'Gold hunt' brings Japanese television director Makie Yamaguchi to Pulicat

Japanese television director Makie Yamaguchi is on a ‘gold hunt’. She is making a documentary on places where gold coins made in Sado during Japan’s Edo era (1603 to 1825) ended up as part of international trade. The quest has brought Makie to Pulicat, whose economic history points to a link between Veerenidge Oost Indische Compagine (VOC) — also known as the Dutch East India Company — and the gold coins from Sado. These coins were melted and remade in the likeness of the ones in currency during the Vijayanagara period.

Having discovered this piece of history, Makie and Noriko Nasukawa of Nihongo Center, who serves as Makie’s interpreter, contacted architect Xavier Benedict of AARDE Foundation — a not-for-profit initiative of Anameka Architects and Designers, Chennai — that has done exhaustive work on Pulicat’s heritage (aarde.in), including the creation of a Pulicat Interpretation Centre with the support of the Anna University and the Embassy of The Netherlands. Xavier organised a series of trips to Pulicat for Makie and Noriko Japanese women. Xavier is as passionate about Pulicat as Makie is about Sado, an island under Niigata prefecture. “A gold mine was discovered in Sado in 1601 and within a few years, this island gained prominence for the production of gold coins. This mine (closed in 1989) is a subject of great interest to the Japanese Government: a plan to make it a heritage site is afoot,” says Makie, who works for the Broadcasting System of Niigata. “At present, most residents of Sado are unaware of the historic and economic significance of gold mine, now in disuse. For the locals, it serves as a picnic spot. The documentary is an attempt at helping them see it with fresh eyes.” After Pulicat, Makie plans to visit The Netherlands because the Sado gold coins were in circulation in that part of Europe where the Dutch wielded their influence. “There, the Sado coins were kept unaltered and used as a unit of exchange,” she says.

Makie has to gallop through these exploratory visits, because the documentary is planned as a New Year gift to the people of Sado.

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