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Chronology of Japanese Cinema
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).