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Chronology of Japanese Cinema



The geisha dance motif was the preferred subject matter for many of the early domestic film productions becoming, as Komatsu Hiroshi argues, "a kind of genre through repeated filming" (p. 233). It was soon replaced in popularity by war documentaries, in particularly Yoshizawa Shoten and Yokota Kyodai Shokai's imported reportage films on the Spanish-American War in Cuba, the Philippines Revolution, the Boer War in April 1900 or the Boxer Rebellion. Nonetheless, according to Yoshiyama Kyokko, regarded as the country's first film critic, a film of the geisha genre was screened in June 1901 at the Meiji-za theatre with the title SHINKYOKU AZUMA NO TSUKI (New Song - Azuma's Moon). This work featured dances by four hangyoku or apprentice geisha from the Shinbashi district in Tokyo. There were reports of unsuccessful attempts to adjust the images of the two projectors used during a screening as well as to keep in sync the filmed dances with the live music performance by a brass band.

Komatsu Hiroshi, Some Characteristics of Japanese Cinema before World War I, in Reframing Japanese Cinema, Ed. Arthur Nolletti and David Desser, Indiana UP, 1992, pp. 233-7.
Tanikawa Yoshio, Nenpyo Eiga 100-Nenshi, Futosha, 1993, p. 18.
Kinema Junpo, 1973, p.22.


A screening of various documentary films under the title KYOIKU KATSUDO SHASHIN-KAI (Educational Moving Pictures Association) was held at the Kinki-kan theatre in the district of Kanda, Tokyo, between 1-4 September. However, the films shown were, in reality, simply newsreels rather than educational films. The description of these works as educational served to promote this performance above the standard katsudo shashin (moving pictures) screenings, which were perceived as a vulgar form of entertainment. The subject matter of many of these newsreels had a clear militarist streak. Among some of them were, for example, domestically produced and imported films on the recent Boxer Rebellion which, along with other seven European and American armed forces, the Japanese army, providing the largest contingent of the coalition, had helped to suppress.

In addition to Yoshizawa Shoten's own production HOKUSHIN JIKEN KATSUDO DAISHASHIN (Grand Motion Picture on the Boxer Rebellion) released on 18 October the previous year, imported newsreels by Yokota Kyodai Shokai, later Yokota Shokai, reporting about, again, the Boxer Rebellion or the Paris World Exposition, were also added to the line-up. Yokota's imported Pathe's productions had already opened with tremendous success at Kyoto's Ebisu-za theater in June that year. Following a two-decade period of fast-track modernization of the country, Japan's war victory over her once former role-model China (1894-5) and its extensive involvement in the suppression of the Boxers contributed to its recognition as a modern nation state. Cinema's part in the building of national consciousness and spurring an unprecedented sense of patriotism cannot be underestimated, particularly during the Russo-Japanese war (1904-5), when new heights of patriotic fervor were reached as the local movie business underwent its first boom in popularity.

Komatsu Hiroshi, Some Characteristics of Japanese Cinema before World War I, in Reframing Japanese Cinema, Ed. Arthur Nolletti and David Desser, Indiana UP, 1992, pp. 233-7.
Tanaka Junichiro, Nihon Kyoiku Eiga Hattatsushi, Kagyusha, 1979, p.28.
Tsugata Nobuyuki, Nihon Hatsu no Animeshon Sakka Kitayama Seitaro, Rinsen Shoten, 2007, pp. 202-3.
Kyoto no Eiga 80-nen no Ayumi, Kyoto Shinbunsha, 1980, p. 224.
Kyoto Eiga-shi Nenpyo.

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Last update: 9/10/2014