Photo/IllutrationDirector Nobuhiko Obayashi walks out of a shrine with a cane on July 1 after praying for safety during the shooting of his latest film in Onomichi, Hiroshima Prefecture. (Tetsuro Kitamura)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

ONOMICHI, Hiroshima Prefecture--Director Nobuhiko Obayashi is 80 years old and battling terminal cancer, but he has no plans to slow down.

“I’ll make movies for another 30 years,” he said.

The filmmaker is shooting his latest movie, themed on war and the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, in his hometown of Onomichi for the first time since “One Summer’s Day,” which was released in 1999.

Written by Obayashi himself, “Umibe no Eigakan: Kinema no Tamatebako” (Seaside movie theater: jewel box of cinema) is scheduled for release in early spring next year.

“I want to portray how the atomic bomb came to be dropped,” Obayashi said.

The story centers on a group of young people who travel back in time when they are in a movie theater just before closing time. They witness deaths during the closing days of Japan’s feudal times and on the battlefront in China before they are sent to Hiroshima just before the Aug. 6, 1945, atomic bombing of the city.

They also meet members of a traveling theater group called Sakura-tai (cherry blossom unit), who in real life were all killed in the atomic bomb while they were visiting the city, the director said.

Obayashi, who was 7 when the war ended, describes himself as “war-defeated boy” and “peace orphan.”

The director said he has always thought it is his mission to tell stories about the Hiroshima bombing.

Obayashi was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer two summers ago. During his treatment, his “Hanagatami” was theatrically released in December last year.

Obayashi and about 50 members of the latest production team visited Ushitorajinja shrine in Onomichi on July 1 to pray for safety during the shooting.

“What I want to express with art are things beneficial to peace,” the director said at the shrine. “I feel like I’ve been kept alive for this purpose.”

Shooting began on July 2. Obayashi was seen wearing sunglasses and a red cap, moving around the set and giving instructions at a harbor near the Onomichi Channel.

“I want to describe what human beings are,” Obayashi said before the shooting began. “Human beings can make both war and peace. I want to build this movie into something that asks, ‘Which do you make?’”

Production will continue until mid-August in Onomichi and the neighboring city of Fukuyama.