While the USA was having its own form of youth movement in the late 1960’s, Japan was experiencing violent student demonstrations under the banner of anti-democratic Socialism. The “democracy” forcibly imposed upon Japan only 20 years prior at the end of WWII was seen by many as a foreign philosophy needing to be expelled. Under the influence of the Allied Red Army (Rengo-Sekigun) massive student demonstrations rocked an otherwise peaceful Japan. At one point Tokyo University, the nation’s premier academic institution was held siege by radical students lobbing Molotov cocktails and massive bricks onto the police forces below.
Two particularly extreme bands of student revolutionaries, already wanted for violent actions, joined together in a mountain cabin with the intent of more vigorously training themselves from the upcoming “revolution”. In the Winter of 1972, the group occupied a lodge in the snowy mountains of Asama Sanso in Karuizawa, Nagano prefecture. By holding the innkeeper’s wife hostage, they immediately attracted the attention of police and eventually a long stand-off ensued.
The police were hampered in their efforts by the harsh and cold terrain while the revolutionaries underwent a psychological implosion in their attempt to identify and eradicate those members they felt were weakening in their ideology. By the time the police finally stormed the cottage, they found that the group had literally turned upon itself, tortuously killing most of the group.
Once the outcome of the event was made known to the media, the news was literally broadcast into every living room in the nation, shocking the public and eventually leading to the undermining of the Student Revolutionary Movement as a whole.
The Asama Sanso Incident, as it has come to be known, obviously made a lasting impression upon those who witnessed the events via those TV broadcasts and the Incident has been the basis of several dramatic and violent cinematic recreations.
Perhaps the earliest is director Wakamatsu Koji’s ground-breaking 1972 Ecstacy of the Angels in which he explored the nihilistic demise of ideologically driven student revolutionaries. Undoubtedly the most violent adaptation is director Kumakiri Kazuyoshi’s Kichiku Dai Enkai [Banquet of the Beasts]. Kumakiri explicitly recalls the fascination he felt as a youth watching the nightly news analysis as to how the Asama Sanso group had ritualistically assassinated one another, and his film visciously explores that complete moral breakdown. The later 2002 film Totsunyuseyo! “Asama-sanso” Jiken [ ?????????????? / Choice of Hercules] by director Harada Masato strove to provide a more historical approach, telling the story through the eyes of the police force laying seige to the cottage.
The current film Hikari no Ame is directed by Takahashi Banmei (also known as Takahashi Tomoaki) and takes a rather unusual tact at retelling the story.