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Chronology of Japanese Cinema

1896   1897   1898   1899   1900   1901   1902   1903   1904   1905   1906   1907   1908   1909  


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. Also in the same year traveling film exhibitor Komada Koyo's company, Nihon Sossen Katsudo Shashin Kai (Pioneer Japanese Motion Pictures Association, traveled all the way to Hong-Kong and opened a cinema at 14 Des Vooeux Road to show films about the Russo-Japanese War (Law 2017 : 127) (Lee 2017 : 132).

But perhaps the most important and influential of these Japanese émigrés in the development of their national cinema was Umeya Shokichi(1), 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 (2). 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. His figure has recently seen a revival particularly since 2011 which marked the centenary of the Xinhai Revolution which Umeya, through one of its leaders Sun Yat-sen (Son Bun in Japanese), financially supported with his photography and film business adventures over a period of twenty years. Thus a year earlier on May 22 the channel BShi (now BS Premium) of the public broadcaster NHK aired an 89-minute documentary about him (available on YouTube) titled SON BUN SASAETA NIHONJIN - SHINGAI KAKUMEI TO UMEYA SHOKICHI-. On February 26 2014, TV Tokyo broadcast the special drama TATTA ICHIDO YAKUSOKU (Just One Promise) starring Yanagiba Toshiro in the role of the maverick impresario. Between October 6 to November 25 2018 the Museum of History and Culture in his hometown of Nagasaki held the exhibition Eigakai Fuunji Mumeya Shokichi (Mumeya Shokichi - a pioneer in the Japanese film industry) to commemorate the 150th anniversary of his birth. Finally, in April 2020 the public broadcaster NHK aired a 3-episode drama with the title GEKITO! CHUGOKU KAKUMEI NI KAKETA NIHONJIN - SON BUN TO UMEYA SHOKICHI.
  2. 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.
Law, Wai-ming, Hong Kong's Cinematic Beginnings, 1896-1908 in Early Cinema in Asia edited by Nick Deocampo, Indiana University Press, 2017.
Lee, Daw-Ming, How Cinema Arrived and Stayed in Taiwan in Early Cinema in Asia edited by Nick Deocampo, Indiana University Press, 2017.
Lin, Pei-Yin, Translating the Other: On the Re-circulations of the Tale Sayonfs 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.
Eigakai Fuunji Mumeya Shokichi - (Mumeya Shokichi - a pioneer in the Japanese film industry)

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, was produced the previous year by Yokota Shokai and premiered on November 19 at Osaka's Denkikan (Eiga 40-nen Zenkiroku 1986: 70) (Shitsu and Nagata 2008 : 218) (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.
Shitsu, Akio and Nagata, Tetsuro, Nihon Gekieiga Somokuroku - Meiji 32-nen kara Showa 20-nen made, Nichigai Association, 2008.
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, about 230 feet, 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). The first scene was shot at the grounds of Sumiyoshi Shrine in Osaka while the second and third featured chase scenes on boats. As Yokota Shokai's filmmaking policy was to shoot its works at 8fps the whole movie looked like grasshoppers dancing on the screen (Tanaka : 145) (1).

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 Genichiro 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).

  1. Irie Yoshiro analyses film speed practices during this period in his article Silent Japanese Films: What Was the Right Speed?.

Irie, Yoshiro, Silent Japanese Films: What Was the Right Speed?, Journal of Film Preservation 65 (December 2002): 36-41.
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.

17 September

Honnoji Gassen (The Battle at Honno-ji Temple) is widely considered Makino Shozo's film work. In an interview with film historian Tanaka Junichiro the director himself, often described as the father of Japanese cinema, referred to it as such (Tanaka 1980: 147-8). His first son Makino Masahiro, also a film director and producter, and third daughter Katsuko nevertheless have pointed out that before this title their father had shot three others all ending in failures for technical reasons (Kishi 1970: 17).In his autobiography Makino Masahiro cites Kitsune Tadanobu (Fox Tadanobu), shot at Daichoji temple on May 1907, as his father's first film work (Makino 1973: 13). Honnoji Gassen's shooting and release dates are also disputed. The most quoted film premiere date is September 17 1908, based primarily on a surviving chirashi (pamphlet, reprinted in Tanaka's Nihon Eiga Hattatsushi: Katsudo Shashin Jidai, 1980: 145) advertising its screening at the Kinkikan theatre in Tokyo's Kanda district, although earlier and later dates have also been suggested (1).

Honnoji Temple was the setting where the famous general Nobunaga Oda [1534-82] was forced to take his own life when betrayed by his samurai general Mitsuhide Akechi. The film, produced by Yokota Einosuke and shot at Shinnyodo Temple (2) by Ogawa Makita, depicts warrior Mori Ranmaru and his younger brothers fighting and dying at the hands of Yasuda Kunitsugu while defending his lord Nobunaga. Small-stage actors Nakamura Fukunasuke and Arashi Ritoku played Oda Nobunaga and Mori Ranmaru respectively.

  1. Other dates being suggested are May (Matsuura 1982: 66) and more precisely May 23 or 24 (NHS Shuppan Kyokai 1993: 446) or even a month earlier (Matsuda Films Productions website). Meanwhile, Hiroshi Komatsu, in yet another mistake in his otherwise valuable article, believes the first screening took place on 17 September 1909 (Komatsu 1992: 250).
  1. A small monument commemorating the city of Kyoto as the birthplace of Japanese cinema was erected within the temple's grounds in 2008.

Kishi Matsuo, Jinbutsu Nihon Eiga Shi Vol 1 (Personalities: A History of the Japanese Cinema Volume 1), Daviddo-sha, 1970: 17.
Komatsu, Hiroshi, Some Characteristics of Japanese Cinema before World War I, in Reframing Japanese Cinema, Ed. Arthur Nolletti and David Desser, Indiana UP, 1992: 250.
Kyoto Media Support Center,
Kyoto's Film Culture and History. Chapter 2: Kyoto, a Monument for the Birth of Movies.
Makino, Masahiro, Eiga Tosei Ten no Maki [My life in cinema: Heaven volume] Makino Masahiro jiden [Maiko Masahiro Autobiography], Vol. 1, Tokyo: Heibon-sha, 1977: 13.
Matsuda Film Productions, Timeline of Japanese Silent Films The History of Silent Film in Japan.
Matsuura, Kozo, Nihon Eiga-shi Taikan: Eiga Torai kara Gendai made 86-nenkan no Kiroku, Bunka Shuppan Kyoku, 1982: 66.
NHS Shuppan Kyokai Nihon no Sozoryoku - Kindai: Gendai o Kaika Saseta 470-nin, Dai 10, Daitoshi to Nozo no Meian, "Gekieiga - Nihon Eiga Sozo no Chichi Makino Shozo", 1993: 446.
Tanaka, Junichiro , Nihon Eiga Hattatsushi: Katsudo Shashin Jidai, Chuo Koronsha, 1980.


Kyoto: Birthplace of Movies
(Shinnyodo Temple)

30 September

The film company M Pathe founded by pioneer film producer Umeya Shokichi shows its first work, Soga Kyodai Kariba no Akebono (Dawn at the Soga Brothers' Hunting Grounds (1) (2)) at Tokyo Asakusa's Taishokan. This short film was shot by Nishikawa Genichiro and performed by theater star Nakamura Kasen and her all female kabuki troupe Musume Bidan (Group of Young Beauties). Nakamura Kasen, in the role of Soga Goro, has been described by, among other film historians, Sato Tadao as the first female film star in Japan (Sato 2006 : 123). Fujiki Hideaki is relunctant to call her that arguing that Nakamura Kasen's popularity was limited to Tokyo's Asakusa district and had been already cemented through her theater work to which she was more connected (Fujiki 2013 : 1-2). Nakamura Kasen, nevertheless, was heralded by the newspapers of the time as the pioneer of the rensageki (Tsuchida 2012 : 70), a hybrid of film and stage performance.

Tsuchida Makiko, who has written extensivily about Kasen, has found 10 works (3), unfortunately she doesn't provide titles for all of them, all produced by M Pathe starring Nakamura Kasen of which Kyugeki Taikoki Judanme: Amasaki no Dan (1908) and Asagao Nikki (The Diary of a Morning Glory, 1909) survive. Another extant work not produced by Umeya Shokichi's M Pathe but by his following film adventure, the short-lived M Kashii Company, is Sendai Hagi (1915, other sources claim 1916 (4)), which represents the company's only surviving film (5). Nakamura's appearance in a film version of the popular play Asagao Nikki has been questioned (Fujiki : 315) but Komatsu Hiroshi acknowledges her presence in the role of Miyuki, along with her half-sister, female pupil, Nakamura Utae.

Similarly, the NHK documentary on Umeya Shokichi Son Bun Sasaeta Nihonjin - Shingai Kakumei to Umeya Shokichi, aired on May 22, 2010 by the channel BShi (now BS Premium), claims that Nakamura Kasen starred in a film also produced by M Pathe titled Kojo Shiragiku (Faithful Daughter Shiragiku), which might have premiered at Asakusa's Taishokan on May 26 1912, although I have found no evidence that supports this claim. In any case, since I have neither found any records of the existence of any fragments of this film, the scenes shown in the documentary, also judging by the mise-en-scene and editing, may belong not to the 1912 film but a 1925 version, Seinan Senso Hishi: Kojo Shiragiku, of the same popular epic poem written by the tanka poet Ochiai Naobumi (1861-1903) in 1888, of which the Tokyo National Film Center, since April 1 2018 the National Film Archive of Japan (NFAJ), keeps a 44 minutes copy on 35mm (6).

  1. Hiroshi Komatsu, or his article's translators, believes this premiere took place exactly two years earlier. It is really dissappointed that his article "Some Characteristics of Japanese Cinema before World War I" being one of the few studies on early Japanese cinema available in English is marred with so many factual errors (Komatsu 1992: 246).
  2. According to Sato Hiroaki, this 12th century tale of vengeance by the brothers Juro and Goro was the best-known revenge-killing story before that of the Forty-Seven Samurai (Sato 2019: 206).
  3. Surely she must have appeared in more film works. Only in 1908 there is evidence that she performed in another three productions following Soga Kyodai Kariba no Akebono. In December she starred in Taiko-ki Judanme: Amagasaki no Dan (The Tenth Act of Taiko-ki: The Amagasaki Scene) (see below). Although we don't have the exact release date, Sendai Hagi, based on the kabuki play Meiboku Sendai Hagi (The Disputed Succession of the Date Family, fragments of a 1915 version also starring Kasen survive) and Nozakimura based on the kabuki play Shinpan Uzaemon (A New Ballad of the Tale of Osome and Hisamatsu) are considered M Pathe's 2nd and 3rd productions respectively (Kinema Jumpo 1980 : 487) (Shitsu and Nagata, 2008 : 694 and 934).
  4. Bernardi 2001: 311, and Komatsu 2001.
  5. The Theater Museum at Waseda University, Tokyo, preserves a copy of Asagao Nikki while the National Film Archive of Japan holds one of both Kyugeki Taikoki Judanmen: Amasaki no Dan and Sendai Hagi.
  6. These film scenes displayed however are interspersed with intertitles showing M Pathe's logo. The 1925 film was produced by Toa Kinema and directed by Kako Zanmu. The cast included Araki Shinobu, Ishikawa Hidemichi, Nakagawa Yoshie, Tsukioka Masami and Uemura Setsuko.

Bernardi, Joanne, Writing in Light: The Silent Scenario and the Japanese Pure Film Movement , Wayne State University Press, 2001.
Fujiki, Hideaki, Making Personas: Transnational Film Stardom in Modern Japan (Harvard-Yenching Institute Monograph Series)), Harvard University Asia Center, 2013.
Kinema Jumpo, Nihon Eiga Haiyu Zenshu: Joyu-hen, No 801, 31 December 1980.
Komatsu, Hiroshi,
Light from the East: Japanese Silent Cinema, 1898-1935, Le Giornate del Cinema Muto - The Pordenone Silent Film Festival 2001.
Komatsu, Hiroshi, Treasures from the Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum, Waseda University, Prog. 1: Jidaigeki.
McDonald, Keiko I., Japanese Classical Theater in Films, Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1994.
Sato, Hiroaki, Forty-Seven Samurai: A Tale of Vengeance and Death in Haiku and Letters , Stone Bridge Press, 2019.
Sato, Tadao, Nihon Eigashi , Volume 1, Iwanami Shoten, 2006.
Shitsu, Akio and Nagata, Tetsuro, Nihon Gekieiga Somokuroku - Meiji 32-nen kara Showa 20-nen made, Nichigai Association, 2008.
Tsuchida, Makiko, Joyakusha to Iu Sonzai to sono Rekishiteki Ichizuke: Nakamura Kasen no Geireki o Toshite (The Examination of Onna-yakusha and its Historical Position Through the Entertainment Career of Nakamura Kasen), Tokyo Geijutsu Daigaku Ongaku Gakubu Kiyo, 2012, No 38, pp 67-85.

Nakamura Kasen

1 December

I have already discussed the rapid increase of movie theatres across the country between 1907 and 1909 here. Ueda Manabu lists four new cinemas opening in Tokyo in 1908, the Taishokan and Fujikan in Asakuka, the Bunmeikan in Ushigome, now Shinjuku, and the second Bunmeikan (Daini Bunmeikan) in Asabu, now Minato (Ueda 2012 : 120). Yoshida Chieo also cites one more theatre opening in Asakuka, the Fukujukan, as well as another Bunmeikan, this time in Kagurazaka, and the Taihekan which was located in Honjo (Yoshida 1978 : 64). Oddly enough, Sato Tadao adds to this list the Yurakuza (Sato 1995 : 146), Chiyoda City, whether it actually showed films is highly questionable. On December 1, it was nevertheless the first Western-style theatre with all seats numbered, accommodating up to 900 people, opened in the country as a result of the efforts by the shingeki ("new drama") movement that was taking place during the last years of the Meiji period. It was eventually destroyed by fire during the Great Kanto earthquake of 1923.

Sato, Tadao, Nihon Eigashi , Volume 4, Iwanami Shoten, 1995.
Sumitomo Mitsui Torasuto Dosan, Kono Machi no Akaibuzu (Town Archives): Hibiya-Yurakucho.
Ueda, Manabu, Nihon Eiga Sosoki no Kogyo to Kankyaku: Tokyo to Kyoto o Chushin ni, Waseda Daigaku Shuppanbu, 2012.
Yoshida, Chieo, Mo Hitoshi no Eiga-shi: Benshi no Jidai, Tokyo: Jiji Tsushinsha, 1978.


10 December

M Pathe releases a film version, or better said a recorded performance, of the 10th act (the Amagasaki act) of the buranku (puppet theatre) and kabuki play Ehon Taiko-ki (Picture Book: Annals of the Regent [Hideyoshi]), usually referred as Taiko-ki Judanme: Amagasaki no Dan (The Tenth Act of Taiko-ki: The Amagasaki Scene) (1). The National Film Archive of Japan (NFAJ) keeps a 17 minutes copy of the film with gidayu, a style of reciting used in the puppet theater, accompaniment by film mogul Okura Mitsugi (2) added in 1962 to be shown within the section (Eiga no Rekishi Miru Kai) at that year's Arts Festival organized by the Ministry of Education.

Stylistically the film, or more precisely the fragments that remained extant, follows the visual style of most so-called kabuki films (kabuki-geki as they were called, Iwamoto 2016 :11) at the time, long static, usually one take, shots of famous kakubi scenes in outdoor makeshift stages consisting, in many cases, of just a rug on the ground or a curtain as backdrop (3). Nevertheless, Taiko-ki Judanme: Amagasaki no Dan remains an important work for constituting the only film extant of 1908 and just one of the few surviving before 1917. The film was shot by camera operator Ozawa Kaku and performed by theatre star Nakamura Kasen, in another of her extant film works, playing Hatsugiku (real name Tsumaki Hiroko), the wife of Takechi Mitsuhide (real name Akechi Mitsuhide) alongside also female actors Ichikawa Sakiji, later known as Yonezu Sakiko, and Nakamura Utae.

As mentioned earlier, although the film is usually referred with the titles Ehon Taiko-ki, Taiko-ki Judanme or Taiko-ki Judanme: Amagasaki no Dan, the NFAJ has renamed it Kyugeki Taiko-ki Jundame Amasaki no Dan. Kyugeki (literally old drama but essentially meaning classical drama, in the case of works for the stage, or period film) was another term used for kabuki films, or kabukigeki, and seen by the theatre reformation movement during the Meiji period as "old drama" (furui engeki) (Iwamoto:11).

  1. Amagasaki being the residence of Mitsuhide's old mother, Satsuki, where the action takes place. This is the only act of the play that became a classic of the Kabuki repertoire and is staged quite often. The play consisted originally of thirteen acts, one act for each day that passed between Akechi Mitsuhide's murder of Oda Nobunaga, the famous Honnoji Incident shot the same year by (Makino Shozo), and his death at the hands of Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Due to censorship at the time it was first performed on the bunraku and kabuki stage the real names of the protagonists were changed, so Akechi Mitsuhide became Takechi Mitsuhide, Oda Nobunaga Oda Harunaga and Hashiba Hideyoshi (later Toyotomi Hideyoshi) Mashiba Hisayoshi.
  2. President of the Shintoho studios (1947-1961) between 1955 and 1960, Okura had started performing as a benshi aged 13.
  3. Film shootings at the time were very simple affairs as Nakamura Kasen recounted in 1935 aged 47. They were usually done quickly and cheaply in outdoor locations sometimes, in one instance, with no more props than a rug on the ground and little concern for it being flapped by the wind throughout the shooting. Although the rushes looked extremely silly to Kasen the film became a great success (Quoted in Tsuchida 2012: 69-70). Kasen would shoot between stage performances which usually lasted 10 days, sometimes even shooting scenes that had been performed on the stage that very same day such as Sendai Hagi's Goten (Palace) and Yukashita (Below the Floor) scenes (Tsuchida:70).

Iwamoto, Kenji, "Jidai Eiga no Tano: Kodan, Shosetsu, Kengeki kara Jidaigeki e", Yoshikawa Kobunkan, 2016.
Kabuki 21:
Amagasaki Kankyo.
Kabuki 21: Ehon Taikoki.
Komatsu, Hiroshi, Light from the East: Japanese Silent Cinema, 1898-1935, Le Giornate del Cinema Muto - The Pordenone Silent Film Festival 2001.
McDonald, Keiko I., Japanese Classical Theater in Films, Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1994.
National Film Archive of Japan (NFAJ): Kyugeki Taiko-ki Jundame Amasaki no Dan.
Tanaka, Junichiro, Nihon Eiga Hattatsushi - (1), Katsudo Shashin Jidai, Chuo Koronsha, Tokyo, 1980, page 160.
Tsuchida, Makiko, Joyakusha to Iu Sonzai to sono Rekishiteki Ichizuke: Nakamura Kasen no Geireki o Toshite (The Examination of Onna-yakusha and its Historical Position Through the Entertainment Career of Nakamura Kasen), Tokyo Geijutsu Daigaku Ongaku Gakubu Kiyo, 2012, No 38, pp 67-85.

10 December

As I have already discussed, the rensageki adaptation of Kikuchi Yuho's novel Ono ga Tsumi played at Asakusa's Sanyukan on November 11th. A month later, a sequel, Onoga ga Tsumi: Zokuhen, was screened at the same venue and, on January 5th, a second one, Ono ga Tsumi: Zoku, was released. Actor and producer Nakano Nobuchika told film historian Tanaka Junichiro that only two scenes, the climatic beach shore scenes, where in the second two boys drown in the sea, shot on location at Katase Beach and Enoshima Island, were made to accompany the theater play as they were almost impossible to re-create on the stage (Tanaka 1980: 137). None of the scenes survive. A photograph during the filming of the scene at Katase Beach is printed along with the recollections of Nakano in Tanaka's seminal work Nihon Eiga Hattasushi (History of the Development of Japanese Cinema) (Tanaka : 138). However, Taniguchi Norie argues that this photograph might be from a later film version as it was reproduced in the first anniversary issue of the film magazine Katsudo Shashinkai (Motion Picture World) with the caption "Ono ga Tsumi 1910 by Kichinosuke Kinoshita/Kunitaro Gomi Actors Troupe" (Taniguchi 2021 : 333-34).

Mizoguchi Kenji's(1) expert Saso Tsutomu believes that Ono ga Tsumi: Zokuhen contains the scene of the drowning of the two boys and speculates that the action in the next sequel released in January 1909, Ono ga Tsumi: Zoku, if following the storyline in the original novel, might have taken place abroad (Saso 2005 : 209-210). Keiko McDonald however claims that "the film version released in December 1908 contained only the scene set on Kawase Beach..." and that "...The other scene of the two boys drowning was released a year later as My Sin, Part 2.". She also argues, based on Nakano's interview with Tanaka Junichiro, that the scenes were "of a very elemental kind. Chiba", camera operator Chiba Kichizo, "tried to create the impression of a drama on stage because the screen space was defined by the curtain fixed to the poles. It never occurred to him to think that a film could be made by cutting through a number of shots. Each of Chiba's scenes was composed of a long shot in a long take." (McDonald 2000 : 7). Meanwhile, Aaron Gerow argues that Ono ga Tsumi featured "variable camera distance" (Gerow 2005 : 345). Furthermore,Izumi Toshiyuki quotes an article that describes the use of a stop trick effect in Ono ga Tsumi: Zokuhen's beach scene. Here, Nakano Nobuchika, presumably to save the two boys from drowning, hurls himself into the sea and disappears among the breaking waves only to reappear later on the beach (Izumi 2000 : 75).

Incidentally, Ono ga Tsumi: Zokuhen was also screened along with Yurei Kagami (Ghost Mirror), again produced by Yoshizawa Shoten and starring Nakano Nobuchika and his theater troupe. Yurei Kagami is believed to be the first film in Japanese history with a ghost in an acting part (Izumi : 72).

  1. In 1926 Mizoguchi Kenji remade the popular novel into a, yet another, film produced by Nikkatsu Taishogun with the title Shinsetu Ono ga Tsumi (My Fault, New Version).

Gerow, Aaron, Japan in Encyclopedia of Early Cinema, edited by Richard Abel, Taylor & Francis, 2005.
Izumi, Toshiyuki, Ginmaku no Kyakkai : Honcho Kaiki Eiga Taigai, Seidosha, 2000.
McDonald, Keiko I., From Book to Screen: Modern Japanese Literature on Film, M.E. Sharpe, 2000.
Saso, Tsutomu Mizoguchi Kenji: Zensakuhin Kaisetsu, Volume 4 (Kaminingyo Haru no Sasayaki) (Kyoren no Onna Shisho), Kindai Bungeisha, 2005.
Tanaka, Junichiro, Nihon Eiga Hattatsushi - (1), Katsudo Shashin Jidai, Chuo Koronsha, Tokyo, 1980.
Taniguchi, Norie, How Newspaper Novels and Their Illustrations Shaped Japanese Films, in Provenance and Early Cinema, edited by Joanne Bernardi, Paolo Cherchi Usai, Tami Williams and Joshua Yumibe, Indiana University Press, 2021.


Local film production finally takes off this year. Komatsu Hiroshi estimates that almost 200 films were made compared to less than 50 produced the previous year (Komatsu, 1992 : 249). According to him, Yoshizawa Shoten produced 31 of those 200 while Yokota and M Pathe 25 and 39 respectively. Another 12 were made by unknown movie producers and the remaining cannot be confirmed whether they were Japanese or foreign works. Similarly, it cannot be confirmed how Komatsu arrives at these figures as, a common trait in Japanese "scholarship", he doesn't provide any sources. Meanwhile, the publication Nihon Gekieiga Somokuroku - Meiji 32-nen kara Showa 20-nen made lists 186 films for this year (53 by Yoshizawa, 30 by Yokota and 77 by M Pathe) (Shitsu and Nagata, 2008 : 906) while the Japanese Movie Database adds an extra 10 to that list and attributes 34 to Yoshizawa, 31 to Yokota and 59 to M Pathe (accessed on 7 March 2023)

Among these films it is worth mentioning a few works. First, Asagao Nikki (The Diary of a Morning Glory, 8 minutes, released on June 15), produced by M Pathe, and Sakurada Chizome no Yuki (Snow Stained with Blood at the Sakurada Gate, 3'12", released on July 13) produced by Yoshizawa Shoten (more about them later). These are to my knowledge the only films, rather fragments of the original films, from 1909 that have survived to our day, both preserved at Waseda University Theatre Museum. Also significant are Kageboshi, released on August 8 by M Pathe, a 2,500 feet long production when most films didn't exceed one reel in length (Komatsu : 250). Yamato Zakura, translated in Komatsu's as Nihon Sakura, was released by Pathe on May 23 and was also over 2000 feet long and an early attempt to break a scene into several shots (Komatsu : 253) (Shitsu and Nagata : 906). Shin Hototogisu, released on June 25 again by M Pathe, is said to be the first Japanese movie experimenting with flashbacks (Komatsu : 254). Yakino no Kigisu, released on May 27, or May 2 (Shitsu and Nagata : 1188), by Yoshizawa Shoten was composed of eight scenes showing the kidnapping of a child and featuring an outdoor climatic chase scene between the kidnapper and a policeman. Finally, we shouldn't forget the release of, either on December 1st or 2nd, Goban Tadanobu (Tadanobu the Fox) where Onoe Matsunosuke, considered the first star in Japanese cinema history, makes his first screen appearance. Half a year earlier, on June 24, had also seen the publication of the first film magazine in the country, Katsudo Shashinkai.

Komatsu, Hiroshi, Some Characteristics of Japanese Cinema before World War I, in Reframing Japanese Cinema, Ed. Arthur Nolletti and David Desser, Indiana UP, 1992.
Shitsu, Akio and Nagata, Tetsuro, Nihon Gekieiga Somokuroku - Meiji 32-nen kara Showa 20-nen made, Nichigai Association, 2008.

7 January

Goban Tadanobu Yoshinoyama Setchu no Kakuto, or simply Goban Tadanobu Yoshinoyama, was screened on this day at Asakusa's Taishokan accompanied by narimono (1) and kageserifu (2). It was theater star Nakamura Kasen and her all-female troupe's fourth film work of the many they performed for M Pathe Shokai between 1908 and 1912. Although shot by Ozawa Kaku, M Pathe's owner Umeya Shokichi is believed to have also operated the camera (Shitsu and Nagata 2008: 498). The film was based on a popular episode, later inspiring ukiyo prints and kabuki plays, involving Heian period samurai Sato Tadanobu who is attacked while playing a game of go and uses the board to fend off his enemies. This story would also be the basis for the first film collaboration between director Makino Shozo and Japan's first movie star Onoe Matsunosuke released later in December.

Also on this day the first film version of the best-seller Hototogisu (The Cuckoo, 1899)(3) written by Tokutomi Kenjiro (pen name Roka) was released by Yoshizawa Shoten at Asakusa's Denkikan. Months later a new version featuring arguably the first use of flashbacks in Japanese cinema history would also be made, this time, by M Pathe Shokai. Hototogisu was the first example (4) of katei shosetsu (domestic novels), a subgenre of Meiji literature which presented family tragedies, in particular, women fighting against the injustices of the still Japanese feudal system.

  1. Musical accompaniment and sound effects usually used in kabuki performances.
  2. A rensageki, literally "linked theatre" it was a hybrid performance genre that mixed film and live performance, practice in which actors speak lines of dialogue behind the screen.
  3. Serialized in the kokumin shimbun (newspaper) between November 1898 and May 1899, Hototogisu was republished as a book by Minyusha Press in 1900.
  4. It was also arguably the first modern Japanese novel to be translated into multiple languages, fifteen from 1904 to 1918.

Lavelle, Isabelle, Tokutomi Kenjiros Hototogisu: A Worldwide Japanese Best-Seller In The Early Twentieth Century? A Comparative Study of the English and French Translations, Transcommunication, Vol.3-1, Spring 2016, Graduate School of International Culture and Communication Studies.
Shitsu, Akio and Nagata, Tetsuro, Nihon Gekieiga Somokuroku - Meiji 32-nen kara Showa 20-nen made, Nichigai Association, 2008.
Tanaka, Junichiro, Nihon Eiga Hattatsushi - (1), Katsudo Shashin Jidai, Chuo Koronsha, Tokyo, 1980, page 160.

15 January

Hanakawado Banzuiin no Chobei was produced by Yokota Shokai and screened at Asakusa's Fujikan. It was based on the last scene of the sewamono (1) kabuki play Kiwametsuki Banzui Chobei (The Renowned Banzui Chobei) written by Kawatake Mokuami and first performed in 1881. In this play, Banzui Chobei (2), a resident of Asakusa's Hanakawado neighbourhood, is the otokodate (3) leader of a band of machi-yakko (4) which confronts the hatamoto-yakko (5) led by Mizuno Jurozaemon in seeking control of Asakusa's markets. The film depicts the final scene in which Banzui Chobei, after being invited to a banquet at Jurozaemon's mansion, is killed in the bathroom.

  1. A domestic drama about ordinary people, especially of the Edo period.
  2. Real name Banzuiin Chobei (1622-1657). His grave is located at Genku-ji Temple in Taito Ward, Tokyo.
  3. A Robin Hood-like figure who helps the weak and fights the strong.
  4. Gang members who wore flamboyant clothing and styled themselves as chivalrous men fighting against the pro-shogunate hatamoto-yakko gangs during the Edo period. They are believed to be the predecessors of the modern yakuza.
  5. Gangs of samurai directly connected to the shogunate.

Naritaya, Kiwametsuki Banzui Chobei ("The Renowned Banzui Chobei")
Shitsu, Akio and Nagata, Tetsuro, Nihon Gekieiga Somokuroku - Meiji 32-nen kara Showa 20-nen made, Nichigai Association, 2008, p. 968.

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Last update: 15/4/2023