“One-no-Kanata-ni” (“Beyond The Ridge”) – Linking 3/11 and JL123

The next of my posts about movies which I studied for my article “Disaster Narratives by Design: Is Japan Different?” is about One-no-Kanatani (尾根のかなたに), translated into English “Beyond the Ridge”, but also known as “Inseparable Souls: Fathers, Sons, and The Crash of JAL123”. This TV drama is the third story, after Climber’s High and Shizumanu Taiyo, which is about the JL123 crash. It isn’t only JL123 which links this dramatization to the others, as, for example, the director also directed the movie version of Shizumanu Taiyo.

A summary on IMDb for One-no-Kanata-ni is as follows.

This drama follows three families involved in the JAL flight JL123 crash on 12 August 1985.


This very brief summary, to some degree, probably reflects the limited impacted the drama has had, particularly outside of Japan. It is the only narrative that I studied for my article which has so few reviews that IMDb hasn’t (as of 2020) allocated it an average score. This is a great shame as the two-part dramatization is very well put together. I suspect that a lack of English subtitles is further impeding its wider viewing.

JL123 had an official death toll of 520 and this represented over 400 different families. As noted in my post about Kinosaki, it was knowing one of these families that helped to inspire me to do my research about the JL123 crash initially that led to my book Dealing with Disaster in Japan. Given that there are so many different families connected to the crash, however, it is still a surprise that one of them has featured not only in a documentary about the crash, but became the basis for one of the families in One-no-Katana-ni. Although certain details (for example, the names) were changed and the Kinosaki scenes were not even filmed in Kinosaki, reading the book and watching the dramatization probably impacts me more than some of the others related to the crash. Knowing the family also allowed me to be able to contact and meet not only the author of the book, Ryusho Kadota, but also the producer of the programme.

While the dramatization deals with the JL123 crash, the themes and issues are not isolated to this crash. Indeed, the satellite channel WOWOW that was responsible for its production, wanted to make a dramatization in relation to the 3/11 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami. But commissioning a programme in 2012, it was felt that it was too soon after the 2011 disaster, so they decided to turn to a book about JL123 and dramatize that. As noted above, the director, Setsuro Wakamatsu, was the same for the movie version of Shizumanu Taiyo and he was apparently keen to do it as he had unfinished business with the JL123 story after making that movie.

In terms of the revised list of conventions that I developed as part of my article “Disaster Narratives by Design: Is Japan Different?“, One-no-Kanata-ni scored a 15 out of the 17, with the only ones missing being ‘panic’ (unsurprising as the plane crash itself is not shown) and ‘isolation’. One odd aspect of the book is that the subtitle points to the “Fathers, Sons, and The Crash of JAL123” despite a large focus actually being on either female victims or the mothers who were left behind.

I discuss One-no-Kanata-ni in greater depth in a chapter that I am currently working on for a book on Japanese media.

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