Shinsuke Ogawa was born in 1935 in Sagamihara, Kanagawa, Japan. He began his film career in 1960 by making public-relations films, but soon left this lucrative career to devote himself to the production of independent documentaries. His first two films, Sea of Youth (1966) and The Oppressed Students (1967), documented early Japanese student protest movements, which presaged the worldwide student rebellion of the late Sixties.
In 1968, at the height of student activism in Japan, when student protests joined with workers' revolts, Ogawa and his staff moved to the farming village of Sanrizuka. There, over the next ten years, they produced a series of seven films documenting the political struggle against the Japanese government, which was attempting to evict local farmers from land on which they had lived and worked for generations in order to build a new Tokyo International Airport at Narita.
Among the best known films in the Sanrizuka series are A Summer in Narita (1968), Peasants of the Second Fortress (1971) and The Building of the Iwayama Tower (1972). While recording this sustained and often violent conflict, Ogawa and his crew also began to investigate the local farming culture, and the pace and rhythm of village life.