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Chronology of Japanese Cinema

1896   1897   1898   1899   1900   1901   1902   1903   1904   1905   1906   1907   1908  



The film economic boom created by the Russo-Japanese encouraged Yokota Shokai to build a processing laboratory in the Shinsenen district of Kyoto, in the south side of Nijo Castle. Pioneer cinematographer Tsuchiya Tsuneji (real name Tsuchiya Tsunekichi ) was signed on as a production engineer to duplicate film prints imported from France and develop Yokota's own shot footage. Until then any film processing or duplication had to be outsourced to companies like Osaka's Terada Seijiro Shoten or Tokyo's Tsurubuchi Gentoten. But very soon, frictions arose between Yokota's boss, Yokota Einosuke, and Tsuchiya who left the company to be replaced by his nephew Fukui Shigekazu (1) . In a conversation with film historian Tanaka Junichiro, Fukui stated his and his uncle's dislike for their work at Yokota due to the company's common practice of economizing on film by setting the camera speed at 7 or 8 frames per second resulting in an extremely poor picture quality of the finished product (Tanaka, p. 145). After a year and half, he also left Yokota to join the recently established M Pathe. His successor at Yokota was Ogawa Makita who served as cameraman on director Makino Shozo's film Honnoji Kassen (Battle of Honno-ji Temple).

Irie Yoshiro has examined the different camera and projection speeds in the silent era. He notes how the four pioneering production companies with studio, Yoshizawa Shoten, M. Pathe, Yokota Shoten, and Fukuhodo, had established standard speeds of their own before they merged into Nikkatsu in September 1912 (2). After the consolidation of Nikkatsu, its studio in Kyoto, Yokota's former Hokkedo studio completed in January 1912, resumed Yokota's filmmaking practice of shooting their kyu-geki (classical drama) at 8 fps, which persisted until the 1920s.

  1. In Komatsu Hiroshi's article Some Characteristics of Japanese Cinema before World Wide I , the name has been translated as Fukui Shigeichi, though appears as Fukui Shigekazu in the volume Nihon Eiga Jimei Jiten: Sutaffu-hen (Complete Dictionary of Movie Staff in Japan).
  2. Yokota Shoten's productions at the Nijo castle studio in Kyoto were photographed at 8ps around 1908. When the new Hokkedo studio was built in 1912, the company set up the camera speed between 14 fps and 8 fps. Around 1911, Fukuhodo increased the camera speed from 12~13 fps to 14~15 fps. Meanwhile, Yoshizawa Shoten chief cameraman Chiba Kichizo filmed at 12~14 fps at the slowest. According to M. Pathe's camera operator Taizumi Yasunao, before 1912, the standard speed was 12~13 fps, and 8fps when it was dark (Irie: 37).

Shinsenen, Makino Project, Art Research Center, Ritsumeikan University, 2000.
Nihon Eiga Jimei Jiten: Sutaffu-hen Dai 4 Shu (Complete Dictionary of Movie Staff in Japan, Volume 4), Nihon Eigashi Kenkyukai, Kagaku Shoin, 2005, p. 2212.
Irie, Yoshiro. Silent Japanese Films: What Was the Right Speed?, Journal of Film Preservation 65 (December 2002): 36-41.
Komatsu, Hiroshi. Some Characteristics of Japanese Cinema before World War I, in Reframing Japanese Cinema, Ed. Arthur Nolletti and David Desser, Indiana UP, 1992: 246.
Tanaka, Junichiro. Nihon Eiga Hattatsushi - (1), Katsudo Shashin Jidai, Chuo Koronsha, Tokyo, 1980.

Yokota Einosuke

22 October

At a time when Japanese films composed almost entirely of single and static shots were the rule, and virtually continued to be so for approximately another decade, Yoshizawa Shoten's cameraman Chiba Kichizo (1) produced what is arguably the first moving, hand-held, camera shot in Japanese cinema history. This took place during the filming of the victory parade to celebrate the triumphal return of war hero Admiral Togo Heihachiro held in Tokyo on 22 October 1905. Film historian Sato Tadao claims that Chiba even climbed a lamp post to take an overhead shot, again possibly the first in Japanese film history, of the crowds (Sato, 119). Years later, cameraman Edamasa Yoshiro, in a conversation with film historian Tanaka Junichiro, described how Chiba, his mentor at Yoshizawa Shoten, dismounted his lightweight Gaumont camera from its tripod and placed it on his shoulder to shoot the parade. Also at the same event, Edamasa continues, Chiba, holding the camera with both hands, began filming as he made his way through the lines of people while Edamasa, walking by his side, cranked the camera (Tanaka, 132).

  1. In Komatsu Hiroshi's article Some Characteristics of Japanese Cinema before World Wide I, the name has been mistakenly translated as Chiba Yoshizo and the shooting of the reportage film has been awkwardly dated to December. The film would not seemingly be released until January 1906 with the title Giyu Katsudo Shashin (Moving Picture of Heroism), which also included Actuality of the Triumphal Return of Field Marshall Oyama in Tokyo (Oyama Gensui Ika Tokyo e Gaisen no Jikkyo) and Actuality of Commander-in-Chief of Britain's China Squadron Admiral Noel Entering the Capital (Eigoku Shina Kantai Sireichokan Noeru Taisho Nyukyo Toji no Jikkyo) (Tanikawa, 28).

Komatsu, Hiroshi. Some Characteristics of Japanese Cinema before World War I, in Reframing Japanese Cinema, Ed. Arthur Nolletti and David Desser, Indiana UP, 1992: 242.
Sato, Tadao. Nihon Eigashi , Volume 1, Iwanami Shoten, 1995.
Tanaka, Junichiro. Nihon Eiga Hattatsushi - (1), Katsudo Shashin Jidai, Chuo Koronsha, Tokyo, 1980.
Tanikawa, Yoshio. Nenpyo Eiga 100-Nenshi, Futosha, 1993.

The Triumphal Return of Admiral Togo


4 July

The doctrine of Nanshin-ron (Southern advancement theory) developed from the late nineteenth century initially as a peaceful economic advance into the Pacific region, not territorial gain through aggression (Post : 63). Stimulated by the victory in the Russo-Japanese war, Japan emerged confident to take up leadership of the Far East. In 1936 Nanshin-ron became official policy and provided the Japanese military government with an ideological justification for its aggressive territorial expansion into the South East (Shimizu : 388). Imamura Shohei gives a satirical interpretation of Japanese expansionism in South East Asia at the turn of the century in his black comedy Zegen (1987). The film follows Muraoka Iheiji's, loosely based on his own autobiography edited by Kawai Yuzuru in 1960, patriotic crusade of procuring Japanese prostitutes to open a chain of brothels across the European colonies in Southeast Asia spearheading his country's own colonialist ambitions. These prostitutes working overseas, commonly called karayuki-san, were acknowledged, though with the alternative and more approving term roshigun, as the advance guard of Japanese overseas expansion playing a leading role in promoting Japan's business presence in the region (Mihalopoulos :51). Their presence in major business hubs of the South East highlighted the Japanese government's willingness to allow prostitution to drive the country's economic expansionist process .

Among the many Japanese who built up successful businesses in Asia around this time were also film entrepreneurs such as Takamatsu Toyojiro, seen as one of the key figures in Taiwan's early cinema. Takamatsu arrived in Taiwan in 1903 bringing to the Japanese colony his popular travelling film show which he began in Japan at the turn of the century. In 1907 he produced Taiwan's first film, an educational documentary titled Taiwan Jitsukyo no Shogai (An Introduction to Taiwan's Reality). It was shot in more than one hundred locations and included a variety of subjects such as urban construction, railway, agriculture and the lifestyle of aborigines (Lin : 143-44). During his business career he also built a total of eight theaters in different cities of the island and even established an acting school in 1909 (Hong : 18-19). Film historian Tanaka Junichiro cites other Japanese working in overseas film businesses like cinematographer Fujiwara Kozaburo or the rubber plantation owner Watanabe Jisui, also known as Watanabe Tomoyori (Barmé : 45). After filming the Russo-Japanese conflict for Yoshizawa Shoten, Fujiwara settled in Beijing and open either a cinema (Tanaka, 1980: 130) or a photo studio (Tanaka, 1979 : 20), postponing his return to Japan until the opening of Nikkatsu's Mukojima film studio in 1913. On the other hand, Watanabe pioneered film exhibition and production in Thailand. In the latter half of 1904 he returned briefly to Japan where he witnessed the enormous popularity of Russo-Japanese war related film works. He purchased some, as well as others featuring geisha dances, street and scenery shots or a game of kemari (Barmé : 44-45), from Yoshizawa Shoten, and, helped by the shop's own projectionist Kayama Komakichi, began to show them first in Bangkok and later in the Strait Settlements, Borneo and Sarawak (Tanaka 1980 : 120 ) and (Barmé : 60). In 1905, Watanabe opened the first permanent theater in Thailand, the Japanese Cinema, called later the Royal Japanese Cinematograph after being granted royal permission to display the government seal.

But perhaps the most important and influential of these Japanese émigrés in the development of their national cinema was Umeya Shokichi, who since 1893 had been running a photo studio for a year in Singapore and later, for almost a decade, in Hong-Kong. During this period he had collected films mainly from the French Pathe and organized very popular showings in Singapore after his second arrival in the British colony in May 1904. Before Umeya, a certain Matsuda had been showing movies outdoors (Hui : 50). Around 1905 he met Harima Katsutaro, owner of the Harima Hall on North Beach Road, who had previously collaborated with Watanabe in film exhibition in Thailand. Once in Japan, and without authorization, he borrowed the name of the world largest film producer at the time and founded his own film company, M Pathe (M standing for the old rendition of his surname in Latin script or roma-ji MUMEYA), which Tanaka Junichiro sets in 1906, whereas Richie and Anderson (28) the previous year (1). This discrepancy is particularly significant since it has often been argued that Richie and Anderson's pioneering work in English borrows heavily from Tanaka's (Kirihara : 507). Umeya's main biographers Kurumada Joji (177) and Kosaka Ayano (89), Umeya's own great granddaughter, mark his arrival back in his hometown of Nagasaki in 1905, aged 36, where he gave a preview of his films at a local theatre. Umeya "burst upon the Tokyo film promotion scene", however, did not take place in July 1905 as stated by Peter B. High (105), perhaps taking as reference the date suggested by Kurumada (177) , but the following year as claimed by Tanaka citing a flyer that appeared in the Yomiuri Shinbun on 3 July 1906 promoting the lavish film venue organized by Umeya at the Shin Tomiya-za theatre. This film show ran from the 4th to the 13th and among the films shown was a tinted version of Ferdinand Zecca's La Vie et la Passion de Jesus Christ (1903), which he had already exhibited in Singapore (Tanaka 1980 : 150).

  1. Umeya's biographer Kurumada Joji also dates the founding of M Pathe in 1905 (183).

Anderson, Joseph L. and Richie, Donald, The Japanese Film: Art and Industry, Princenton University Press, 1982.
Barmé, Scot, Woman, Man, Bangkok: Love, Sex, and Popular Culture in Thailand, Silkworm Books, 2006.
High, Peter B. Umeya Shokichi: The Revolutionist as Impresario, Tagen Bunka to Mirai Shakai Kenkyu Project, Nagoya University, 2004.
Hong, Guo-Juin, Taiwan Cinema: A Contested Nation on Screen, Palgrave Macmillan, 2011.
Hui, Tsu Yun, A Social History of the Japanese in Singapore to 1945, in Japan and Singapore: A Multidisciplinary Approach, edited by Timothy Tsu , Singapore, McGraw-Hill Education Asia, 2006, 20-52.
Kirihara, Donald, Post-Theory: Reconstructing Film Studies in Reconstructing Japanese Film, edited by David Bordwell and Norl Carroll, Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1996 , 501-19.
Kosaka, Ayano, Kakumei o Purodyusu Shita Nihonjin, Kodansha, 2009.
Kurumada, Joji, Kokufu Son Bun to Umeya Shokichi: Chugoku ni Sasageta Aru Nihonjin no Shogai, Rokko Shuppan, 1975.
Lin, Pei-Yin, Translating the Other: On the Re-circulations of the Tale Sayonfs Bell, in China and Its Others: Knowledge Transfer through Translation, 1829-2010, edited by James St. Andre and Peng Hsiao-yen, Rodopi Bv Editions, 2012: 139-164.
Mihalopoulos, Bill, The making of prostitutes: the Karayuki-san, Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars 25, 1: 41-57, 1993.
Post, Peter, Indonesianisasi and Japanization: The Japanese and the shifting fortunes of pribumi entrepreneurship, in Indonesian Economic Decolonization in Regional and International Perspective, edited by J. Thomas Lindblad and Peter Post, KITLV Press, Leiden, 2009.
Shimizu, Hajime, Nanshin-ron: Its Turning Point in World War I, Developing Economies 25, no. 4: 386-402, December 1987.
Tanaka Junichiro, Nihon Kyoiku Eiga Hattatsushi, Kagyusha, 1979.
Tanaka, Junichiro. Nihon Eiga Hattatsushi - (1) Katsudo Shashin Jidai, Chuo Koronsha, Tokyo, 1980.

Umeya Shokichi

1 August

The popularity of films related to the Russo-Japanese war began a rapid decline soon after the conflict ended in September 1905. The still infant Japanese film industry, which had benefited enormously from the war, went into a slump in production preferring instead to import films. Of the few indigenous works produced during this period most were film actualities of festivals or scenic films such as Katori Jinja Sairei (Katori Shrine Festival), Musha Gyoretsu (Samurai Procession) Kyoto Arashiyama Jikkyo (Actuality Film of Kyoto's Arashiyama District)or Soma Nomaoi (Soma Wild Horse Chase Festival) (Tanikawa:28). Adding to these, visual recordings of performances by popular magicians Shokyokusai Tenichi, father of Japanese magic, and his disciple Shokyokusai Tenkatsu were also released at the Denkikan on August 1 during the Katori Shrine Festival, among them Tenichi-shi no Kijutsu (Mr Tenichi's Magic) and Tenkatsujo no Hagoromai (Feather Cloak Dance of Miss Tenkatsu). This last work is listed in the Yoshizawa Shoten's catalogue of February 1910 along with other two featuring Tenkatsu's mentor Shokyokusai Tenichi no Hako no Kijutsu (Magic Trick with a Box by Shokyokusai Tenichi) and Shokyokusai Tenichi-shi Tamago and Uma no Majutsu (Magic Trick with an Egg and a Horse by Mr Shokyokusai Tenichi) (see Katsudo Shashin Kidaido Firumu (Rensokushashin) Teikahyo).

Three years earlier, some performances by Tenichi had been filmed possibly in the United States during his troupe's world tour from 1901 to 1906. The films were imported in Japan and first released at Kobe's Aioi-za theatre in November 1903. The show, organised by the Nihon Katsudo Shashin Kai (Association of Japanese Motion Pictures), lasted for four days and included majutsu (trick) films with titles such as Kuchu o Hoko Suru Majutsu (Walking in the Sky Trick) or Ikkyaku no Isu wo Nana Kyaku to Nasu Majutsu (Converting One Chair into Seven Chairs Trick). Two weeks later the films opened at Tokyo's Ryokoku under the title of Tenichi no Katsudo Shashin (Tenichi's Motion Pictures). Early Japanese film critic Yoshiyama Kyokko provides an account of a show of imported majutsu films at Tokyo's Ichimura-za theatre in 1905 which went by the title Beikoku ni Okeru Shokyokusai Tenichi no Kijutsu (Shokyokusai Tenichi's Magic Tricks in America). Rather than an actual recording of Tenichi's magic show, Yoshiyama points to likely camera tricks during the magician's numbers similar to the ones employed by film pioneer George Melies in his productions (Quoted in Izumi: 75) .

Imamura, Miyoo, Shinsetsu Eiga Ibunshi Dai 29 Kai: Jushutsunyu Eiga Shoki no Nihonjin in Kinema Junpo, No 742, September 1978, pp 156-57.
Izumi, Toshiyuki, Ginmaku no Kyakkai : Honcho Kaiki Eiga Taigai, Seidosha, 2000.
Kawai, Masaru, Katsudo Shashin Kidaido Firumu (Rensokushashin) Teikahyo in Nihon Kijitsu Hakubutsukan (Japan Magic Museum) .
Komatsu, Hiroshi, Some Characteristics of Japanese Cinema before World War I, in Reframing Japanese Cinema, Ed. Arthur Nolletti and David Desser, Indiana UP, 1992: 244.
Tanikawa, Yoshio, Nenpyo Eiga 100-Nenshi, Futosha, 1993.

20 September

Society Puck Company, a comic magazine publishing company founded on 15 April 1905, exhibits a series of 14 social satire short films, under the title Shakai Pakku Katsudo Shashin (Society Puck Moving Pictures), at the Kinki-kan theatre in Kanda, Tokyo. The works had been produced by writer, rakugo performer and socialist activist Takamatsu Toyojiro in 1903, but sold them to the publishing company before going to Taiwan a year later (see above). Film historian Komatsu Hiroshi (240-42) provides a description of Takamatsu's films, including titles in Japanese and English as well as a brief synopsis of one of them, Katsu-shakai no Tamamori (Riding on a Ball in Real Society).

There have been some discrepancies, not unusual in the study of early Japanese cinema, among Japanese film historians over the release date of the short films and the identity of the cinematographer. For instance, Komatsu states that the show opened on 7 September (243), while Tanaka Junichiro argues it did on the 20 (411). Regarding the name of the camera operator, in his 1995 Nihon Eigashi volume 4 (145), and again, in the 2007 edition (63), Sato Tadao proposes two theories, one attributing the camerawork to Chiba Kichizo and the other to Fujiwara Kozaburo. In his 2010 Nihon no Dokyumentari Shirizu (6), however, he finally settles for Fujiwara. In this last publication, Sato also claims that the film venue had consisted of 15 short films instead of the 14 he had previously listed in his Nihon Eigashi (1995 : 145). A handbill advertising the show, reprinted in the Asahi Chronicle (Murayama : 34), clearly reveals that the film programme was, in fact, divided into two parts, the first featuring nine shorts and the second five (1), shown from 20 September, and that they were directed and photographed by Chiba Kichizo. Finally, Tanaka credits the authorship of the script to a certain Nonki Ozanmi, this being, as he explains, the rakugo story teller stage name used by Takamatsu during his early career (321).

  1. First part / Kigeki (comic plays): Katsu-shakai no Tamanori (Riding on a Ball in Real Society), Ebicha no Mokukyo (A Maroon Wooden Drum), Kotoku no Nakigoto (A Grievance about Public Morality), Tosei Shinshi no Shotai (The True Character of Gentlemen Nowadays), Unubore no Shippai (The Failure of Overconfidence), Kokuyu no Geshukuya (National Boarding House), Jinshin no Ura-Omote (The Surface and True Feelings of People's Minds, Kyu-shisho no Kyoiku (The Education of Old Ideas), Haikara no Gyoretsu (The Dandyish Procession).
    Second Part / Ikitaru Shakaigeki (moral and social dramas): Jogakusei no Matsuro (The End of the Role of the Schoolgirl), Higeki: Sencho no Junshi (Tragedy: The Self-Immolation of the Captain), Karafuto no Hagoku (The Prison Breakout in Sakhalin), Inshu no Katei (A Drinking Family), Aiko no Seiko (The Success of Love).
    (Tamura : 56-57).
    Romanization of Japanese titles and their English translation, slightly adapted, from Komatsu (241) .

Komatsu, Hiroshi, Some Characteristics of Japanese Cinema before World War I, in Reframing Japanese Cinema, Ed. Arthur Nolletti and David Desser, Indiana UP, 1992: 229-58.
Murayama, Kyoichiro, Eiga ni Yoru Keimono o Ito: Kaisha Pakku Katsudo Shashin, in Asahi Kuronikuru 20-seki, Dai-ikkan (1901-1916), Kanzenhan, Nichiron-senso to Dai-ichiji Seikai Daisenso, 1906/7: 34, 2000.
Sato, Tadao, Nihon Eigashi , Volume 4, Iwanami Shoten, 1995.
Sato, Tadao, Nihon Eigashi , Volume 4, Iwanami Shoten, 2007.
Sato Tadao, Shirizu Nihon no Dokyumentari (5), Iwanami Shoten, 2010.
Tamura, Shizue, Hajime ni Eiga ga Atta: Shokuminchi Taiwan to Nihon, Chuo Koronsha, 2000.
Tanaka, Junichiro, Nihon Eiga Hattatsushi - (1), Katsudo Shashin Jidai, Chuo Koronsha, Tokyo, 1980.

Takamatsu Toyojiro


From 1907 to 1909 the number of movie theatres increased rapidly, a mixture of old vaudeville halls revamped into cinemas and the construction of new edifices more or less resembling Western style theatres. By 1909 more than 40 film theatres were operating in Tokyo, of which 30 had opened that year (Yoshida: 72-73, Ueda: 53). It is generally accepted that the second permanent film theatre built in the country was the Shinseikan, which opened its doors on April 1 in the neighborhood of Kanda, Tokyo. However, there is also evidence of a variety hall in Asakusa, Tokyo, that had held performances of female divers having been reconverted into a film theatre which reopened as the Bionkan in January (Ueda : 53). On April 16, the film production, exhibition and distribution company Yoshizawa Shoten inaugurated a new cinema in this same area, the Asakusa Sanyukan. Meanwhile, in Osaka the production company Yokota Shokai launched its own Denkikan movie theatre in the Sennichimae district to become the first one in the Keihanshin region, comprising the cities of Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe. Sennichimae would see another cinema, the Bunmeikan, opening on December 20. The most dramatic example of this shift in entertainment preferences took place in Asakusa's Rokku theatre district soon to become the country's movie-goer's Mecca. The misemono (sideshow) halls that had once lined the streets of the Rokku district were quickly replaced by theatres showing films from 1907 until the beginning of the Taisho period (1912-1926) (1).

As pointed out by Ueda Manabu many of these cinemas had in fact been operating as yose (variety hall) hosting all kind of misemono performances before they were remodeled into film theatres (see my article on the Asakusa Denkikan). Thus, the Asakusa Sanyukan had served as a bazaar prior to its conversion into a cinema while the Sennichimae Denkikan had been functioning as a yose, the Masae-za, and so had the Bunmeikan, known earlier as the Daini Izutsu (2). Even after their renovation into cinemas, most still continue to feature in their programs a variety of misemono shows, kineorama (an admixed form of diorama, film projections and electric light effects), and, most importantly, rensageki performances. The latter, in fact, fought with only-film performances for supremacy in the theatres until the mid 1910s.

The following year more cinemas opened in Tokyo (in Asakusa the Fukujukan, April, the Taishokan and the Fujikan, July. In Kagurazaka the Bunmeikan, May. In Ushigome, now Shinjuku, the Bunmeikan, May. For a period of time this cinema was also called the first Bunmeikan or Daiichi Bunmeikan (Yoshida: 64). In Honjo the Taihekan, June. In Asabu, now Minato, the second Bunmeikan or Daini Bunmeikan, September) and Osaka (the Naniwa-za in Dotonbori, January, in Sennichimae the Daini Sekaikan, September, and the Nihonkan, November) as well as other major cities such as Nagoya (the Bunmeikan in Osu Kannon, January, and the Chuo Denkikan in Hirokoji, April)and Kyoto (the Shinkyogoku Denkikan, February, run by the Yokota Shokai). Meanwhile, according to the Yokohama Archives of History, in December 1908 the first film theatre in Yokohama opens in the Nigiwai district, the M Pathe Denkikan, known as the Shikishimakan from 1909 (3). However, other sources argued instead that the first cinema was the Kinemakan in the Fukutomi district, owned by Uchiyama Umekichi, and which opened in May 1908 (4). It was remodelled and converted into a two-storied Western style theatre renamed as the Denkikan, also known as the Kanko Kinen Denkikan, in September the following the year. This might explain the change of name of the cinema run by the M Pathe Company.

  1. At the end of the Meiji period there two famous troupes of acrobats balancing on rolling balls in Asakusa; the Aoki's Tamanori troupe and the Egawa's Tamanori troupe. While the Aoki's troupe disbanded and the Daiichi Kyoseikan hall, which had opened in the 1880s, where they had held their acrobatic shows turned into the Asakusa Taishokan cinema in July 1908, the Egawa's troupe continued to perform at their misemono koya (hall) Seiyukan (known as the Taiseikan from 1901) until 1923 (Yoshimi : 211-12). Before its conversion into the Taishokan, the Daiichi Kyoseikan's acrobatics on balls programme held in the afternoon was complemented by an evening exhibition of moving pictures. Also, according to Irie Yoshiro's study of extant stills from some of the earliest films shot in Japan, there is evidence that one of these films, of which only 8 frames survives, featured the Egawa's troupe (Irie : 73).
  2. The Fujikan that opened on 13 July 1908 in Asakusa, Tokyo, had been called the Chin Sekaikan, while the Daiichi Kyoseikan, also in Asakusa, became the Taishokan starting business on the same day that the Fujikan.
  3. Ogasawara Mikio proposes the date of its opening as 1 January 1908, reopening as the Shikishimakan on 11 June 1908 (28).
  4. Yokohama Rekishi to Bunka - Kaiko 150 Shunen Kinen is among one of the publications that claim that the M Pathe Denkikan was the first cinema in Yokohama (264), while others such as Yokohama-shi o Aruku (172) and Yokohama Kindaishi Sogo Nenpyo (321) argued that it was the Kinemakan. Before its conversion into the Kanko Kinen Denkikan film theatre, the Kinemakan is described as a kasetsu koya or temporary playhouse (Yokohama-shi Chuo Toshokan Kinenshi Henshu Iinkai hen: 41), which could account for this discrepancy.

Irie, Yoshiro Saiko no Nihon Eiga ni Tsuite - Konishi Honten Seisaku no Katsudoshashin (The Earliest Japanese Movie \ Motion Pictures Produced by Konishi Honten), MOMAT Research, 2009, Vol 13, pp.65-91.
Iwao, Akune, Ganso, tamanori kyokugei oichiza : Asakusa no misemono, Tokyo: Arina Shobo, 1994.
Kaneko, Atsuko, Ongaku Bunka to Engeki in Shinshu Nagoya-shi Shi; Meiji, Volume 5, Edited by Shiozawa Kimio and Kondo Tetsuo, 2000, pp 838-848.
Matsunobu, Tasuke, Ishii, Mitsutaro, Tokairin, Shizuo (editors), Yokohama Kindaishi Sogo Nenpyo, Yurindo, 1989.
Murou, Saiseki, Chindon Sekai, in Modan Toshi Bunkaku: Toshi no Shuen edited by Unno Hiroshi, Kawamoto Saburo) and Suzuki Sadami, March 1993, pp 289-297.
Nornes, Abe Mark and Gerow, Aaron (editors), Eigagaku no Susume: Makino Mamoru ni Sasageru / In Praise of Film Studies: Essays in Honor of Mamoru Makino, Yokohama: Kinema Club, 2001.
Oda, Sadao, Yokohama-shi o Aruku, Nihon Hoso Shuppan Kyokai, 1977.
Ogasawara, Mikio , Shinbun Shosetsu no Gekika ni Tsuite, in Shotokushu Yokohama no Shibai to Gekijo Yokohama Kaiko Shiryokan Kiyo, Dai 10 Go, 1992, pp 26-33.
Takamura, Naosuke and Yokohama-shi Furusato Rekishi Zaidan (editors), Yokohama Rekishi to Bunka: Kaiko 150 Shunen Kinen, Yurindo, 2009.
Tanaka, Junichiro, Nihon Eiga Hattatsushi: Katsudo Shashin Jidai, Chuo Koronsha, 1980.
Ueda Manabu, Eiga Josetsukan no Shutsugen: 1900-nendai no Denkikan to Sono Kankyaku Kara / The Emergence and Transformation of the Moving Picture Theaters: An Analysis of the Denkikan theater and the Cinema Audience in the 1900s, Art Research, 9, 2009, 49-59.
Yokohama-shi Chuo Toshokan Kinenshi Henshu Iinkai hen, Yokohama no hon to bunka : Yokohama-shi Chuo Toshokan kinenshi, Yokohama-shi : Yokohama-shi Chuo Toshokan, 1994.
Yokohama-shi Kowankyoku Kikakuka and Yokohamako Shi Kanko Inkai, Yokohama-ko Shi Dai 2 Kan, Yokohama Koshinko Kyokai, 1989.
Yohohama Kaiko Shiryokan / Yokohama Archives of History, Shiryo Yomoyama Hanashi 2: Yokohama ni Eigankan Nakkata Koro.
Yohohama Kaiko Shiryokan / Yokohama Archives of History, Shiryo Yomoyama Hanashi 2: Gekieiga no Kokai.
Yoshida, Chieo, Mo Hitoshi no Eiga-shi: Benshi no Jidai, Tokyo: Jiji Tsushinsha, 1978.
Yoshimi, Shunya, Toshi no Doramaturugi: Tokyo sakariba no Shakaishi, Kawade Shobo Shinsha, 2008.

Asakusa Sanyukan

17 May

In 1907 Japanese film production was dominated by just two companies, the Yoshizawa Shoten and the Yokota Shokai. Their combined output, consisting almost exclusively of film actualities, was nevertheless very scarce. Employed at Yoshizawa since he was eighteen, Konishi Ryo (1) was the most prolific of the cinematographers working at the time. He has been acknowledged by film historian Tanaka Junichiro as the maker of short documentaries such as Ryogoku Kokugikan no Ozumo Jikkyo (Scene of Grand Sumo at the Ryogoku Kokugikan), Aomori-ken Same Kogai no Bogei (Whaling at Same Outer Harbor in Aomori Prefecture), Ainu no Kumagari (Ainu Bear Hunting) and Ashiodozan no Sutoraki (Strike at Ashidozan Copper Mine) (Tanaka 1980: 133). A year earlier he had also filmed Konoe Daichi (Imperial Guard First Regiment), Nireentai Kasogyoretsu (Second Regiment Full Dress Parade), Korakuen Ozumo (Grand Sumo at Korakuen), Hibiya Koen Rikugundaijin Kangekai (Minister of War's Welcome Reception at Hibiya Park), Shinbashi Teishajo no Taika (Large Fire at Shinbashi Railway Station), Konnoto Denka Yokohama Gochaku (His Highness Prince Arthur of Connaught Arrival in Yokohama), Konnoto Denka Goran no Geisha Teodori (His Highness Prince Arthur of Connaught Viewing a Teodori Geisha Dance) and Daimiyo Gyoretsu (Daimyo's Procession) (2) all exhibited at the Denkikan on 1 March 1906 (Tanaka 1979: 21). From the second half of 1907 the subject of many documentaries shifted to the Korean problem as both film companies, Yoshizawa and Yokota, were asked by Ito Hirobumi, former prime minister and then resident general in Korea, to produce a series of scenery films and travelogues promoting a positive and tranquil image of Korea to try to curb anxiety in Japan over news of rioting and disorder from the neighboring country (3).

In September 1905 Russia had signed a treaty after its defeat against Japan in which it recognized the latter's political, military and economical rights in Korea and promised not to interfere with any actions Japan might take in its new protectorate. This treaty, known as the Treaty of Portsmouth, was immediately followed by another signed between Japan and Korea. Japan had already taken control of the Korean banking system along with postal and telegraphic communications and railway services (Keene: 637). This new agreement, signed on November 18, effectively gave Japan complete control over Korea's foreign affairs finalizing its status as a protectorate of Japan. Ito Hirobumi, who had informed the Korean Emperor of the conditions of the Portsmouth Treaty and had led the negotiations with the Korean government, became the first resident general in Korea on December 21, 1905. Two years later, further control was imposed by Japan over Korean affairs in another agreement signed in at the end of July by which the Korean government ceded all its effective remaining power over domestic affairs which culminated with the disbandment of the Korean Army on July 31. Although Ito was able to find some support among pro-Japanese Korean officials, public anger over the conditions imposed by Japan was generalized leading to mass demonstrations and the emergence of several resistance movements which activities continued, reaching their peak in 1908, for the following 3 years until Japan formally annexed Korea into its Empire on 22 August 1910 (Seth: 279). Attacks by anti-Japanese forces numbered 323 in 1907, 1,451 in 1908, 898 in 1909, 147 in 1910 and 33 in 1911 (Boku 2006: 138).

The Tokanfu (Residency-General Department, Japanese governing body in Korea) headed by Ito set out to assuage some of the Japanese public anxiety about a looming Korean insurgency by organizing screenings around the country of daily scenes of a peaceful Korea. Yoshizawa Shoten's manager Kawaura Keinichi was appointed for the project and traveled to Korea with one of his cinematographers, Konishi Ryo, to shoot the scenes (4). Around the same time, the Kyoto-based Yokota Shokai film company was also commissioned with a similar assignment. Kankoku Fuzoku (Korean Customs and Manners), Tokanfu Enyukai (Residency-General Garden Party) were two of the films resulting from this early domestic propaganda venture released at Osaka's Bentenza theater on 17 May, 1907. These films are thought to be the first ones shot in Korea to be exhibited in Japan (Boku 2007 : 41). The screening also included Itaria no Gyofu no Seikatsu (Living of Italian Fishermen), Igai no Tosen (Unexpected Winner) and a re-release of Momijigari (1903) (Boku 2007: 41).

A year later, Yokota Shokai was again in charge of a series of films about Korea released under the title Kankoku Isshu (One Week in Korea) at the Kinkikan theatre in Kanda, Tokyo, on 1 June, 1908. The program featured scenes of activities run by the Tokanfu as well as scenic films, travelogues and other scenes reflecting the customs and manners of the Korean people. Their screening coincided with the opening of Yokota's branch office in the Korean capital, then called Keijou, in the neighborhood of Chinkoge where the Japanese community resided. This collaboration with the Tokanfu under the supervision of Ito intended to present Japanese audiences, as it had been the aim of the films shot by Yoshizawa Shoten's cameraman Konishi Ryo a year earlier, a peaceful and tranquil image of the country, arousing their interest in their soon to be new colony and, at the same time, concealing the chaotic political situation of the country (Boku 2006 : 7-8) (5).

To further strengthen the power grip over Korea and paved the way to its assimilation, Ito decided to take under his tutelage the 10-year Korean Crown prince Yi Un and brought him to Japan with the excuse of providing the boy a proper education and deepening the eternal friendship between both countries. Becoming a de-facto political hostage, Yi Un was being indoctrinated about the superiority of Japan's military power, technological development and refined culture. The consequent Korean public's uproar was responded with a string of film documentaries commissioned by Ito to offer as proof of the safety and happiness of the crown prince while in Japan since his arrival in Japan in December 1907 until the end of 1909, months before Japan's official annexation of Korea.

Discrepancies over the makers of these documentaries are found in both English and Japanese sources. Nornes appears to suggest that the production of all these films following the Korean Crown prince's tour around Japan was undertaken by Yoshizawa Shoten (page 12). Sato, however, credits to Yokota Shokai an early documentary from the series, Kankoku Kotaishi Denka, Ito Daishi Kankoku Omiya Nyukyo no Kokei (Scene of His Imperial Highness the Prince of Korea and Ito Hirobumi Entering the Imperial Palace), in Nihon Eiga Shi Volume 4 (1995 : 145) and again (2007 : page 63) but later to Yoshizawa Shoten (Shirizu Nihon no Dokyumentari, volume 5, page 6). The publication Nihon Eiga Shi Taikan Eiga Torai Kara Gendai Made - 86 Nenkan no Kiroku (page 65) also attributes this particular segment to Yokota Shokai released in December, soon after being shot, at Osaka's Tenma-za. Furthermore, Boku explains how the Kyoto-based production, exhibitor and distributor company was asked by Ito Hirobumi to produce a visual record of Yi Un from his arrival in Shimonoseki on 7 December 1907 to his final destination, after a brief stop in Kyoto, at the Detached Shiba Palace in Tokyo on December 15, followed by a visit to the Imperial Palace three days later (Boku 2006 : 13). At this time, rumors about the Prince having been murdered began to circulate in Korea. Ito, anxious to clear any suspicions, hired the Yoshizawa Shoten to produce a documentary film depicting the young prince enjoying his stay in Japan at his new residence in Torizaka Street where he had moved on 9 February 1908 (Boku 2006 : 139). This contradicts Nornes claim that this project had been commissioned a year earlier, but, in fact, from the spring of 1908.

  1. Regarding Konishi's first name, Donald Richie (2005: 23), Komatsu Hiroshi (1992: 244) and Keiko McDonald (1994: 39) have all translated it as Ryo whereas Jasper Sharp (2011: 45) prefers to render it as Toru. This is due to their different choice of Chinese character or kanji for the name. The kanji which can read as Ryo is listed in works by Tanaka Junichiro, who personally interviewed Konishi in 1942, Sato Tadao and other Japanese film historians whereas I have only been able to find the kanji character read as Toru in the Japanese Movie Database entry for this early cinematographer.
  2. This according to Konishi himself who was interviewed by Tanaka Junichiro at a restaurant in Ginza, Tokyo, on 28 October 1942 (Tanaka 1979: 23)
  3. In 1901, Ito Hirobumi, then prime minister and in direct control of the Taiwan Affairs Bureau, had invited political activist Takamatsu Toyojiro to screen films around the island to enlighten the native Taiwanese over the benefits of being part of the Japanese empire and to entertain the Japanese emigrants (Lee 2012: 5). The screenings in which Takamatsu also acted as a benshi presented scenes of the Peking Battle by the Eight-Nation Alliance and the Boer War (Lee : XXV).
  4. As pointed out by Boku, nothing is known of this proto-propaganda film production enterprise except for the reminiscences of Konishi himself made to film historian Tanaka Junichiro during a conversation they had on 26 October 1942 (Boku 2007 : 60) (Tanaka 1979: 23).
  5. Tanaka Junichiro considered Kankoku Isshun and Kankoku Kan (1979 : 24) as the same work though the contents featured in each film were totally different. Boku explains that Kankoku Kan presented Sunjong emperor of Korea progress tour in Korea accompanied by Ito Hirobumi which took place between January and February 1909. After 3 years of the establishment of the Tokanfu in Korea in 1906 anti-Japanese feelings continue to escalate. To contain this Ito decided to embark on a tour with the emperor of Korea and observe the real conditions of the country. This time the tour was filmed by Yokota Shokai's technician Fukui Shigekazu (Tanaka 1979 : 24). Regarded as one of the most representative early works of this production company, Kanko Kan is not just a simple documentary but a piece of propaganda film endorsing Japanese ruling of Korea and emphasizing the need for Japanese-Korean unity.

Boku, Fanmo, Kankoku Kotaishi to Ito Hirofumi Meiji Maki no Nikkan Koshitsu ni Okeru Eiga no Yakuwari in Eiga no Naka no Tenno: Kindan no Shozo edited by Iwamoto, Kenji, Shinwasha, 2007.
Boku, Fanmo,
Chosen Sotokufu no Sokuminchi Tochi ni Okeru Eiga Seisaku, Ph.D. thesis, Waseda University, 2006.
Komatsu, Hiroshi, Some Characteristics of Japanese Cinema before World War I, in Reframing Japanese Cinema, Ed. Arthur Nolletti and David Desser, Indiana UP, 1992.
Keene, Donald, Emperor of Japan: Meiji and His World, 1852-1912, Columbia University Press, 2002.
Lee, Daw-Ming, Historical Dictionary of Taiwan Cinema, Scarecrow Press, 2012.
McDonald, Keiko I., Japanese Classical Theater in Films, Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1994.
Matsuura, Kozo (editor), Nihon Eiga Shi Taikan Eiga Torai Kara Gendai Made - 86 Nenkan no Kiroku, Tokyo, 1982
Nornes, Abé Mark, Japanese Documentary Film: The Meiji Era Through Hiroshima, University of Minnesota Press, 2003.
Richie, Donald, A Hundred Years of Japanese Cinema: A Concise History, With a Selective Guide to DVDs and Videos, Kondansha, 2005.
Sato, Tadao, Nihon Eigashi , Volume 4, Iwanami Shoten, 1995.
Sato, Tadao, Nihon Eigashi , Volume 4, Iwanami Shoten, 2007.
Sato Tadao, Shirizu Nihon no Dokyumentari (5), Iwanami Shoten, 2010.
Seth, Michael J., A Concise History of Korea: From Antiquity to the Present,
Sharp, Jasper, Historical Dictionary of Japanese Cinema, Scarecrow press, 2011.
Tanaka Junichiro, Nihon Kyoiku Eiga Hattatsushi, Kagyusha, 1979.
Tanaka, Junichiro, Nihon Eiga Hattatsushi: Katsudo Shashin Jidai, Chuo Koronsha, 1980.
Tanikawa, Yoshio, Nenpyo Eiga 100-Nenshi, Futosha, 1993.

The Tokanfu building

Ito Hirobumi and
Crown Prince Yi Un

7 December

According to film collector Misono Kyohei (Kinema Junpo: 85) the first film adaptation of the popular story of Chushingura was released at the Hongo-za theater in Tokyo on 7th December 1907 with the title of Chushingura Godanme. Chushingura Godanme is in essence a documentary film or, to be more precise, a recording of a stage-like performance of Chushingura's 5th act by kabuki actor Kataoka Gato III to commemorate his stage name succession (shumei) to the professional name Kataoka Nizaemon XI in January . Komatsu Hiroshi has argued that the re-release of Momijigari at Osaka's Benten-za theater on 17 May 1907 sparked a trend in film adaptations of kabuki plays (1992: 244). The little information that we have about this production is mostly based on the interview that cinematographer Konishi Ryo had with film historian Tanaka Junichiro in 1940 (1980: 133-34) (1). The same team, comprised of Konishi and Nizaemon, also filmed the dance Hashi Benkei (Benkei on the Bridge) screened along with Chushingura Godanme.

The first, arguably, feature film adaptation of this famous revenge story was a segment produced by Yokota Shokai in 1910 and directed by Makino Shozo. More episodes were produced during the following years all starring Japan's first film superstar Onoe Matsunosuke in three different roles, Oishi Yoshio, Asano Naganori and Shimizu Ichigaku (2). The surviving film fragments of these productions made between 1910 and 1912 are kept at the NFC. The Matsuda Film Productions also holds an edited version of scenes from 1910 to 1917 compiled and edited in the postwar years with benshi narration and samisen accompaniment under the title of Onoe Matsunosuke no Chushingura. It is believed that the 1910 production accounts for most of this edited version (see Matsuda Film Productions website). These two compilations are considered to be the oldest example of Japanese fictional cinema in existence (3).

  1. Keiko McDonald (1994: 39-41) provides an extensive description of this work, which is, nevertheless, basically based on its entirety on the conversation that Tanaka Junichiro had with Konishi Ryo (1980: 133-34) and which she fails to cite. Furthermore, she calls the actor Kataoka Nizaemon XI Jinzaemon Kataoka X and dates the production of Chushingura Godanme, first, to 1908 and a few lines below to a year earlier (40). On the other hand, Komatsu also reproduces an excerpt from Konishi's account of the shooting of Chushingura Godanme, this time citing the original source (1992: 245).
  2. A common practice in kabuki achieved through the hayagawari technique (literally "quick change" of costume) in which the same actor changes roles during the same performance often carried out in front of the audience's eyes. With regards to Chushingura Donald Keene explains how "the actor Ichikawa Danzo discovered a way of making such quick changes that he could appear in the three major roles of the fifth act, Sadakuro, Yoichibei, and Kampei. (1982: 10). Chushingura Godanme's cinematographer Konishi Ryo recounted how he filmed the actors' hayagawari just as in a kabuki play (Komatsu: 245, translated from Tanaka: 133).
  3. In 2015 a Pathe Baby 9.5 mm print of Jitsuroku Chushingura (Ikeda Tomiyasu, 1926) also starring Onoe was discovered among other film prints donated to the Toy Film Museum in Kyoto by a private collector in Kumamoto Prefecture. The discovered print is a Pathe Baby 9.5mm in its complete form (66 minutes) distributed in this format at the time although the original film ran for 196 minutes divided into 20 reels. A fragment of the film that has also survived is another Pathe Baby edition that runs for about 20 minutes and it is kept at the Kyoto National Museum. The discovered complete version includes the Matsunoroka incident at Edo Castle as well as the scene when Oishi, played by Onoe Matsunosuke, leads the raid on the Kira mansion on a snowy night.
    Although the link to the original article appearing in the English version of the Asahi Shimbun is now broken, the full text of the article can still be reached

Irie, Yoshiro, The First Movie Star in Japanese Film History, Journal of Film Preservation 72, November 2006: 67-70.
Keene, Donald, Variations on a Theme: Chushingura in Chushingura: Studies in Kabuki and the Puppet Theater edited by James R. Brandon and Izumo Takeda, University Press of Hawaii, 1982.
Kinema Junpo, Eigasho Shinkan Annai: Eiga Chushingura, March 1967, 434: 85.
Komatsu, Hiroshi, Some Characteristics of Japanese Cinema before World War I, in Reframing Japanese Cinema, Ed. Arthur Nolletti and David Desser, Indiana UP, 1992.
Kubo, Tomoyoshi, Long-lost 47 Ronin film starring legendary kabuki actor Matsunosuke found in Kyoto, The Asashi Shimbun, October 15, 2015.
McDonald, Keiko I., Japanese Classical Theater in Films, Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1994.
Matsuda Film Productions, Onoe Matsunosuke no Chushingura.
Sharp, Jasper, Historical Dictionary of Japanese Cinema, Scarecrow press, 2011: 45.
Tanaka, Junichiro, Nihon Eiga Hattatsushi: Katsudo Shashin Jidai, Chuo Koronsha, 1980.


20 January

1908 witnessed profound changes in the structure of the film industry involving important developments in film production and exhibition, the proliferation of permanent film theatres across the country and a considerable increase in movie attendance by predominantly urban working class audiences. Thus, Japanese film research often signals this period as the beginning of Japanese cinema proper (Iwamoto 2016: 9).

In January, Yoshizawa Shoten built the first film studio in Japan, located in Meguro, Tokyo, an all-glass structure oddly resembling Edison's Bronx studio which Yoshizawa's owner Kawaura Kenichi had visited the previous year. The Meguro studio was soon followed by Umeya's Pathe opening of its own in April in Okubo, also Tokyo. As a result, domestic film production became steadier shored up by a surge in feature films based on kabuki or shinpa plays (1).

Yoshizawa's first work at Meguro was however a documentary-style film of a sword dance performance by Hibino "Raifu" Masayoshi, founder of the school of swordsmanship Shinto Ryu Kenbujutsu, released at Tokyo's Denkikan on 1 May. Some publications present it with the title Shinto-Ryu Kenbujutsu Sugekimi (The Art of Shinto-Style Sword Drama, Komatsu 1992: 246). Later Yoshizawa asked playwright Kawakami Otojiro and his troupe to produce the company's first non-fiction movie at the new studio. Although Kawakami was one of the pioneers of the shinpa theatre (1), he chose to shoot instead a Western style comedy, Wayousecchuu Kekkonshiki (Semi-Japanese Semi-Western Wedding), which opened at the Denkikan on 17 October alongside Kirare Otomi (Scar-faced Otomi), a rensageki starring Sawamura Gennosuke and Nakamura Kangoro.

From November 11th, another rensageki, Ono ga Tsumi (One's Sin) played at Asakusa's Sanyukan (Tanaka 1980: 136). An adaptation of the shinpa theatre play based on the best-seller by Kikuchi Yuho of the same title, its release gave rise to the shinpa hideki eiga or shinpa drama film genre (Iwamoto 2016: 11). The shinpa actor Nakano Nobuchika recalled how the stage performance included just two filmed scenes showing the drowning of two boys, shot on location by Chiba Kichizo at two different beach settings in Kanagawa Prefecture, which were projected at the climax of the play (Tanaka 1980: 137). According to the 1960's publication Nihon Eiga Sakuhin Taikan (Volume 1), an earlier film version, arguably the first film adaptation of a literary work, of the play, more likely a filmed section of the actual theatrical performance, had been produced the previous year by Yokota Shokai which premiered in November (Eiga 40-nen Zenkiroku 1986: 70) (2).

  1. The Shinpa (New School) theatre school emerged at the end of the 19th century as a reaction to kabuki by presenting realistic stories based on current political and social issues, although still retaining Kabuki stylistic conventions such as onnagata, male actors playing female roles. Achieving its peak of popularity at the beginning of the 20th century it was superseded by the shingeki (or new drama) which was based on Western modern dramas.
  2. Although Joanne Bernardi mentions this earlier version in her book Writing in Light: The Silent Scenario and the Japanese Pure Film Movement (p.39), later in the same volume she confusingly acknowledges the 1908's production as the first screen version of the play (p.329).

Bernardi, Joanne Writing in Light: The Silent Scenario and the Japanese Pure Film Movement, Wayne State University Press, 2001.
Eiga 40-nen Zenkiroku: Eikyuhozon: Eiga Deta Bukku no Ketteiban [The Complete Data Book of Motion Picture], Kinema junposha, 1986.
Iwamoto, Kenji, "Jidai Eiga" no Tano: Kodan, Shosetsu, Kengeki kara Jidaigeki e, Yoshikawa Kobunkan, 2016.
Komatsu, Hiroshi, Some Characteristics of Japanese Cinema before World War I, in Reframing Japanese Cinema, Ed. Arthur Nolletti and David Desser, Indiana UP, 1992.
Tanaka, Junichiro, Nihon Eiga Hattatsushi: Katsudo Shashin Jidai, Chuo Koronsha, 1980.
Yoshida, Chieo, Mo Hitotsu no Eiga-shi: Benshi no Jidai, Tokyo: Jiji Tsushinsha, 1978.

Yoshizawa Shoten's glass film studio in Meguro, Tokyo

25 June

On this day Imori no Kuroyaki (Charred Newt), Yokota Shoten's arguably first narrative film production, premiered at the Kinkikan theater in Kanda, Tokyo (Tanaka 1980 : 144). Its title refers to a popular love-charm in Japan made from ashes of burnt newt which a young man fails to sprinkle on the woman he likes with comical effects. The film's popularity piqued Shozo Makino's curiosity and became one of the first local productions viewed by the later known as father of the Japanese cinema (Shindo 1989: 8-9). Almost everything that is known about this 3-scene film comedy starring Tsuruya Danjuro and his troupe is gathered from Tanaka Junichiro's interview with the film's cameraman Fukui Shigeichi (Tanaka 1980 : 144-45).

It is always worth pointing out the great extent to which Tanaka Junichiro's volume is quoted in Japanese early cinema literature. Due to the lack of extant films and patchy information published in newspapers, during and after World War II Tanaka collected material on film shooting conditions, release dates and so on from interviews he conducted with the staff involved in these early productions. This time gap between film releases and interviews' dates might have blurred the interviewees recollections as inconsistencies are often spotted. An example of this is Tanaka's discussion of a short film (first by Tsurubuchi-Gentoho/The Magic Lantern Shop Tsurubuchi), just three scenes, released in August 1908 dealing with the murder of a professor of Russian language, Maeda Seiji, suspected, by the newspapers of the time, of being a Russian spy. Cameraman Nishikawa Kenichiro retold Tanaka how, after reading the news of Maeda's assassination murder the next day, rakugo performer Asahi Manmaro rushed to produce a movie of the incident (Tanaka 1980 : 157-158). The murder, however, took place a year earlier in August 1907 (Oku 2007 : 201).

Oku, Takenori , Rotan no Jidai - Nichirosenso-ki Media to Kokumin Kishiki /The Age of "Rotan (Russian Spy)" : Media and National Identity at the Russo-Japanese War Era, Chuo Koronsha, 2007.
Shindo, Kaneto, Nihon Shinario-shi, Vol 1, Iwanami Shoten, 1989.
Tanaka, Junichiro , Nihon Eiga Hattatsushi: Katsudo Shashin Jidai, Chuo Koronsha, 1980.

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