April 12, 2006
by Akira IKEDA
Uzumasa was once the center of the Japanese film industry and is sometimes called the “Hollywood of Japan”, because it has turned out many famous films, movie stars, and directors.
There were many big and small studios here during the golden age of Japanese cinema in the 1950’s.
Most of them have closed down, but Toei and Shochiku still have studios in the area.
The first studio in Uzumasa was Bando Tsumasaburo Production. which move there from Nara in 1926.
Tsumasaburo Bando was one of the most famous Japanese movie stars at the time. He appeared in period dramas, and talkies. He played characters that showed Japanese ninkyo. As the prince of Japanese period dramas, Bando was called “Kengeki-Oh”,”the King of Sword Dramas”.
He was also the first actor to initiate independent movie production company.
After his studio was established, many other studios were built one after another in this area.
Many production companies, such as Makino, Nikkatsu, Daiei, Shochiku, New Kinema, and Toei, moved to Uzumasa or repeated integration and acquisition.
However, as I have already mentioned, most of them went out of the business. For example, where the Daiei studio was once located there is now a junior high school .
Toei still operates the studio and theme park, Eiga-Mura (Kyoto Studio Park Uzumasa).
Period draams, such as Mito-Komon, Toyama-no-Kin-san, and so on, are still loved by many people. They were made into a new series by Toei.
You can look around many Edo-period sets, or dress up as samurai, ninja or geisha. You can take a photo of yourself in one of these costumes.
And if you are lucky, you might see a film being shot at the studio.
So, Uzumasa was once the center of the Japanese movie industry, is still called by some, the “Hollywood of Japan”.