Baruto no gakuen

Anybody seen the movie ‘Baruto no gakuen’ (a.k.a. Ode an die Freude, a.k.a. The Ode to Joy)? Well, I have… kind of. When I was flying home for Obon I flew with the German airline Lufthansa, they don’t have individual screens for all passengers so we were all kind of forced to watch the same movie. One of them was ‘Baruto no gakuen’.

A Japanese/German movie about a Japanese prison camp during World War I. I’m generally not interested in war movies, but tried to watch a small part, because basically, sitting on a plane for more than 12 hours tends to make you bored. But when I found out that the language spoken was either German or Japanese, I quickly stopped devoting my attention to it. But Yasu had seen the entire movie and he knew the location of the movie set, which happened to be very near Awaji in Tokushima, and only 130 meters from Yasu in this picture.

They’ve kept the movie set intact ever since filming the movie 2 years ago and temporarily opened it up to the public, as they are tearing the whole place down in a couple of months. They have pictures of the movie everywhere, so you can see the set in use, which was very interesting. I might have to spend some in the future actually watching the entire movie and recognizing all the buildings we’ve been in and around. And why not, it is supposed to be a feel good movie anyway.

Matsue, the guy that ran the Japanese prison camp in Tokushima, had been imprisoned himself and was intend on treating the German prisoners of war with dignity and respect. To make a long story short, these Germans prisoners had a good time in the camp and had a lot ways to spend their time enjoyably. The prisoners we’re running a bar, a bakery, a printer publishing newspapers, a public onsen with optional massages to make money and keep themselves occupied. But their favorite pastime was playing their instruments in their very own philharmonic orchestra. In the picture below you can see where the prisoners slept and kept their personal belongings, or in other words their bar less ‘cells’. Compare this place to for example Alcatraz, which just gives you chill all through your body, and this place seemed more like a summer camp.

Afterwards we went to some German museum near the set, which wasn’t that interesting except for the letters of ex-prisoners of the Bando prison camp. Apparently, many look back on their time in this prison with happy memories and have actually been back to Japan to visit it with their families. It’s kind of a weird situation, so many people feeling homesick to their lives in a prison camp. Matsue ran a very special prison.

They had some peculiar prison guards in this prison too, just look at this friendly watermelon head person without legs. He doesn’t even have a gun to stop prisoners from escaping but he does have a huge cape…

But when they asked Yasu and me to be stand-in guards and keep an eye on the prisoners, we didn’t feel safe without a proper rifle to whip the prisoners back in line.

Even though this all happened during World War I, the Japanese already loved convenience back then. Vending machines in the middle of a Japanese prison camp, right where you’d expect it.

After our prison camp adventure we found a Deutsches Imbiss (German snack bar) near the German museum, with had not much German on offer though except for German bratwurst (sausage) on a bread roll. Unfortunately, their product didn’t even come close to resembling the real German Bratwurst mit Brötchen. The bread, the sausage and even the mustard tasted Japanese and it was a weird combination of tastes so most of it ended up in the trash…

Here’s a trailer of the movie I found on Youtube:

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