Buried in-her-own-mind Treasure
February 27, 2015 5:02 PM   Subscribe

Japanese woman comes to America to search for buried treasure- but it's the fictional buried treasure in the movie "Fargo". She's come to North Dakota's "Siberia" to end her own life and the language barrier and our perceptions of Japanese 'normal' get in the way.

"Death in the Snow" (The Guardian, 12 minutes, June 2003): A warning: this is a very sad, potentially upsetting story about suicide. It begins when a young woman from Japan comes to America to look for buried treasure, because she's convinced that the $1 million hidden in the movie Fargo is real, and because of language barriers and the like, no one can tell her that the movie is fake. Or so they thought. The woman isn't really there because of a movie. She's there to take her own life, and no one she meets can figure that out and get her help. It's a fascinating but incredibly sad story -- it's not for everyone.
posted by naight (15 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Previously, but it was posted 12 years ago(!) so maybe the double-post statute of limitations has expired.
posted by teraflop at 5:12 PM on February 27, 2015 [4 favorites]

Yeah, I think it's fine to re-post after 12 years.
posted by LobsterMitten at 5:29 PM on February 27, 2015 [2 favorites]

I hadn't heard the rest of the story before I don't think, thanks for the link.

It brings to mind a recent missing person case up here.
posted by ODiV at 5:38 PM on February 27, 2015

This is a topic that became very real for me last fall, when a Japanese woman went missing in my home town under very, very similar circumstances. It sparked a massive air and ground search which the RCMP called off after a week and a half, citing an unreleased note and concluding that the woman had intended to disappear into the wilderness. That was a bittersweet moment, I think, because as sad as it is for the family to not have closure, a search-and-rescue effort in the Northwest Territories in November poses some real dangers for the people taking part.

I can't say I understand the motivation behind this. I have mounds of empathy for the family involved, but I question strongly committing suicide so publicly in a place that already has a horrendous problem with suicide. Perhaps I'm being insensitive, but this seems like bringing one's problems into a community that can't even deal with its own.
posted by ZaphodB at 5:40 PM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

A sad story, but the writing was excellent.
posted by Uncle Grumpy at 5:42 PM on February 27, 2015

I feel enriched having read this sad story. I'm not sure what wisdom I gained from hearing Takako's tale, but there's something to be learned from this unusual suicide. But there's something icky about the voyuerism of the movie about the death, the way that the author speaks of filming someone reenacting the death, of the former landlady crying on camera for him. Maybe it's just a hyper self awareness, but it's unsettling in a different way than the suicide and Fargo tale are.
posted by Llama-Lime at 6:03 PM on February 27, 2015 [5 favorites]

Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter

Apparently a "deadpan comedy", with the film-maker dismissing the idea that this is the story of a suicide:

"At first, we were caught off guard when details came out contradicting the original myth. But then we were like, 'That's bullshit, our story is the truth. We've lived with it for several years now and we're not changing it!'"

I mean ... go artistic license and all, but ugh.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 6:57 PM on February 27, 2015 [6 favorites]

I mean ... go artistic license and all, but ugh.

Yeah, both that and the sort of "who really knows? it's all a mystery!" aspect is kind of gross. The facts make it clear it isn't any sort of mystery. She had lost her job, was heartbroken over a married lover, sent her parents a suicide note and called the same married lover before she went into the woods. This was an actual human being, not a news of the weird movie. Why not just say well, the truth was sadder and more ordinary, but we made the movie about the urban legend?
posted by nanojath at 7:11 PM on February 27, 2015 [8 favorites]

Also, the movie from the shoot the article is based on -

posted by nanojath at 7:16 PM on February 27, 2015 [4 favorites]

Fascinating and sad.

Did anyone else find it jarring how frequently the article referred to 28-year-old Takako as a "girl" or "Japanese girl"? Bizarre.
posted by peep at 8:36 PM on February 27, 2015 [16 favorites]

Did anyone else find it jarring how frequently the article referred to 28-year-old Takako as a "girl" or "Japanese girl"? Bizarre.

Yes, it was poor judgement on the part of the author.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:31 PM on February 27, 2015 [2 favorites]

Perhaps I'm being insensitive, but this seems like bringing one's problems into a community that can't even deal with its own.

Suicide is a topic hardly ever dealt with inside Canada, let alone internationally, so it's also possible that the situation you're talking about involved someone who just had no idea--most urban/white Canadians have absolutely no clue when it comes to suicide issues in majority-First Nations areas, or indeed those issues in any areas, so it might be a lot to ask for someone from outside Canada to have any idea about them.

From commentary here, I both desperately want to read this article, and feel like it would be a Really Fucking Bad Idea for me personally; heading into the woods to die (or, in my planned case, the Toronto islands in the depths of winter with a lot of vodka and some pills) rings far, far too close to my own suicidal tendencies.

I think, perhaps, that this form of suicide is acceptable to many suicidal people because it's not so overtly violent, and it's also plausibly explainable for survivors as an oops. You're unlikely to leave behind a ravaged corpse and a terrible mess--and even if you do, that can be accounted for by an unlucky encounter with a wild animal. "They made a mistake" is much easier for survivors around you to deal with, psychologically (I think as a non-expert), than "they killed themselves." There's no guilt, for one.

On top of that, again drawing from personal thoughts and planning around this sort of thing, there is something personally poetic about going off alone to die, knowing that even if there's no me to be aware of the memory, the me-that-is-now will have as their last visions trees and rocks and water.

Lest anyone be concerned, not in that headspace anymore. But I understand it. Deeply.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:32 PM on February 27, 2015 [14 favorites]

The Aokigahara Forest is the most popular site for suicides in Japan. (Warning: distressing images)

I'm rather sure I first saw this video posted here previously, but couldn't find it. CNN article about the forest.

So apparently wandering into the wilderness to die is a thing for the Japanese, who, in 2011 had the highest suicide rate in the world, at 20 per 100000.
posted by adept256 at 4:07 AM on February 28, 2015 [3 favorites]

> Did anyone else find it jarring how frequently the article referred to 28-year-old Takako as a "girl" or "Japanese girl"?

I watched the movie (thanks nanojath!) before reading the article, and I was completely disgusted by the number of "upskirt" shots that the filmmaker created of the actress playing Takako Konishi. They were totally objectifying and unnecessary, and transacted in all sorts of vulgar stereotypes.

Then I read the filmmaker's article linked in the FPP, which only grossed me out more in context:
By the next evening, Mimi, especially, seemed depressed. Takako was weighing heavy on her; she was tired of being watched in her miniskirt, tired of the recruits' wolf whistles, tired of looking like Takako, tired of being Takako, that sad girl without hope. I think she was also dreading the final death scene we would shoot in two days time.
Yet despite writing all about her, about his looking down at her prostrated in the snow, he never once mentions the actress' last name (Ohmori, for the record). She's only called "Mimi, my star."

So given all that, I'm frankly unsurprised that Berczeller refers to Takako Konishi as a "girl."

Frankly, the movie would have done better as a TAL radio piece (after some editing for "girl" and "oriental"). I wish her story had been told better.
posted by Westringia F. at 11:01 AM on February 28, 2015 [5 favorites]

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