The Final Test

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Winter in northwestern Honshu Island is bitterly cold. The inhabitants of one village distract themselves by staging winter kabuki, a 7-hour play held outdoors, in the snow. In nearby Yamagata a taiko drumming team is preparing for its own dramatic performance, complete with hissing dragons. One of the drummers returns to her village, where her mother employs a dozen housewives to build Nissan electrical harnesses in her basement. In Kyoto, winter brings out many ancient traditions, like the centuries-old court football, noodle sellers, and neighborhood fire patrols. Finally the series sums up some of the seeming contradictions of Japan: the young people in Tokyo with their nose plugs and purple hair versus traditional village life on Noto Peninsula. High-tech assembly lines competing with a traditional sake-making factory. A raw fish restaurant and beer-fed beef and crab fishing - all facing depleted resources and an uncertain future. Japan's emerging modern religions compared to its ancient Shinto beliefs. Osaka's elusive Lion Dancers provide a final glimpse behind the tatemai - the public face - to see the honne, the true inner character of Japan.