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About

PROJECT KAIZAN

About the Film

“WORDS CAN’T GO THERE” is a feature-length documentary exploring the story of California surfer turned Japanese shakuhachi flute master John ‘Kaizan’ Neptune. Directed by John’s son David Neptune and produced by our team of filmmakers in Los Angeles, the film examines what it takes to cross cultural borders and become a master of this traditional art form. John has innovated on the shakuhachi’s design and developed new sounds never heard before with the instrument. His efforts have been praised by most but criticized by some. John has lived in Japan for over 40 years, focusing single-mindedly on the shakuhachi to further delve into the infinite possibilities of sound. But what are the sacrifices involved with becoming a true master?

This story told from David’s perspective will take audiences on an unforgettable journey through personal discoveries, humorous interludes and musical epiphanies.

THE MAN BEHIND THE MUSIC

Who is John “Kaizan” Neptune?

Born in California in 1951, John Neptune was an adventurous boy who loved playing baseball and catching lizards in the desert with his father and brother. John went on to attend the University of Hawaii mainly because he absolutely loved to surf. Uninspired by traditional academics, he realized he was less and less interested in pursuing a degree or a conventional life path. He decided to drop out of school to further pursue his love of surfing in South America. With one more semester already paid for, he asked for recommendations and ended up in a class called ethnomusicology – the study of world music.

This class opened up the idea of music as a way of understanding culture and exploring different ways of thinking. It was because of it that John first heard the sound of the shakuhachi – a traditional Japanese flute made from a single piece of bamboo. Completely taken by the instrument, he saved up some money and moved to Japan in 1973 at the age of 22 for the sole purpose of studying at the Tozan school of shakuhachi. After several years of focused training and overcoming challenges in Kyoto, he earned his degree of mastery, along with his name, “Kaizan”, which means ‘ocean mountain’ in Japanese.

From there, he moved to Tokyo and quickly became known as the rising star of the shakuhachi world, where he encountered much praise but also occasional criticism. Through 46 years of steadfast dedication to the shakuhachi and 23 albums encompassing different styles of music including jazz, classical, traditional Japanese, and world fusion, John has become one of the top masters of the instrument and a world class musician. He continues to live in Chiba, Japan where he composes music and crafts the shakuhachi, among other experimental bamboo instruments. While he lives and breathes music, he is also an avid mountain climber, surfer, punster, grandfather of two and occasional skateboarder – as he says at his ripe age of 65, “it’s all downhill from here… so pass me a skateboard!”

Kaizan Team

GET TO KNOW US

About the Team

Our team comes from a multicultural background, bilingual in English and Japanese, and have been traveling around the globe filming together for the last 3 years. Along the way we have interviewed shakuhachi masters, John’s teachers, his fellow musicians in Japan, USA, India and the Czech Republic, music magazine editors, radio DJs, John’s family members, his fans and many more to provide a complete image of John as a person.

Through experiences along the way we have been inspired to look at our own upbringing and how we relate to our families. Being part of this personal, up-close journey has allowed us to deepen our understanding of what it means to be an artist and the commitment it takes to overcome challenges and actualize artistic vision. Through this film we hope to inspire audiences around the globe and help them gain insight into their own family relationships and artistic expression. To sum it up in John’s words, we want people to know that “If you do it, it’s possible.”

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DAVID NEPTUNE

Director, Writer, Producer

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CHIAKI YANAGIMOTO

Producer

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    MIKE McNAMARA

    Producer

      [:en]Rig used for macro shots[:]
      [:en]Future Shakuhachi in the raw[:]
      [:en]Releasing Oils[:ja]Roasting bamboo[:]
      Taiko An in Kyoto
      [:en]Climbing Mountains[:ja]Somebody likes hiking[:]
      Komuso in Nagoya
      [:en]Shakuhachi With JKN Brand[:ja]JKN branded shakuhachi[:]
      [:en]Bull Temple in Bangalore, India[:ja]Bull [:]
      Father and son
      Dome house
      [:en]The Takeda Drum Invention[:ja]David at platform in Tokyo[:]
      [:en]TV Show From Back In The Day[:]

      [:en]Rig used for macro shots[:]

      [:en]Rig used for macro shots[:]

      [:en]Rig used for macro shots[:]

      Enlarge

      [:en]Future Shakuhachi in the raw[:]

      [:en]Future Shakuhachi in the raw[:]

      [:en]Future Shakuhachi in the raw[:]

      Enlarge

      [:en]Releasing Oils[:ja]Roasting bamboo[:]

      [:en]Releasing Oils[:ja]Roasting bamboo[:]

      [:en]Releasing Oils[:ja]Roasting bamboo[:]

      Enlarge

      Taiko An in Kyoto

      Taiko An in Kyoto

      Taiko An in Kyoto

      Enlarge

      [:en]Climbing Mountains[:ja]Somebody likes hiking[:]

      [:en]Climbing Mountains[:ja]Somebody likes hiking[:]

      [:en]Climbing Mountains[:ja]Somebody likes hiking[:]

      Enlarge

      Komuso in Nagoya

      Komuso in Nagoya

      Komuso in Nagoya

      Enlarge

      [:en]Shakuhachi With JKN Brand[:ja]JKN branded shakuhachi[:]

      [:en]Shakuhachi With JKN Brand[:ja]JKN branded shakuhachi[:]

      [:en]Shakuhachi With JKN Brand[:ja]JKN branded shakuhachi[:]

      Enlarge

      [:en]Bull Temple in Bangalore, India[:ja]Bull [:]

      [:en]Bull Temple in Bangalore, India[:ja]Bull [:]

      [:en]Bull Temple in Bangalore, India[:ja]Bull [:]

      Enlarge

      Father and son

      Father and son

      Father and son

      Enlarge

      [:en]The Takeda Drum Invention[:ja]David at platform in Tokyo[:]

      [:en]The Takeda Drum Invention[:ja]David at platform in Tokyo[:]

      [:en]The Takeda Drum Invention[:ja]David at platform in Tokyo[:]

      Enlarge

      [:en]TV Show From Back In The Day[:]

      [:en]TV Show From Back In The Day[:]

      [:en]TV Show From Back In The Day[:]

      Enlarge

      Connect with Us

      HOW DO WE DO IT?

      Your Support Matters

      We are fortunate to have the support of the International Documentary Association in the form of fiscal sponsorship, which means donations made in support of the film through the IDA portal are tax deductible. We are also supported by a film grant from the Agency for Cultural Affairs in Japan. Now at the beginning of post production, we continue to seek funding from individuals and organizations to support the completion of our film. A warm thank you from our team for your continued support.

      We would love to hear your thoughts, questions, or ideas for collaboration.

      Contact us using the form below or reach us directly at: contact@projectkaizan.com

      You can also follow us on our facebook page.

      Thank you for your continued interest in WORDS CAN’T GO THERE.
      We can’t wait to share more of this exciting journey with you!

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      WORDS CAN'T GO THERE Welcomes Your Support

      WORDS CAN’T GO THERE is fiscally sponsored by the International Documentary Association, and any contributions made through the IDA Portal is fully tax deductible to the extent permitted by law.

      WE ARE ALWAYS OPEN TO NEW IDEAS

      Project KAIZAN is more than just a film — it’s a collaborative platform. Reach out to us if you are sitting on top of a cool idea that needs an outlet with a Shakuhachi-esque flare.

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