About the Film

Brakeless is a cautionary tale of what happens when punctuality, protocol, and efficiency are taken to the extreme.

On Monday, April 25th 2005, a West Japan Railway (West JR) commuter train crashed into an apartment building and killed 107 people when a driver tried to catch up with an 80-second delay. Just what pressures made the driver risk so much for such a minimal delay? Was this accident simply the result of human or mechanical failure, or the failure of society in a larger sense? MORE

Piecing together personal accounts of those affected by the train crash, Brakeless poses a question for a culture that equates speed with progress. It examines the way in which the characteristics that are usually considered national virtues may have become more of a danger to the people of Japan.

The film revisits the train journey, in part through the use of animation, and follows the aftermath through the eyes of the survivors. The crash is examined in light of the historical and economic development in post-war Japan, a country that rose from the ashes to become a smash economic success worldwide.

But its rapid modernization may have come with a price, and Brakeless shows the side effects of privatization and the phenomena coined as the “Japanese disease” by writer Kunio Yanagida, who argues that the train wreck epitomizes an economic malaise he observes has been happening widely in post-bubble Japan.

Director Kyoko Miyake’s film shows how the impact of this disaster sent shock waves that still resonate years later.


The Filmmaker

Kyoko Miyake, Director

Headshot of Brakeless filmmaker Kyoko Miyake.Miyake’s first feature-length documentary, My Atomic Aunt (a.k.a. Beyond the Wave / Meine Tante aus Fukushima) was supported by 7 broadcasters and numerous grants including BBC, NHK, WDR, and Sundance and has been screened and broadcast in many countries. Brakeless is her second film, and was a co-production with BBC Storyville, ITVS, NHK, IKON, and DR.

Several short documentaries Miyake directed have been shown at festivals internationally including Berlin, London, Sydney, and SilverDocs. Hackney Lullabies won the Berlin Today Award 2011 at the Berlin Film Festival. Mrs. Birks’ Sunday Roast, commissioned through Film London, has been added to the British Film Institute’s National Archive collection, and enjoyed a successful 2-week run at the IFC Center New York in summer 2011. Miyake has been selected for the prestigious Berlinale Talent Campus, Japanese government’s Art Grant, Talent Campus Tokyo, Crossing Borders, and Pola Art Foundation Grant. LESS

Film Credits

A Film by
Kyoko Miyake

Directed and Co-produced by
Kyoko Miyake

Produced by
Rachel Wexler

Film Editor
Herbert Hunger

Co-producer and Additional Camera
Felix Matschke

Music by
Jack Ketch

Director of Photography
Kozo Natsuumi

Sound Recordist
Masashi Ikeda

Assistant Cameraman
Masanori Toba
Hiroshi Eguchi

Akari Yasuda
Akio Fukushima
Haruka Ikematsu
Kanako Matsuki
Mariko Doi
Yuka Nigami
Yuri Yoshioka

Animation Direction
Yu Sato

Satoshi Ogura

2D Animation
Tim Divall

Animation Assistant
Ana Kazaroff

Vicki Matich

On-line Editor
Andrew Mitchell

Dubbing Mixer
Matt Skilton

Steven Seidenberg

Script Consultant
Martine McDonagh

Yuki Ota Narai
Sho Takai
Yosuke Sugita
Takaomi Ohashi
Takashi Yagura
Kenko Suzuki

Production Accountant
Ann Sargent

Special Thanks
Prof. Seiji Abe
Cocoe Amagasaki
Yasakazu Asano
Floating Garden Observatory
Yuko Fukuda
Yasuyuki Kagawa
Dr. Yukiko Kakimoto
Hitomi Kimura
Konami Sports Club
Haruko Mitsui
National Railway Workers Union
Satoshi Ogura
Shigemi Omori
Osaka Station City
Junko, Momoko, and Atsuko Suzuki
Hitoshi Ueda
Umeda Skybuilding
West Japan Railway Trade Union
West Japan Railway Workers Union
Kunio Yanagida

Commissioning Editor for DR
Mette Hoffmann Meyer

Commissioning Editor for IKON
Margje De Koning

Producer for NHK
Seiichi Shinno

Executive Producer for NHK
Atsushi Ogaki

Executive Producers for BBC
Nick Fraser
Kate Townsend

Executive Producer for ITVS
Sally Jo Fifer

Brakeless is a co-production of Brakeless Ltd, Bungalow Town Productions, BBC, NHK, IKON, DR, and the Independent Television Service (ITVS), with funding provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB).

This film was produced by Brakeless Ltd. and Bungalow Town Productions, which are solely responsible for its content.

© 2014 Brakeless/Bungalow Town. All rights reserved.

Have you ever been a part of a shared national disaster? Can you relate to the Japanese train driver’s fearful situation in your own job? Do American cultural attitudes also sometimes lead to unsafe practices in the workplaces?


  • 2014 George Foster Peabody Awards
    Peabody Award Winner
Have you ever been a part of a shared national disaster? Can you relate to the Japanese train driver’s fearful situation in your own job? Do American cultural attitudes also sometimes lead to unsafe practices in the workplaces?