Light Mode

Omoiyari: A Songfilm — A Lesson In Compassion We All Need To Hear


With Omoiyari: A Songfilm, internationally lauded composer and songwriter Kaoru Ishibashi, who goes by the stage name Kishi Bashi, has created his fourth groundbreaking album, albeit one with a twist. Omoiyari: A Song Film was born out of Bashi’s fear of the ongoing racial prejudices of the world and a desire to reflect upon them and inspire unity and compassion. To do this, Bashi went on a journey through the past of America’s social injustices that not only helped him create the songs of Omoiyari, but a documentary film directed alongside award-winning filmmaker Justin Taylor Smith that complements the music perfectly.

According to the official website, Omoiyari is “a Japanese word that means to have sympathy and compassion towards another person. A universal concept in human interaction that is required for a sustainable society. It is the bedrock of the film.”

- Advertisement -

Kishi Bashi is an American born of Japanese immigrants. Reflecting upon the continual racial discrimination in the country, such as the Muslim ban, the Mexican immigration issues, and a steady increase in anti-Asian hate crimes due to misinformation about Covid’s origins circulated during the pandemic, Bashi felt he needed to do something to inspire people to treat one another with empathy and understanding. As such, he chose to focus on the mass incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II as the ultimate example of how things need to change instead of just repeating the same cycle of mistakes.

These internment camps were a result of bigoted thinking after the Japanese bombings during World War II. Over 100,000 Japanese Americans were forced from their homes and sent to the camps, with many becoming separated from their families. Anyone with even a fraction of Japanese blood, including those born in America, was subject to incarceration. The camps were awful places, often filthy and barren, where the occupants were looked down upon and mistreated by those running the operation.

Instead of just researching the subject from afar, Bashi actually traveled to sites involved in the mistreatment of those with Japanese heritage on American soil, including what remains of some of the internment camps. What he saw and felt on this journey inspired the creation of the songs of Omoiyari –- songs that speak of the injustices of the past and the need for people to unify through compassion. Filming at these locations went into the making of the documentary.

The film will feature never-before-seen footage of the internment camps as well as interviews with surviving Japanese Americans who witnessed the atrocities forced upon their people first-hand. Of course, Kishi Bashi’s travels and his musical storytelling will also figure prominently. Viewers will get to see the toxic state of American racial relations as it was before–and sadly as it is now–through the artistic expression of one who truly seeks to heal the country and promote goodwill between its citizens. 

Omoiyari: A Songfilm opens in select theaters on October 6, 2023. For a complete schedule of screenings and performances by Kishi Bashi, check here.

- Advertisement -


About the Author:

Jason Robbins is a features editor and writer, attorney, computer scientist, bio-exorcist and inventor of the piano key necktie.



- Advertisement -