One day while playing hide-and-seek with his friends, Toichi finds an old oil lamp in the attic. Seeing how entranced his grandson is with the object, the boy's grandfather decides to regale him with a story from fifty years ago. Minosuke is a young orphan who picks up any odd jobs he can in order to scrape a living. After taking on another errand, Minosuke becomes enamored with the various lamps decorating the night-time streets in town. Determined to illuminate his village with this new technology, the strong-willed boy begins selling the items to his fellow villagers and soon becomes a successful merchant. However, the advent of electricity soon spells doom for the humble lamp seller's trade...
What starts as a simple interview of a legendary actress becomes a journey through the history of Japan. But this is no ordinary lesson; from the perspective of this actress, we learn of the beauty and sadness of love, the pain and regret and joy of the Japanese people and their film, through this film: Millennium Actress.
In both Ojii-san no Lamp and Millennium Actress, an older person reflects on their life and the past through storytelling. Threads of Japanese history and the development of the country are woven into the individuals' narratives. Furthermore, in both, valuable questions are raised about the significance of life and love in light of the changes that take place in the world around us, often beyond our control.
What I found fascinating about each of these shows is that they really allowed me to step back in time in Japan. Both celebrate a treasured past, and show how advancing technology affected the livelihoods of everyday people.