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Friday, Nov. 30, 2012

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Stills from the film "Negative: Nothing"

SEASON'S HINTS 2012

Step by step, seeing the positive in Japan


Staff writer

The documentary film "Negative: Nothing" on a Swiss man's amazing journey on foot across the length of Japan is being screened in Japan.

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March 11, 2011, marked a turning point in the life of Swiss travel agent Thomas Koehler, 45, based in Zurich, who organized Japan tour packages for more than 10 years. After the tsunami and the nuclear disasters, Koehler lost all his customers. Nevertheless, instead of giving up on Japan, he left his job and went on a "mission" to the country.

Koehler started his journey on Aug. 1, 2011, at Cape Soya, the northernmost point of Hokkaido, and walked 2,900 km through the Japanese archipelago to Cape Sata in Kagoshima Prefecture, the southernmost point in Kyushu, which he reached Dec. 31.

"It was my love for Japan. I wanted to be of some help," Koehler said.

Among the reasons for his journey, a very important one was that he wanted to present the positive signs of Japan — as it tried to cope with its biggest crisis since the end of World War II — to the rest of the world through his blog and to motivate people to visit the country again.

The documentary film was produced by Swiss journalist Jan Knuesel and his brother Stephan, a New York-based film director.

"I realized how much impact Thomas' project had," said Jan Knuesel, who came up with the idea of making with his brother a short video report on Koehler. "In the end, the story became bigger and bigger and a short video report wasn't enough any more."

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Brothers Stephan and Jan Knuesel made the film.

The title is derived from a phrase that Koehler wrote in almost every post in his blog "Walking through Japan," which has been accessed more than 130,000 times.

"The blog line 'Negative: Nothing' symbolizes Thomas' project and stands for the Japanese philosophy as well," Jan Knuesel said.

The documentary captures Japan's beautiful scenery and its many off-the beaten-track places of interest, as well as warm interactions between Koehler and the local people he met on the way. There are many interviews with people from Switzerland and Japan that attest to the significance of Koehler's journey, which eventually led to his difficult situations being turned around.

The film was "pre-premiered" three times in Switzerland this autumn and will participate in film festivals in 2013.

"Negative: Nothing" will be screened on Dec. 5 and 6 at 9 p.m. at Auditorium Shibuya in Tokyo. Tickets are free, but pre-registration is required by Dec. 3 at www.negativenothing.com/en.


SEASON'S HINTS 2012



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