Japanese theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Yasujirō Ozu|
|Produced by||Takeshi Yamamoto|
|Written by||Kōgo Noda
|Music by||Kojun Saitō|
|Edited by||Yoshiyasu Hamamura|
Tokyo Story (東京物語 Tōkyō Monogatari?) is a 1953 Japanese film directed by Yasujirō Ozu. It tells the story of an aging couple who travel to Tokyo to visit their grown children. The film contrasts the behavior of their children, who are too busy to pay them much attention, and their widowed daughter-in-law, who treats them with kindness. It is often regarded as Ozu's masterpiece, and has appeared several times in the British Film Institute lists of the greatest films ever made.
A retired couple, Shūkichi and Tomi Hirayama (played by Chishū Ryū and Chieko Higashiyama respectively) live in the town of Onomichi in southwest Japan with their unmarried youngest daughter Kyōko (played by Kyōko Kagawa). They have a total of 5 children, who are all grown up. The couple travel to Tokyo to visit their son and daughter and daughter-in-law.
Their eldest son, Kōichi (Sō Yamamura), is a pediatrician married to Fumiko. Kōichi and Fumiko have two sons, Minoru and Isamu. Shūkichi and Tomi's eldest daughter, Shige (Haruko Sugimura), is married to Kurazō. Shige runs a hairdressing salon. Kōichi and Shige are both busy with work and their families, and do not have much time for their parents. Only the couple's widowed daughter-in-law, Noriko (Setsuko Hara), goes out of her way to entertain them. She takes Shūkichi and Tomi on a sightseeing tour of metropolitan Tokyo.
Kōichi and Shige pay for their parents' stay at a hot spring spa at Atami, but the parents return early because the nightlife at the hotel interrupts their sleep. When they return, Shige explains that she sent them to Atami because she wanted to use their bedroom for a meeting. Tomi goes to stay with Noriko, whose husband, Shōji, died eight years ago in the war. Tomi advises Noriko to remarry. Shūkichi, meanwhile, gets drunk with some old friends, then returns to Shige's salon.
The couple remark on how their children have changed, and they leave for home. During the journey Tomi is taken ill, and they make an unplanned stop at Osaka, where they had planned to meet their youngest son, Keizō (Shirō Ōsaka), without disembarking from the train. When they reach Onomichi, Tomi becomes critically ill. Kōichi, Shige and Noriko rush to Onomichi, on receiving telegrams, to see Tomi, who dies shortly afterwards. Keizō arrives late as he is outstationed.
After the funeral, Kōichi, Shige and Keizō decide to leave immediately, with only Noriko not returning. After they leave, Kyōko complains to Noriko that they are selfish and inconsiderate. Noriko responds that everyone has their own life to lead and that the drift between parents and children is inevitable.
After Kyōko leaves for school, Noriko informs her mother-in-law that she must return to Tokyo that afternoon. Shūkichi tells her that she has treated them best despite not being related by blood. Noriko insists on her own selfishness; Shūkichi credits her protests to humility. He gives her a watch from the late Tomi as a memento, and advises her to remarry. Noriko breaks down in tears and confesses her loneliness. At the end, the train with Noriko speeds from Onomichi back to Tokyo, leaving behind Kyōko and Shūkichi.
Hirayama family tree
- Shūkichi (Grandfather) and Tomi (Grandmother)
- Kōichi (eldest son)
- Fumiko (Kōichi's wife)
- Minoru (Kōichi's son)
- Isamu (Kōichi's son)
- Shige (eldest daughter)
- Kurazō (Shige's husband)
- Shōji (2nd son, deceased)
- Noriko (Shōji's wife)
- Keizō (youngest son)
- Kyōko (youngest daughter)
- Kōichi (eldest son)
- Chishū Ryū as Shūkichi Hirayama
- Chieko Higashiyama as Tomi Hirayama
- Setsuko Hara as Noriko Hirayama
- Haruko Sugimura as Shige Kaneko
- Sō Yamamura as Kōichi Hirayama
- Kuniko Miyake as Fumiko Hirayama
- Kyōko Kagawa as Kyōko Hirayama
- Eijirō Tōno as Sanpei Numata
- Nobuo Nakamura as Kurazō Kaneko
- Shirō Ōsaka as Keizō Hirayama
- Hisao Toake as Osamu Hattori
- Teruko Nagaoka as Yone Hattori
- Mutsuko Sakura as a patron of the Oden Restaurant
- Toyo Takahashi as Shūkichi Hirayama's neighbour (as Toyoko Takahashi)
- Tōru Abe as a railway employee
- Sachiko Mitani as Noriko's neighbour
- Zen Murase as Minoru Hirayama, Kōichi's son
- Mitsuhiro Mori as Isamu Hirayama, Kōichi's son
- Junko Anami as a beauty salon assistant
- Ryōko Mizuki as a beauty salon client
- Yoshiko Togawa as a beauty salon client
- Kazuhiro Itokawa as a student
- Keijirō Morozumi as a police agent
- Tsutomu Nijima as Noriko's office boss
- Shōzō Suzuki as Noriko's office colleague
- Yoshiko Tashiro as a hotel maid
- Haruko Chichibu as a hotel maid
- Takashi Miki as a singer
- Binnosuke Nagao as the doctor at Onomichi
The script was developed by Yasujirō Ozu and his long-time collaborator Kōgo Noda over a period of 103 days in a country inn in Chigasaki. The two, together with cinematographer Yūharu Atsuta, then scouted locations in Tokyo and Onomichi for another month before shooting started. Shooting and editing the film took place from July to October 1953. Ozu used the same film crew and actors he had worked with for many years.
Reception and legacy
Tokyo Story is often admired for its emotional depth. The film has appeared several times in the British Film Institute polls of "greatest films" of directors and critics published in Sight & Sound. On the critics' poll, it was third in 1992, fifth in 2002, and third again in 2012. On the director's poll, it was 17th in 1992, tied at number 16 with Psycho and The Mirror in 2002, and in 2012 it topped the poll, receiving 48 votes out of the 358 directors polled.
It holds a 100% "Fresh" rating on the review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes, based on 38 critical reviews, with also the highest average critical score on the website at 9.7/10. John Walker, former editor of the Halliwell's Film Guides, places Tokyo Story at the top of his published list of the best 1000 films ever made. Tokyo Story is also included in film critic Derek Malcolm's The Century of Films, a list of films which he deems artistically or culturally important, and Time magazine lists it among its All-Time 100 Movies. Roger Ebert includes it in his series of great movies, and Paul Schrader placed it in the "Gold" section of his Film Canon.
For her 2008 film Cherry Blossoms German director Doris Dörrie drew inspiration from Tokyo Story in particular with regard to the family constellation and the death of the mother in a resort at the seaside.
Like all of Ozu's sound films, Tokyo Story's pacing is slow, yet has a rhythm which made Ozu's film a popular entertainment in Japan.  Important events are often not shown on screen, only being revealed later through dialogue. For example, the train journeys to and from Tokyo are not depicted. A distinctive camera style is used, in which the camera height is low and almost never moves; film critic Roger Ebert notes that the camera moves once in the film, which is "more than usual" for an Ozu film.
Tokyo Story was released on November 3, 1953 in Japan.
The film was restored and released on DVD and Blu-ray by The Criterion Collection(Region 1) and by Tartan Video in Region 2. In 2010, the BFI released a Region 2 Dual Format Edition (Blu-ray + DVD). Included with this release is a standard definition presentation of Brothers and Sisters of the Toda Family.
- Eleftheriotis, Dimitris; Gary Needham (May 2006). Asian cinemas: a reader and guide. University of Hawaii Press. pp. 17–26. ISBN 978-0-8248-3085-4.
- "Top Ten Poll 1992 - Directors' and Critics' Poll". Sight & Sound. Published by British Film Institute. Retrieved October 29, 2010.
- "Top Ten Poll 2002 - Directors' Poll". Sight & Sound. Published by British Film Institute. Retrieved October 29, 2010.
- "The Top 50 Greatest Films of All Time". Published by British Film Institute. 1 August 2012. Retrieved 2 August 2012.
- "The 2012 Sight & Sound Directors’ Top Ten". Sight & Sound. British Film Institute. 2 August 2012. Retrieved 4 August 2012.
- Rotten Tomatoes - Tokyo Story
- Malcolm, Derek (4 May 2000). "Yasujiro Ozu: Tokyo Story". The Guardian. Retrieved 7 August 2012.
- Malcolm, Derek (2000). A Century of Film. IB Tauris. pp. 85–87.
- Ebert, Roger (November 9, 2003). "Tokyo Story Movie Review & Film Summary (1953)". Retrieved 6 August 2012.
- Jeffrey M. Anderson (14 November 2006). "Paul Schrader's Film Canon, Film Comment - September/October 2006".
- "Kirschblüten - Hanami, Filmdatenblatt berlinale 2008".
- David Bordwell; Kristin Thompson (2003). Film History: An Introduction (2nd ed.). McGraw-Hill. p. 396.
- "WAQWAQ.com - Tokyo Story".
- David Desser (2005). "The Space of Ambivalence". In Jeffrey Geiger. Film Analysis. Norton. pp. 462–3.
- "Tokyo Story: Dual Format Edition". Retrieved 2 August 2012.
- Desser, David, ed. (1997). Ozu's Tokyo story. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-48435-9. Collection of seven essays about the film.
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