A Japanese film crew is in Whati, N.W.T., for the next two weeks to make a documentary about the winter ice road.

The crew, working for the public broadcaster NHK in Tokyo, hopes to film the opening of the ice road and examine how it impacts the small northern community.

Six crew members will make the trip — five by plane, and one who will drive to Whati via the ice road, carrying food and equipment.

Audiences in Japan are fascinated by Northern communities that aren't accessible by roads year round, according to producer Kaz Yagi.

"We wanted kind of to see what kind of lifestyle are they having, what do they do to just... live there," he says. "And hopefully we'll have a good message to convey in the program."

The program's host, Ayumu Nakajima, is a famous actor in Japan. He's never been to Canada before, nor does he speak English.


Mary Ann Jerimick'ca of Whati explains the history of the ice road to Japanese actor Ayumu Nakajima, while NHK producer Kaz Yagi translates. (Erin Brohman/CBC)

"He is very excited," says Yagi, "but also never experienced this kind of cold environment... and he hasn't been to places where there's no restaurants, so we all have to live together in a house, cook, it's going to be a challenging environment for the actor to work."

It's not the first time in the Northwest Territories for Yagi, who has been to Whati four times — but he purposely didn't explain much to Ayumu, so that his experiences would be genuine.

"I don't want to give him too much information," Yagi says. "I want him to find out himself by talking to the local people, visiting people's houses... There's no book that tells you what it's like there. 

"Through his eyes, we'll try to send a message to the audience in Japan. Whatever he finds that is interesting, we'll film."

Mary Ann Jeremick'ca was on the same plane as the crew going to Whati. She says people in the community are excited to have them there. 

"There's a lot of things that the federal government or GNWT don't really know about the small communities," she says. "So it's great for another country to know what we go through."

The ice road is expected to open any day this week.