs or phenomena that are unique to Japan that you want other people to know?
Animism, the belief in spirits of inanimate objects such as mountains, trees, and rocks.

10. Where would you be in 10 years?
I believe that I will be working as a filmmaker with a wider perspective on global market, and I will do my utmost to make sure that happens.


1. What is your favorite moment in the film? (no spoilers)
1. The moment later in the film when we first see Kozue (Junko Abe), the daughter of Ginzo who is the protagonist of the manga in the film.
2. Also in the second half of the film, the silent scene in the shrine precincts where Sosuke (Show Kasamatsu) comes to realize the truth of the past.
3. The film’s last scene. 

2. Why did you decide to write/make this film?
“Ring Wandering” is my second feature-length film. My first feature film, “The Albino’s Trees” and many of my previous short films were shot in the great outdoors. However, I was born and raised in Tokyo. After completing “The Albino’s Trees,” I felt the need to make a film set in Tokyo that is my roots.

Around the same time, Tokyo was undergoing rapid redevelopment for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The international situation once again entered a state resembling wartime, which still continues to this day in the current year of 2024, with an uneasy atmosphere also permeating Japan. While this was before the situations in Ukraine or Gaza, with such hostility in the air, I felt strongly that we cannot allow the tragedy of war to happen again. That was my biggest motivation to make this film.

During the World War II, the Tokyo air raids on March 10, 1945, claimed over 100,000 lives overnight in the city, with some of the remains still buried beneath Tokyo’s ground. In 2020, as redevelopment for the Tokyo Olympics progressed and landscapes were replaced with new structures, it felt like the past events had been overwritten as if it did not happen at all. Walking through the city, every step reminded me that beneath the ground I was walking on, someone’s life and emotions lost during the Tokyo air raids might still be buried. Then I realized that this sentiment was not limited to Tokyo but likely common in many cities around the world. I was inspired to create this film and share it with a wide audience, hoping that people can feel the voices of the lost ones. This film serves as a requiem for my grandparents who experienced the Tokyo air raids and passed down those memories to me, and many others of their generation.

3. Were there any films that you watched as a reference or a source of inspiration?
“Ulysses’ Gaze” by Thodōros Angelopoulos
“The Spirit of the Beehive” by Víctor Erice
“A Ghost Story” by David Lowery

4. Was there any music you were listening to or book you were reading while you were making this film?
Music: Kimi No Inu by Kicell, Nefertiti by Miles Davis
Books: Most of the published books related to the Japanese wolf

5. Any fun behind-the-scenes anecdotes or episodes you’d like to share?
Finding the construction site where Sosuke discovers relics believed to be the bones of a Japanese wolf in the film posed a significant challenge, as there were no such location in Tokyo where we could get permit for filming. The staff from different departments kept searching for approximately two months without success, concluding that finding such location was impossible. Suggestions were made to alter the script, proposing scenarios like finding the relics in a pile of soil rather than from underground. However, the art director and I insisted that to realize the theme and concept of the film, which revolves around “memories of the past buried beneath Tokyo’s ground,” it was crucial that the relics be unearthed from under the ground. We persisted in searching for a filming location until the last moment.

Ultimately, on the afternoon of the first day of shooting, we received word of a promising location and visited there after the shoot. Finally, we had the location. This episode highlights both the challenges of filming in Tokyo and the importance of making crucial scenes of the film happen. 

Message to our audience about this film

I was born and raised in Tokyo, Japan’s capital. During the 2020 Olympics construction boom, Tokyo transformed with more buildings and concrete than ever before, as if the city’s past had also been repeatedly covered over. It’s believed that over 100,000 lives lost in the 1945 Tokyo Bombings still linger underground. Japan’s late 19th-century modernization, aiming to rival the West, significantly impacted its long-lasting healthy ecosystem, leading to the extinction of the Japanese wolf, once the alpha predator.

Today, as global conflicts escalate and wars are happening again, our society progresses, often ignoring the past. Yet, I think the memories of the past are not something that would easily disappear, but are layered beneath the land, one upon another, not be obscured. Living in the fast-paced 2020s, where values shift and many things are consumed, replaced, and forgotten so rapidly, I sought to capture intangible entities like the land’s memories and what once existed there in the form of narrative film. The extinct Japanese wolf symbolizes what’s disappeared from the sight of Japanese society.

In the film, our protagonist Sosuke unearths a relic in modern Tokyo, transporting him to the world of the people who once lived on the same land, teaching him a value of life. Through this journey, I hope it gives you a moment to pause and reflect, even briefly, on lives and memories buried somewhere in the world.


1. What is your favorite moment in the film? (no spoilers)
Yuku walking down the red river, Yuku walking through the mine ruins (in an extremely wide shot), Yuku facing a gigantic waterfall. The moment when a white deer shows itself.

2. Why did you decide to write/make this film?
For my first feature film, I decided to delve into an image that strongly captivated me when I started making short films: ‘the figure of a human being standing in nature,’ which I believed should be the central theme of the film. I initially envisioned a mythical tale about a white deer and a hunter, but the scope was too large to solidify into a script, and I spent several years pondering it. In the meantime, I continued scouting locations perfect for the grand scale of the film while making six short films.

During that process, I encountered members of a hunting association hunting deer in the mountains. As I investigated further, I learned that in Japan, deer are considered pests and are culled because their population has grown too large. They consume mountain vegetation, leading to landslides, and damage crops in human-made fields. However, the reason for the deer population increase is actually due to a series of human actions: the Japanese wolf, the deer’s natural predator, was driven to extinction for human convenience, and post-war reforestation policies replaced broad-leaved trees with conifers like cedar, depriving deer of their natural food source since coniferous forests do not allow undergrowth favored by deer to flourish.

I had always questioned the human-centric perspective in the message of ‘take good care of nature,’ and combined with these discoveries, I felt that this was a significant theme worth exploring in a film. As a result, this film was born, exploring the relationship between nature and humans, and ultimately tackling the difficult question, ‘To kill a deer or to protect it—which is justice?’ This work clearly reflects my consistent theme of questioning human centrism and the excessive progress of civilization, which remains relevant today.

3. Were there any films that you watched as a reference or a source of inspiration?
“The Conformist” by Bernardo Bertolucci
“Dust in the Wind” by Hou Hsiao-Hsien
“Dreams” by Akira Kurosawa
“The Legend of Suram Fortress” by Sergei Parajanov
“Alpine Fire” by Fredi M. Murer
“The Tree of Wooden Clogs” by Ermanno Olmi

4. Was there any music you were listening to or book you were reading while you were making this film?
I often listened to the music by Eiko Ishibashi during the post-production.
When I was writing the screenplay, I read many books on natural science including “I Became A Hunter” by Shinya Semmatsu.

5. Any fun behind-the-scenes anecdotes or episodes you’d like to share?
As I began writing a script with a hunter as the protagonist, I realized I knew nothing about hunting. So, I decided to obtain a hunting and trapping license myself. I gathered knowledge from reading and took courses to learn how to handle guns and traps, as well as understand their structures. This experience provided inspiration for various scenes in the film, such as how to introduce a gun and depict Yuku entering the village with a hidden gun. The trap used in the film is a real one that I borrowed from a hunting association. Only licensed individuals are allowed to handle these traps, so my license came in handy on set. However, I let the license expire after filming was completed, so it’s no longer valid.

Message to our audience about this film

Being human inevitably implies the killing of other living things. Yet, we often lack a real sense of what killing means, and our awareness of it is usually limited to numbers on paper. Indeed, especially for those like me who have grown up in a metropolis, there’s a tendency to overlook the fact that our everyday life entails the sacrifice of other lives. Too often, we are driven by egoism in trying to protect ourselves and those close to us at the expense of others. In this film, by focusing on the struggle of a man over the life and death of an animal, I tried to express not only the constantly problematic relationship between humans and nature but also the importance of thinking about others.