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Chronology of Japanese Cinema


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, 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 inmense 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, 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 (film shot by Ozawa Kaku (Tanaka 1980 : 160) with Kasen in the role of Masaoka (Kinema Jumpo 1980 : 487)) , 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 (where Kasen plays Omitsu (Kinema Jumpo : 487)) 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 : 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.
Tanaka, Junichiro, Nihon Eiga Hattatsushi - (1), Katsudo Shashin Jidai, Chuo Koronsha, Tokyo, 1980.
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.

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Last update: 16/4/2023