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It is widely believed that the outbreak of the Russo-Japanese War on 10 February 1904 created a major boom in film moviegoing. It did certainly reconfigure quite radically theater film offerings from initially featuring trickery films and shots of people, dances, buildings and scenery to consist almost exclusively of war scenes, either actual war footage or staged land and sea battles (Irie 2014: 54). Earlier on, during the Spanish-American war, American audiences, imbued with ardent patriotism, had also flocked to screenings of films related to the conflict. Once the war ended, film programming shifted to slapstick comedies, tragedies, fairy tales and historical dramas. It has also been argued that profits generated by the Russo-Japanese War helped to finance the opening of movie theatres and built the first movie studios between 1908 and 1910 (Gerow 2014: 217). Also significant was Pathe's decision, at the time the world largest film producer, in July 1907 to sell rather than lease its film prints making it extremely difficult for film travelling tour managers to get hold of them. This new development in film distribution practices gradually drove itinerant exhibitors around the world out of business and prompted the opening of custom-built cinemas on a global scale (Ueda 2009: 58). By 1910, for example, in France, too, "the travelling fetes foraines had dwindled, and larger film theatres were the rule" (Thompson and Bordwell 1994: 28). Likewise, following the peace treaty signed by a victorious Japan and Russia, the popularity of war films quickly worn off among the Japanese, who felt outraged at the human and economic loss brought by the war and the unsatisfactory terms accepted by the Japanese government. A new type of audience, therefore, emerged in urban areas requesting fiction products such as kyugeki (classical drama) and shinpageki (new school drama), which prompted the building of the first film studios in the country to meet the growing demand for these works (Ueda 2009: 56).
Showings of war films were mainly carried out by traveling exhibitors at makeshift cinemas or theatres converted into cinema for the occasion. As Ueda reminds (2009: 49) these film roadshows remained quite popular until the beginning of the Taisho period (1912-1926), which calls into question any easy interpretation of a linear and fluid historical development of moviegoing practices in early Japanese cinema. Furthermore, most of the films displayed in these itinerant performances were integrated into hybrid attractions that went by different names and formats such as shinematekku or kineorama, a mixture of moving dioramas, film projections and electric light effects, and oyo katsudo shashin (applied motion pictures), rensageki (chain drama) or kinodorama, a hybrid of cinema and theatre performance (Okubo 2010: 76) . Films were, in many cases, a supplementary feature in these productions, inserted, for example, into the live theatre performance of rensageki shows . Seiro no Kogun (The Imperial Army Attacks Russia) is regarded as the first rensageki. It was staged by the Ii Yoho's theatrical troupe at the Masagoza theater from 2 March 1904 and included a film of a naval battle (Okubo 2010: 79) (Ueda 2007: 132).
Before their appearance on cinema screens, images of the Russo-Japanese War had first been featured in magazines such as Kinji Gaho (Recent Events Graphic), retitled as Senji Gaho (The Wartime Graphic) on its 18th February issue. In addition to this, and as early as March 27, charitable organizations and board of educations around the country began to organize magic lantern shows about the war to raise morale and arouse national consciousness among the general public as well as for fund-raising (Ueda 2004: 116). Yoshizawa Shoten was one of the companies that supplied slides for these performances. As the war advanced, films gradually replaced slides as the medium for this type of educational activities. Thus, the war marked the transition from magic lanterns to films as an educational tool. After securing permission from the Imperial General Headquarters, Yoshizawa Shoten and other companies such as Yokota Kyodai Shokai, the advertising agency Hiromeya and the publisher Hakubun-kan dispatched cameramen embedded with the Imperial Army to the front. Among these war reporters were Fujiwara Kozaburo and his assistant, either named Shimizu Kumejiro (Tanaka 1980: 114 ) or Shimizu Jojiro (Sato 2007: 62), sent by Yoshizawa, Shibata Tsunekichi, sent by Hakubun-kan, Kuboi Shinichi , Ito Kyutaro and Kitabatake Tadao among others. The news was picked up by the Yomiuri Shinbun on an article dated 26 April 1904, which reported on Yoshizawa's cameramen departure in March and the arrival of some war footage shot by them. Three days later, the same newspaper announced the premiere of this footage on 1 May at the Kinki-kan theatre in Kanda, Tokyo (Yomiuri Shinbunsha 2001: 26). The Yoshizawa war film showing included titles such as Ryojunko Taikai Ikusa (Naval Battle Of Port Arthur) and Hirose Chusa no Sogi (The Funeral of Commander Hirose) (Yomiuri Shinbunsha 2001: 26). Other similar shows soon opened in theatres around the country initiating an unprecedented film boom .
Without providing any source, historians Hiroshi Komatsu (1992: 239) and Aaron Gerow (2014: 164) assert that 80 percent of the films released in Japan from 1904 and 1905 were on the Russo-Japanese War. Notwithstanding this lapse, the considerable number of war films and their popularity are clearly reflected on Yoshizawa Shoten's price lists of magic lantern slides, films, and related equipment published at the time. Sato Tadao, for example, refers to the company's catalogue of 1910, which lists 93 Russo-Japanese War works, either for sale or loan, of various lenghts, from 30 to 500 feet (1995: 107). Meanwhile, an earlier catalogue published by Yoshizawa in December 1905 lists 10 films credited to Fujiwara Kozaburo and 13 to Shibata Tsunekichi. In addition to these 23 films, there were 80 others catalogued as "Recent Russo-Japanese War Section" (Daibo 2015: 42). In a recent research carried out by Daibo Masaki, he examined all the Russo-Japanese War films held by the National Film Center in Tokyo and concluded that there is no footage shot by Japanese cameramen at the front (2015 : 53). Nevertheless, there is enough evidence to attribute to Japanese cameramen scenes shot at home such as Rikugun no Gaisen Joukyo) (Actuality of the Triumphal Return of the Army ) and Waga Guntai o Nosetaru Kisha Shinbashi o Shuppatsushi Shinagawa Tsuka no Jikkyo (Actually of Our Army Departing Nihonbashi by Train and Passing Through Shinagawa) (Daibo 2015: 52-53).
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.
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).
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).
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 her 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) .
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).
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.
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.
Crown Prince Yi Un
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).