Snow Flower (Yuki no Hana) is a Japanese romantic drama film that took advantage of Finnish Lapland’s near-zero light pollution, frequent aurora episodes and untouched Arctic wilderness.
With a northernmost point of about 45.5° N, the Japanese islands are not well-known for their auroras, as they appear about as frequently as leap years. For a romantic drama like the upcoming Snow Flower, in which the Northern Lights play an important role in the story, Japanese director Kojiro Hashimoto and his producers decided to travel to Finland to capture the city streets of Helsinki and the amazing landscapes and auroras of Arctic Lapland.
Finland from the start
According to Toshihisa Watai of A-Films, the lead production company, Finland was chosen as the location early in the script-writing process, due to the frequency of the Northern Lights. But other aspects of Finnish culture also contributed to the production choosing Finland over other northern filming locations like Norway or Sweden.
“Finnish design for furniture, décor, fashion, glass objects have become more and more popular in Japan these last 4 years that we’ve worked on this project. Also—it is a smaller movie than ours, but the Japanese film Ruokala Lokki (2006) tells a story about Finland and is popular among 30 – 50 year old females. When visiting Finland for the first time, we found that Helsinki was very easy to film in because of its safety, its beauty, and it’s very compact for moving about.”
To capture Northern Lights and vast snowscapes, the production traveled to the sparsely populated Finnish Lapland, to film in various locations: Kittilä, Levi, near Ylläs and Pallas, and around the Kolari train station, the northernmost station in Finland.
Levi Destination Marketing Company and other Lapland businesses and organizations were involved from the beginning of the filming in northern Finland and provided a lot of practical information and suggestions. According to Warner Bros. Finland executive producer Seija-Liisa Eskola, the production used local hotels, catering services, transportation services including both car and snowmobile rentals. The whole group stayed for about three weeks in the Levi area, utilizing restaurants, shops, and various rental and holiday facilities and services. They also had local crew members working in the filming group, including drivers, staging assistants, and traffic coordinators. Local service providers included the Levi Destination Marketing Company and accommodation and service provider Hullu Poro.
The production team came to Lapland specifically for winter scenes, and they were not disappointed. Seija-Liisa says, “The Japanese film-making team was very pleased with the shooting sites and the natural resources of Finnish Lapland, which lured them to Finland in the first place. Kittilä at the height of winter was exactly what they had envisaged for the film.”
Warner Bros. Finland was the Finnish production coordinator for the film, handling all aspects of photography, financing and management in Finland.
From the radio to the silver screen
Snow Flower, or Yuki No Hana, as it’s called in Japan, is a famous hit song of the same name from 2003 that gets heavy rotation on Japanese radio stations every year as winter descends. The popularity of the song drove the filmmakers to adapt it into a romantic feature film.
Toshihisa says, “The song playing at the end of the movie is something that Japanese audiences will anticipate. For the younger audience, junior high and high school students, we are trying to instill the idea of ‘I would like to have a loving relationship like that in the future.’ For the adult audience, our approach is ‘When I was young, I had a love like that.’ Of course, we hope that the main character’s hard-earned love and their struggles are appealing to all audiences. We left the ending of the movie a bit open, for the audience to wonder and decide how the story of the two main characters continues. Hopefully, the movie will re-energize people both in their love- and work-lives.”
Snow Flower is produced through a production committee. Warner Bros. Japan sits at the head of the committee and is in charge of distribution. The production received the national 25% cash rebate.
Snow Flower opened in Japan in February 2019.