Kyoto and Kurosawa

May 13, 2018

By Yu Sakamoto, Daiki Tabuchi, Kyosue Maruyama

 

Many classic Japanese movies were made on location in Kyoto in the 1950s. The movie industry in Japan started from Kyoto. Uzumasa is a district in western Kyoto that was once called the “Hollywood of Japan.” During the height of Japanese filmmaking in the 50s, Kyoto was a bustling film centre. The first time ever a movie was screened in Japan was in Kyoto. This movie industry created a lot of economic vitality and developed into one of Kyoto’s major cultural industries.

One of Japan’s most famous directors and screenwriters, Akira Kurosawa (1910 – 1998), made many movies in Kyoto. In his films he explored human nature with sharp insight and innovative imagery. His films influenced many film directors all over the world.

Filming The Seven Samurai, courtesy of Eiganotomo

The Seven Samurai

One of the most classic films in the history of Japanese Cinema is  The Seven Samurai (1954), which  takes place during the Sengoku (Warring States) period.

This movie, which was made by Akira Kurosawa, is known all over the world. Many international directors have said that this was a great influence on their own directing.  George Lucas, the director of one of the most popular movie franchises today, Star Wars, has said The Seven Samurai was one of his great influences.

In the Sengoku era, ronin or masterless samurai roamed the countryside. One farming village was constantly being attacked by bandits, so they decided to hire samurai to help defend their village. Samurai originally were often like bodyguards. Thus, seven samurai were hired by the villagers, to protect the farmers and their village. They battled the bandits in several sequences. This is the basic story of this movie.

One of the great points of this movie is its realism. Old clothing was really used. Helmets and armor were authentic. The sounds of this era were imagined and incorporated.  In some scenes the house were actually destroyed. Kurosawa took great care in the details so that the world he created seemed real.

Kurosawa directed people with passion. He occasionally said, “I don’t decide which scene was used.” He was a risk taker and did not cut corners.

Rashomon

Rashomon is one of the most famous novels and movies in Japan. It was written by Ryunosuke Akutagawa, one of Japan’s most famous writers and it was made into a movie by Akira Kurosawa in 1950. The title of this movie is Rashomon, but the contents are a little different from the original novel, and in fact, it describes events from two novels: Rashomon and Yabunonaka.

This movie was filmed using mirrors instead of reflectors to take advantage of the natural light. In the first scene Akira Kurosawa used hoses and water mixed with black ink to shoot a powerful image of rain in monochrome. This technique was also used in the battle scene of The Seven Samurai. He used many innovative techniques in his movies. Therefore, his works gradually came to be known around the world.

 

Akira Kurosawa