Keisuke Kinoshita 木下惠介 was a wonderful filmmaker. In the half-dozen films of his I’ve seen, he effectively balance humor and sadness, optimism and cynicism. Visually, his use of real-world locations provides a rich visual library of what Tokyo and Japan looked like in the 1940’s, 50’s, and 60’s.
In The Eternal Rainbow この天の虹 (1958), the real-life Yawata Steel Works 八幡製鉄所 (map) in Kitakyushu 北九州市 is one of the film’s main characters. Although the film is de facto propaganda for the steel company, it is good propaganda. And it’s good for history fanatics. The establishing shots and transitional scenes show us what this Japanese steel town looked like in 1958.
Inside the factory, hot steel spins through the machines like spaghetti:
The danchi 団地 apartment building complexes:
A moment of beauty (?) on the hillside:
Kinoshita (or his cinematographer) often worked with a wide lens and would pan left to right (or right to left) for almost 180 degrees, as seen in the shots above. Similarly, in an early sequence of Thus Another Day 今日もまたかくてありなん (Kyō mo mata kakute arinan), the husband’s morning commute to Tokyo is illustrated by an exceptional view of the Tokyo Station area.
The attached photo is built from several screenshots from the film. I labeled the four most prominent-looking buildings 1-4 for reference.
Here is the same location from 1962. In trying to identify these buildings, I inadvertently learned a fair amount about this part of town.
(1) 旧東京都庁舎・丸の内庁舎 Former Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building Marunouchi building (1957)
The first building is now the site of the famed Tokyo International Forum 東京国際フォーラム, a structure rightly heralded by Tokyo guidebooks. Unfortunately, as a tourist, once you spend five minutes in the building, you realize there’s not much to actually do there (map).
Before the forum, the site was occupied by the old Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, which was designed by the incomparable Kenzo Tange 丹下健三 and completed in 1957, just a year before the filming of Thus Another Day.
The old Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building was demolished prior to 1992 to make room for the Tokyo International Forum.
If Tange was disappointed by the destruction of his 1957 building, he was fortunate to be awarded with the design of its replacement, which was built in Shinjuku in 1991. The new Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building is now a landmark known for its free observation decks, from which virtually all of Tokyo appears visible.
(2) 旧「東京ビルディング」 The old “Tokyo Building” Marunouchi 丸の内
The new “Tokyo Building”, which houses the TOKIA dining & shopping center, and the area map:
The previous “Tokyo Building” was built here between 1950-55, just at the start of Tokyo and Japan’s postwar reconstruction. The building was demolished in 2003, with the new building being completed in 2005. Because the name of the building is so generic, the only pictures I could find are aerial photographs, including one above, and also the following:
(3) Old Tokyo Central Post Office 旧東京中央郵便局
Like some other old building in this part of Tokyo, the old Tokyo Central Post Office fell victim to “facadicide”, the process by which all but the facade of a building is replaced by new construction. Many preservationists hate it, but facadicide is a reasonable alternative to the complete loss of architectural artifacts, especially in Tokyo, where average building lives are shockingly low.
Warning, “facadicide” in progress: the old Tokyo Central Post Office gets gutted. (source)
(4) Tokyo Station
Need I say more about this building? So much has already been said in light of its recent renovations and its 100-year anniversary (map).
A bird’s eye view:
Here are some very recent photographs, provided courtesy of a fellow Tokyo blogger! Check out her page: http://blog.tokyololas.com/
These photos were taken from the Gran Tokyo South Tower グラントウキョウサウスタワー (map), part of the Tokyo Station City complex 東京駅が街になる. In the picture at left, the narrow Tokyo International Forum is on the left, and the Tokyo Building/TOKIA is in the foreground. In the next picture, the facade of the old Central Post Office is visible in the bottom left of the frame, with the roof of Tokyo Station dominating the middle of the frame.
- Thus Another Day IMDB entry
- Thus Another Day Japanese Wikipedia page: 今日もまたかくてありなん
- OVERSTUFFED 1959 KINOSHITA MOVIE: “THUS ANOTHER DAY”
- Tokyo architecture: The Top 10 Buildings in Tokyo 建築めぐり 東京
- The boat scene from “Thus Another Day” (as mentioned in reference to my post about gated communities in Japan, specifically, Asama Highland Park 浅間ハイランドパーク). This scene provides a visual shorthand for the film as a whole: Broadly speaking, the film is about a woman and her son who escape the summer heat to the cool hills of Karuizawa 軽井沢 / Mt. Asama浅間山. The woman befriends an older gentleman, and the film seems to be steering us towards a love-affair story (the woman is married; her husbands works in Tokyo and visits during the weekends). However, there are dark undercurrents – violent local youths disrupt an evening of boating. And a band of criminals shacks up in one of the wooden cabins that are typical of the Karuizawa area. Is this a crime movie? I don’t want to say too much, but I do recommend the film. It has a strong sense of place, with beautiful scenery in vivid color.
Detail from Tokyo Station area, left-side:
Detail from Tokyo Station area, right-side:
Other films by director Keisuke Kinoshita 木下 惠介:
- Here’s to the Girls お嬢さん乾杯 “Ojôsan kanpai” (aka “A Toast to the Young Miss”) (1949)
- Carmen Comes Home カルメン故郷に帰る (1951) – the first Japanese color film
- Danger Stalks Near 風前の灯 ‘Fuzen no tomoshibi’ (1957)
- The Eternal Rainbow この天の虹 (1958)
- Thus Another Day 今日もまたかくてありなん (Kyō mo mata kakute arinan) (1959)
- A Legend or was it? 死闘の伝説 “Shitō no densetsu” (1963)
- Sing, Young People! 歌え若人達 (1963)