“Early Summer”, 1951, Shochiku Eiga / Criterion

Setsuko Hara: Into Silence

She became a film icon during the most chaotic years in Japan’s modern history. And then she walked away.

Film production in Japan began in 1889, growing from “sightseeing films” of different Tokyo districts, to short films of plays, dances, Kabuki, and Sumo wrestling. Newsreels detailing the military’s campaigns at the turn of the century soon followed.

Tokyo became the center of film production, with most early studios beginning as importers of foreign films. During the 1920s, Japanese studios began to adapt the Hollywood system of production, distribution, exhibition, and promotion. The 7.9-magnitude Great Kanto Earthquake in September of 1923 leveled every studio in Tokyo except for Shochiku Kamata — the others rebuilt in other regions of Honshu: Kyoto, Osaka, and Kobe. This earthquake, along with later Allied bombings and the degradation of the nitrate-based film stocks, resulted in the loss of the majority of films made during this early period.

Toho, Japan’s most well-known studio, began life in 1929 as as a film development company named P.C.L., which expanded into recording studios during the advent of talkies in the early ’30s. With these facilities in place, they began in-house production of short concession advertisements for theaters. Their first full-length feature was a musical comedy funded by the Dai-Nippon Beer company, titled Horoyoi Jinsei (Intoxicated Life).

P.C.L. was eventually acquired by railroad magnate Ichizo Kobayashi (rail companies in Japan often owned theaters and shopping arcades near railway stops), and through a series of mergers with other Kobayashi-owned studios, officially became Toho in August of 1937.

The Nikkatsu studio was created in 1912 by the merger of four smaller film importing companies. After their facilities were destroyed in the earthquake, they relocated to Kyoto. By the time Nikkatsu opened another Tokyo studio in 1934, the Japanese film industry’s studio system conventions, primary aesthetic characteristics, and genres — most broadly, the jidaigeki (period film), and the gendaigeki (modern film) — were largely established.

As in Hollywood, when an actor was contracted with a studio, they were provided with a new name and public persona, designed to present an image of the star’s (fictional) personal life that aligned with the sorts of roles in which they would typically be cast. This is where Setsuko Hara was created. Because much of the “reporting” on Hara comes from this promotional context, it can be difficult to identify what of this material is factual.

Her real name was Masae Aida, and she was born in Yokahama in June of 1920 to a family of modest means, with 4 sisters and 3 brothers. At the suggestion of her brother-in-law (director Hisatora Kumagai), she dropped out of school at age 15 to pursue a career as an actress with Nikkatsu.

She made her debut in 1935, with Tamerau Nakare Wakodo Yo (Do Not Hesitate, Young Folks!). She would go on to make 12 films for Nikkatsu between 1935 and 1937, cast primarily in supporting roles (some of which did not survive to present day). In 1937, the newly-established Toho began recruiting stars and directors, and Hara moved from Nikkatsu to Toho around this time. She would remain there for the rest of her career, with occasional work for Schochiku Ofuna and Daiei.

Hara’s Films by Year

Kochiyama Soshun (Priest of Darkness) is one of only 3 surviving films from director Sadao Yamanaka. It is a period drama adapted from a Kabuki play, revolving around a large cast of characters on the lower edge of society. The tone fluctuates between lighthearted and dramatic material; though as the movie progresses, it settles mostly into a tragic mode.

The plot is a complex series of intertwining events instigated by the theft of a small knife and the love affair of a wayward teenager, Hiro. Hara plays Hiro’s long-suffering sister Onami, who is eventually forced to sell herself into prostitution to pay his debts. Although she is the instigating factor for the film’s final act, Onami appears only in a few key scenes; The lazy ronin Kochiyama (Chojuro Kawarasaki) and high-rolling shyster Kaneko (Kan’emon Nakamura) carry the narrative forward.

At 16 or 17, Hara is still finding her footing, and at times her acting is a little flat and cursory. However, she does have some effective moments which prefigure the subtlety of later work, like when she tries to remain collected while enduring the insults of Kaneko’s wife, only to eventually break down in tears. She also delivers a heartfelt scene where the inevitability and dull sadness of her situation become apparent. We feel for Onami, who makes the decision to sacrifice herself to save her brother — but structurally, this desperate act is instead a starting point for the other characters’ violent final arcs.

As Japan’s imperial expansion dovetailed into WWII, the film studios fell increasingly under the control of the Home Ministry’s Censorship Division and the Information Bureau [IB]. Prefigured by the ideas forwarded by the public-private Dai Nihon Eiga Kyokai (Greater Japan Film Association), “The Film Law” was passed in March of 1939, and went into effect in October. It detailed the procedures for how films would now be subject to government approval from script to final cut, reorganized the disparate Directors’, Cinematographers’, and Actors’ (etc) associations into a unified, government-overseen organization, and imposed restrictions on theaters. By 1941, importing and exhibiting non-Axis films was illegal.

The distribution of film stock came under the control of the Information Bureau, and in August of 1941, the IB announced it would no longer provide stock to the private sector, only to films which it had specifically commissioned. The next month, after a series of negotiations, the major film studios were forced to reorganize and consolidate into 3 companies. An oft-repeated quote from this reorganization by Bureau chief Ryuzo Kawazura referenced a film as a “bullet in the arsenal dedicated to the prosecution of total war”, and that it was “unthinkable to allow the production of a misfiring bullet.”¹

Like it would be in the US over the coming years, the totality of war engulfed the media and entertainment industries. Film crews were dispatched alongside military units, and studios produced propagandistic war “documentaries” and fictional bunka eiga (culture films) from a mix of real battle footage and controlled, sanitized re-enactments. Toho, which already had strong documentary producers and visual effects personnel, made some of the most notable of these. Dramas and comedies were likewise inflected with a range of nationalistic, censor-approved messages and imagery.

The primary aim of these government-commissioned films was to present a specific, quasi-mythical concept of Japanese identity: one which revolved around the necessity for imperial expansion. The production of films influenced by modern western styles was halted, and filmmakers were instead directed to create works which returned to classical aesthetics based on traditional artwork and design, with plots revolving around the fulfilling of an individual’s fealty to greater organizations (martial or otherwise).

Hara’s breakout role came during this period, when she was cast as a lead in Atarashiki Tsuchi (The New Earth / The Green Earth), which was originally envisioned as a collaboration between visiting Nazi director Arnold Fanck and Japanese director Mansaku Itami. However, these co-directors were completely at odds, and the eventual “compromise” they reached was for each to independently direct his own film. Franck’s is titled Die Tochter des Samurai (The Daughter of the Samurai), and this film also marked her departure from Nikkatsu to Toho. Accompanied by her agent and Kumagai, Hara traveled to Germany in 1937 to promote the film, where she found herself “at a loss” for her sudden popularity there.²

From 1937 to 1945, Hara appeared in a staggering 40 Toho films, including appearances in several major propaganda features such as 1942’s landmark special effects feature Hawai • Maree Oki Kaisen (The War At Sea From Hawaii To Malaya), and 1943’s Boro No Kesshitai (The Suicide Troops of the Watchtower).³

Arnold Franck’s Die Tochter Des Samurai (The Daughter Of the Samurai) stars Isamu Kosugi as Teruo, who is returning to his home in Japan after 8 years abroad in Germany. He intends to break with his family’s wishes, and marry the Aryan journalist (Ruth Eweler as Gerda Storm) who is traveling with him rather than his betrothed, Mitsuko (Hara).

As propaganda, Daughter serves a few different functions. It focuses on the need for individuals to become subservient to a nationalist cause, and supports the Japanese occupation of Manchuria using the “blood and soil” framework. Nazi perspectives on race mixing surface in the dialog between Teruo and Gerda (who eventually refuses their marriage).

It’s also designed to introduce the average German viewer to the look and feel of Japan’s culture; and as a result, an ungainly percentage of its run-time is spent drifting in languid montages of landscapes, dances, theater, Sumo wrestling, cherry blossoms, temples, gardens, etc etc. But seeing these images filtered through the lens of Frack’s bold expressionism is unusual, and these scenes are (if nothing else) visually striking — despite the blatant exoticism at play.

Hara’s primary scenes appear in the first and last quarters of the film. Her performances are a bit dry, excepting an early dream sequence, and a later scene where her resolve to end her life crystallizes in a bold direct-to-camera stare. The lengthy climactic sequence takes place on an erupting volcano — a callback to Franck’s preferred genre: Der Bergfilm (Mountain Film) — with the dramatic photography (rather than the acting) doing most of the heavy lifting.

The film ends with Teruo embracing his nationalist duty by reconciling with his family, marrying Mitsuko, and dedicating himself to “the new earth” (a farm in occupied Manchuria). We are left with a final scene of Teruo sowing a field as Mitsuko stands by with baby in arms. They gently lay the baby into a freshly-plowed row, physically connecting this new life with the fertile soil, before the image fades into the stalwart face of a Japanese soldier.

Hawai • Maree Oki Kaisen (The War At Sea from Hawaii to Malaya) was released on December 8th, 1942, to commemorate the 1-year anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the sinking of the British capital ships Prince of Wales and Repulse.

It is lavishly made with an enormous budget, and is described by author Peter B. High as “The most influential war film of the entire Pacific War period.” The enormous set pieces and striking battle sequences designed by future Godzilla co-creator Eiji Tsuburaya have been “frequently misidentified as actual battlefield footage … as recently as the 2001 National Geographic special Pearl Harbor: Legacy of Attack.”⁴

Director Yamamoto Kajiro, the screenwriters, and modelmakers ran into some confusing directives and difficulty from the Navy, who oversaw the making of this film. Although the Navy demanded factual accuracy in the story and visuals, many of the details surrounding the attacks and the materiel involved were still classified, and the crew were forced to improvise (for example, the aircraft carriers’ flight deck is based on photographs of American ships from a magazine).

Taking place from 1936 to 1941, the plot follows a teenager named Tamoda who joins the air force. Through Tamoda, we are presented with an idealized version of the military’s physical training and ideological underpinnings, as he completes his training and lands a spot on the Kido Butai (Striking Force) which travels to Pearl Harbor for the attack.

The War At Sea is briskly paced and surprisingly modern in its editing conventions; Scenes on the ground are often shot with smooth camera movements and fades, scenes on the ocean or in the air are spliced together in quick cuts to emphasize the movement and action. Intertitles are used to fast-forward through the war’s events and establish context. Familiar transnational visual elements of 1940s propaganda are omnipresent: orderly rows of young men in crisp uniforms, stirring speeches by commanders, the physical rush and masculine exuberance of warfare.

However, some textual elements of these sequences may appear unusual to western audiences. Where American propaganda upholds the notion of Freedom as sacrosanct, The War At Sea glorifies the notion of Spirit. Aggressive Spirit, fighting Spirit, sacrificial Spirit. The Spirit of absolute obedience to The Emperor. High assigns the term “Spritism” to this concept, which features prominently in much of the Japanese propaganda from this period. Some of the most dramatic and effective scenes of this film (such as the Admiral’s speech upon the fleet’s disembarkation, and Tamoda’s older cousin recounting his three years of spiritual searching) are designed around this concept.

Hara’s role is minor: she plays Tamoda’s older sister, and appears for maybe 15 minutes or less in this 2-hour film. Tamoda’s family is present mainly to provide a model for how Japanese civilians should feel about the young men going off to war. When asked if she worries about Tamoda, his mother states with a resolute air of pride, “He is no longer my son.” He now belongs to the nation of Japan.

As an American, watching a propaganda film about the other side of Pearl Harbor was a strange experience. As the Kido Butai comes within range of an Hawaiian radio station, the broadcast is coming live from a cabaret where the American soldiers are out dancing to big band swing. The Japanese mock the Americans’ pitiful unpreparedness — they are flippant, undedicated; they have no Spirit.

Japanese planes launch and soar majestically through the lush canyons of Oahu; cloud cover obscures the American base until an intertitle announces, “Miraculously, they see Pearl Harbor, sparkling through a single gap in the clouds.”

Once the attack begins, the destruction is overwhelming and absolute. The special effects are dramatic, utilizing the high frame rate and slow motion Tsuburaya would later use to create the effect of Godzilla’s massive weight and scale. Intertitles announce American military targets in quick succession — Flying Boat Base, Hickam Airfield, Wheeler Airfield — before they are razed in towering explosions while the Japanese planes fly overhead. One of the fighters is shot and begins to falter. The pilot gives a hand signal to his squadmates. An intertitle: “Precious Sacrifice.” French horns solemnly accompany the aircraft as it plummets into a kamikaze dive.

Over on the Malayan front, a squadron are sent out to locate the British capital ships, in full knowledge that they might not have enough fuel to return. Among beautiful flowing clouds and accompanied by tremulous woodwinds and charging brass, they dutifully scan the ocean. Only after they have made the fateful decision to pass the point of no return do they finally sight the Prince of Whales and the Repulse. The squadron moves in for the assault, and the destruction begins anew.

The film follows a radio newscast as it transmits through the ether, first to Tamoda’s house, then aboard the aircraft carriers returning from Hawaii. On receiving updates from Malaya, the Admiral begins his speech with “This is wonderful.”

Triumphant orchestral music accompanies the victorious battleships as they powerfully split the ocean swells and fire their cannons in salute to Japan’s military dominance and assured victory.

As the war turned against the Japanese, film production slowed as resources dwindled and film stock was rationed. Toho released only 13 films in 1944, and 12 in 1945 (compare to 76 releases in 1940). However, Toho’s primary studio in Setagaya was far enough away from the Allies’ targets in Tokyo to avoid the major bombing campaigns, and survived the war intact.

In the interim between the Japanese surrender on August 15 of 1945 and MacAurthur’s arrival on the 30th, many directors and studio heads took the initiative to destroy any works they thought the Allies might consider grounds for war crimes charges. The War At Sea survives intact only because Toho’s head Mori Iwao ordered a single print to be secretly buried at the studio, foreseeing its eventual importance to the historical record.

At the outset of the occupation, the prints and negatives of Japanese films made during wartime were confiscated by the Allies’ Signal Corps. Over five hundred films were collected, and “about half” were deemed unacceptable and subsequently destroyed in a 1946 bonfire by the Eighth Army. A negative and two prints of each unacceptable film were supposed to have been sent to the Library of Congress, but detailed records of what exactly was destroyed and transferred were not kept.⁵

Under the postwar occupation government [SCAP], the film studios were now subject to a radically different set of restrictions and mandates via the Civil Information and Education Section [CIE] and the military’s Civil Censorship Detachment — but the directorial and production staff actually making the films remained largely unchanged.⁶ Directors like Kurasawa and Mizoguchi simply pivoted from making jingoistic pro-imperial films to shooting Allied-approved features extolling the virtues of democracy and — ironically — freedom of expression.

Certain subjects were now banned from the screen, such as praise for the feudal system or anti-democratic sentiments; plots involving militarism, nationalism, or revenge; and the acceptability of suicide (among others). The CIE now assumed the mantle of script-to-final-cut approval. Owing to the difficulty of making period films under these restrictions, the occupation saw a flourishing of gendaieki (modern films) and related genres. Films which depicted postwar-specific elements (such as the black markets seen in Kurasawa’s Drunken Angel and Stray Dog) had to tread carefully and were closely monitored by the censors.

One notable aspect of the films made under the occupation censors is their relative lack of Western representation: a standing request was in place that no occupying forces should be shown. Likewise, referencing or depicting the war’s physical aftermath (such as the widespread destruction in major cities) was highly discouraged and usually censored. Any criticism of the American bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was completely forbidden, and references to the Atomic bomb were usually censored. At a time when over three hundred thousand Allied soldiers were stationed in Japan and major cities were rebuilding for years, these omissions create a distinct blind spot in depictions of ordinary life.⁷

But unlike the previous censorship regime, studios were given a relatively free hand in realm of aesthetics. Foreign films were once again being imported, and filmmakers began to draw on these influences as well as experiment with their own styles.

Hara’s rise to one of Japan’s storied “Divas” happens during this period. Due to her reserved interactions with the media and public, and that she had never publicly engaged in any relationships, the press bestowed her a lofty honorific: “The Eternal Virgin.” Some years later, she commented on this: “I don’t take any responsibility for [the nickname]… Even I get eye mucus when I don’t sleep enough and a runny nose if I have a cold.”⁸ Quotes from other actors and crew during this period tend to portray Hara as down-to-earth; a candid photo captures her out for dinner with Ozu, smiling at a table loaded with food and a carafe of sake.

Her work during 1945–1952 includes 28 films; 2 with Kurasawa (No Regrets for Our Youth, and the Dostoevsky adaptation The Idiot), 2 with Naruse (Repast and The Sound Of The Mountains) and the beginning of her defining collaborations with Ozu. Alongside these heavier roles, she stayed on the grind at Toho, with lighter fare such as playing a democracy-espousing high school teacher in the 2 Tadashi Imai-directed Aoi Sanmyaku (Blue Mountains) movies, and appearing in the series of 4 Oban comedies.

Akira Kurasawa’s Waga Seishun Ni Kuinashi (No Regrets For Our Youth) takes place over the course of several years, starting in 1933 and ending in the postwar period. Its plot revolves around girl who falls in love with a leftist anti-imperial dissident, and takes up his cause after he is imprisoned and killed. It’s loosely based on the life of Hotsumi Ozaki, and most of the script’s political content came from Toho’s Scenario Review Board, a leftist group within the company.

For viewers only familiar with Hara’s later work in Ozu films, her acting here will come as a surprise: she plays the character Yukino initially as an outgoing, flighty kid of a college student; unsure of what she wants, and prone to distracted outbursts when her carefree outlook is challenged. As the plot progresses and she begins to assert control over the direction of her life, this personal uneveness transforms into a grasping emotionality. She plays the romantic scenes unhinged and passionate, performing externally what is subsumed into subtler performances (and made more ambiguous) in her later work.

The later sections of the movie includes scenes of intense physical acting, where her growing resolve and strength are expressed visually as she endures police interrogations, and struggles to cultivate a rice patty. Although not without some rough moments, at this point her acting is fully formed. Hara is magnetic in this film, and completely dominates its later half.

Kozaburo Yoshimura’s Anjo-ke no butokai (A Ball At The Anjo House) is a lighthearted drama which tells the story of a noble family throwing one final ball at their soon-to-be foreclosed mansion. Hara plays Atsuko, the youngest daughter of the family, who does her best to stay grounded as the rest of her family unravels throughout the evening.

This film uses an overarching plot about the dissolution of the traditional peerage system as a metaphor for the transitions ordinary citizens would be facing after the war. And although the influence of the SCAP censors can be sensed in the film’s script and blatant visual cues (an ancient suit of armor is dramatically knocked to the floor… to which Hara responds, “It’s fine like this.”), it’s well-structured and acted.

Hara plays Atsuko with a quiet-but-confident forthrightness and relentless optimism, doing her best to face the realities of their situation straight-on, and handle the tasks required to help her family survive in this new era. A late, brief scene where she finally takes a moment to breathe before turning off the lights in the main hall captures the drowsy, satisfied buzz at the end of a party; the spell of which is broken by a dramatic scene with her despondent father. Although this film is an ensemble piece, Hara’s embodiment of upbeat perseverance resonates as its thematic heart.

Director Mikio Naruse’s most well-known works are from the genre of josei eiga, dramas centered around the lives of women. Meshi (lit. Rice, released in English as Repast) falls squarely into this category: its story centers around a young couple who has relocated from Tokyo to a small town outside Osaka. Work is scarce and the pay is low; the couple is struggling to make ends meet. Hara plays the housewife Michiyo, and appears in plain, worn-out clothes and frazzled hair.

The film is narrated in voiceovers from Michiyo, whose daily routine has become an unending and tiresome grind. Over a breakfast she has prepared for him, her husband Hatsunoke (Ken Uehara) remains engrossed in the newspaper’s stock reports, virtually ignoring his wife. When Michiyo’s carefree young niece Satoko (Yukiko Shimazaki, giving off a Lana Turner vibe) comes to visit them, tensions build as Hatsunoke and Satoko take a flirty sightseeing daytrip while Michiyo stays home, cooking and cleaning.

Again, unlike the emotional containment of her later roles for Ozu, Hara plays Michiyo as forthright and readable; in scenes where Hatsunoke says or does something upsetting, she reacts visibly and verbally. This emotional contrast is highlighted as she dotes on her kitten Yuri, her lone source of unambiguous happiness.

During a scene where she meets some old friends for lunch, when they repeatedly tell her how lucky she is to have found a husband, her polite replies are played with a barely-suppressed annoyance, and through her voiceovers we are left in no doubt about her true feelings. After a series of thoughtless actions by Hatsunoke (including a particularly great scene where he returns home plastered after a late night with his co-workers), Michiyo absconds to her family’s home in Tokyo to reconsider her marriage.

Once back in Tokyo, Hara’s beaming smile returns as she comments “It’s like being in another world”. These scenes play out in shades of a lazy afternoon, with the filmmaking drifting into a dreamy naturalism. Her ensuing days are spent in conversations with characters who describe weathering their own marital storms.

Back in Osaka, although Hatsunoke’s life is going to pieces, he manages to resist the advances of various women who stop by to “help him out.” Finally, he travels to Tokyo to reconcile with Michiyo. After having some time to process her feelings, she decides to stand by her man and return home with him, despite the hardships which she must endure. The last shot is a slow zoom up to the shabby exterior of their home, against the maudlin swells of a string orchestra.

The Treaty of Peace with Japan (colloquially, the San Francisco Treaty) was signed on September 8th, 1951, and went into effect in April of the next year. It officially ended the Allies’ occupation, and returned sovereignty to the Japanese government under Prime Minister Yoshida Shigeru.

By this time, Japan’s film industry was thriving both financially and artistically. Kurasawa’s Rashomon won the Golden Lion at the 1951 Venice Film Festival, drawing the attention of overseas critics and audiences, and leading to the beginnings of international distribution. The lifting of the SCAP’s thematic restrictions allowed for a resurgence of period films, and more realistic depictions of day-to-day life; both were extremely fertile areas for Japanese filmmakers in the 1950s.

In 1949, Japan’s first independent agency for overseeing films was created: the Eiga Rinri Kitei Kanri Iinkai (Motion Picture Code of Ethics Committee), officially shorthanded to Eirin. Its policies were modeled on the American Motion Picture Production Code (the precursor to the MPAA), and like the MPAA, Eirin classifies films with age ratings and recommends cuts, but has no legal capacity to restrict or prevent any material from being created or shown.

After 1952, the only laws allowing the government to restrict what can be shown in films are contained in Article 175 of the Criminal Code, and are related primarily to “public obscenity.” Notably, these laws are generally not concerned with the context in which these “obscene” images appear. As the decades wore on, the limits of both Eirin and Article 175 would be tested by filmmakers and naturally shifted along with social mores.⁹

The 1950s are usually referred to as the “Golden Age of Japanese Cinema,”¹⁰ and coincide with the Film Industry’s last period of dominance in the media marketplace. The high marks for film profits and production were in 1958 and 1960 (respectively), with TV taking an ever-increasing share of viewership and revenue from that point forward. By the end of the 1960s, more than half of the Nation’s movie theaters would be shuttered.

The film industry re-calibrated to these new economic realities (along with the aesthetic influence of TV programming and the changing sensibilities of the burgeoning youth culture) by looking to a younger generation of directors, some of whom chose to work independently of the studio systems. Directors like Masumura Yasuzo and Nakahira Ko created brashly stylized, sometimes violent, and overwhelmingly sensory films specifically in opposition to the “Golden Age” filmmaking styles and narratives. In order to appropriately advertise these sorts of films, the nouvella vague-referencing phrase “Japanese New Wave” was coined by Shochiku, and quickly adopted by other studios and the press.¹¹

Hara appeared in 34 films from the end of the SCAP occupation until her last in 1962. Although her best-known roles from this period are from Ozu’s immaculate dramas, she also played a variety of lighter roles in “program pictures” (ie “popcorn flicks” in the US), including a few action movies like The Last Escape, and a 1955 children’s movie, Nabuko Rides on a Cloud.

Due to the strength their work together and near-simultaneous close of their bodies of work, Setsuko Hara and Yasujiro Ozu have become intertwined in the realm of film criticism. Hara’s finest work is without a doubt contained in their six films together, over the course of twelve years from 1949 to 1961.

Ozu was born in Tokyo in 1903, and grew up in Nagoya, where he became something of a wild child, often skipping his schoolwork to catch new European films. After graduation, he whiled away a few years as an assistant professor (and racked up a formidable drinking debt in the process), before returning to Tokyo, where he landed a job as an assistant cameraman with Schochiku in 1923.

Yasujiro Ozu, 1951¹²

Ozu’s directorial debut came in 1927 with The Sword Of Penitence. After a brief stint in the army reserve, he returned to a brisk production schedule at Shochiku, making 26 films over the next 5 years. Many of these are now lost completely, and some exist only in part. Critics tend to characterize these films as Ozu finding his voice, and he eventually began pushing back on routine work from the studio in order to pursue the specific sort of family dramas he was becoming best known for.

Ozu was called up for service in 1937 (a period about which he rarely spoke) and returned in 1939. With his films now obligated to meet certain requirements by the Information Bureau, their plots fall broadly into the censor-approved subjects of duty and nationalism; but Ozu approached these topics tangentially, and his films remained primarily character-driven.

Once again called up, Ozu now found himself stationed in occupied Singapore, where he was supposed to shoot a propaganda feature… but instead spent his time watching the extensive collection of American and European films which the Japanese occupation army had confiscated. After a few months as a POW when Singapore was non-combatively ceded to the Allies, Ozu returned to Japan in 1946.

After the studio-mandated feel-good quickie Record of a Tenement Gentleman and the rough-and-tumble A Hen In The Wind, Ozu’s late work began in earnest with 1949’s Late Spring, which was critically lauded and commercially successful. From this point forward, Ozu kept his production rate to one film per year (with one or two exceptions), and transitioned into color with 1958’s Equinox Flower. Having now established his filmmaking style and preferred subject matter, with the full support of the Shuchiko Ofuna studio, he continued to refine his films until his last: 1962’s An Autumn Afternoon.¹³

Rather than go into detail on his idiosyncratic blocking, shooting, and editing techniques, I would instead suggest watching one or two of his postwar films to get a feel for it. His unique choices (and influence on modern directors) will become readily apparent.¹⁴ Ozu likened his process to a still-life artist who repeatedly paints the same flower, allowing each painting’s expression to show clearly by virtue of the subject remaining static. He worked with an almost unchanged crew from 1948 onward.

By the time he made Late Spring, Ozu likewise used a group of regular actors, whom he cast in similar roles whenever they appear. In the first three of their six films together, Hara plays a character named Noriko. In Ozu’s fashion, these films are not narratively sequential, but conceptually iterative. In these, Noriko is a stand-in for the generation of young women navigating the changing postwar world, balancing newly available options and independence with traditional expectations from (and deference to) the family’s older generation.

Late Spring has probably garnered the most writing from the academic sphere (Phillips and Stringer’s “Japanese Cinema: Texts and Contexts” includes an essay which collects and compares academic writing by no less than twelve authors about two cutaway shots of a vase in the film’s climactic scene), and Tokyo Story is generally regarded as Ozu’s masterwork. Owing to the breadth of writing about these two, I will instead focus on the lesser-discussed Tokyo Twilight and Late Autumn.

Set in the dead of winter, Tokyo boshoku (Tokyo Twilight) takes place in smoky bars, in Mah Jong parlors, in backrooms, in broken homes, in darkness. It is a deeply bleak iteration of Ozu’s familiar story of a family in transition, and as with all of his late films, it is two unbroken hours of meticulously arranged shots. Except now, the characters are enfolded in the lower half of Ozu’s wide mid tones, and the usual cutaway shots of gardens and tree-lined roads are replaced with the city’s claustrophobic alleyways and neon signage.

The plot unfolds slowly, providing only hints and suggestions until the later third of the film. Each member of the family carries the weight of an absence, of an attachment they have lost or are in the process of losing. The dual coping mechanisms of drink and gambling filter down through each generation in degrees.

Characters move through enclosed spaces at once both public and private, which Ozu pairs with cutaway shots of silent figures huddling near stoves for warmth, sleeping in bar booths, pouring another round. A motif about closing and locking doors is repeated throughout, a metaphor for how characters feel insecure, uncertain.

The family’s youngest daughter, Akiko (Ineko Arime), is the central character of the film; although she appears during the first half only intermittently, searching for her lover Kenji. With each stop in her search, a dull undercurrent of worry and restlessness grows. When she finally finds and confronts Kenji, her composure breaks into weeping anger as it becomes apparent he couldn’t care less that she is now pregnant with his child.

Hara plays Takako, the older sister, who has returned with her baby to her father’s home during a separation with her alcoholic husband. She is deliberately made under in this film; her glamorous, intoxicating smile replaced with a look of tired persistence. Her major scenes are acted alongside fellow “Diva” Isuzu Yamada (who plays the family’s estranged mother), and Hara plays these scenes with a hard expression concealing a deep resentment.

Akiko’s plot eventually leads to the blunt depression of an uncaring gynecologist’s waiting room, and the heft of the unspoken word, abortion. Akiko returns home after the procedure, and is framed in shadows as her older sister’s child ambles towards her, against the glowing backlit sheen of a screened window.

Tokyo Twilight gives us a world where Akiko’s story is told as joke, over drinks at a Mah Jong table. Afterwords the reigning table champ just asks the dealer to start the next hand.

When Takako finally decides to return to her alcoholic husband — in an attempt to provide her child with the “complete” family she herself lacked — the scene plays out with an air of resignation, an understanding that such a reconciliation is an act of endurance, when compared to the alternative of just letting go.

Akibiyori (Late Autumn) is Ozu’s fourth color film. Having found his grounding with a characteristically restrained color palette, Ozu now peppers his sets with occasional pops of brilliant color; a turquoise telephone, a mustard tea kettle, a glossy red ash tray, a bright orange bottle of soda pop.

Tonally, this movie falls somewhere between the delightful inanity of Good Morning and the subdued earnestness of Early Summer, staying mostly in the bubbly realms of light comedy with only occasional dips into heavier fare. It employs an unusually sweeping Dvorak-esq soundtrack for an Ozu film.

Many of the scenes are spent in the sunset glow of fond memories and daydreams; characters reminisce about good times long past, cheerfully toss out aimless plans like taking a tourist trip or meeting up for fancy dinners, and guess weather a recently-married couple are sitting face-to-face or shoulder-to-shoulder on a passing train. Ozu reinforces this rosy nostalgic vibe by including both subtle nods and specific references to his previous films— the exaggerated, singsong “Right?” / “Right?” from Early Summer, for example — and is most clearly in dialog with Hara and Ozu’s first work together, Late Spring.

Hara plays the still-beautiful widow Akiko, whose unmarried 24-year-old daughter Ayako (Yoko Tsukasa) becomes the matchmaking project of her deceased husband’s lovably smarmy trio of old buddies. This role reversal is another key element of the pervasive nostalgic feel; seeing Hara on the other side of almost identical conversations about marriage from a decade past, a viewer can’t help but be reminded of how her own life has likewise changed over time. By keeping the overall tone so light, Ozu positions our own reflections within this same summery cloud of slightly misremembered and idealized moments.

This movie spends a lot of time dealing with how people of the same gender interface: Hara and her daughter; the trio of buddies at the bar; Ayako and Yuriko at the office; Ayako’s would-be suitor Hirayama and his comedically forthright son. The scenes between men and women play out almost like summits or negotiations; and seeing how the earlier (casually off-color) private conversations are translated into more polite diction in mixed company is part of the fun. One of the brightest scenes is when the trio of buddies is cornered by the young firecracker Yuriko (Mariko Okada), who scolds them being too roundabout before taking them out drinking at her family’s sushi restaurant.

After Ayako eventually decides to marry her suitor, she and Akiko take a vacation together, mirroring the final act of Late Spring. When Ayako talks about the sadness of the last night of a trip, and asks her mother if she thinks the same; in Hara’s brief moment of silence, we know that she does — because we remember how, eleven years ago, as the daughter, she asked the same question to Chishu Ryu. These intertextual elements provide the weighty underpinnings to an otherwise light-as-a-feather movie.

As the mother, Hara has the opportunity to act in a much wider range, from unguarded joy to concerned confusion. It’s the sort of role which requires an appropriate age and level of experience to execute without shifting the delivery too far into the dramatic. As her daughter bursts into tears, she does her best to keep a smile, casually brushing a tear from her eye.

Just as in Late Spring, the parent lies about her own marriage to enable (or, perhaps, force) the child to progress in her own life. Just as in Late Spring, we close with the parent in the silence after the wedding celebration. Only now, rather than the tired solitude of the off-camera-facing Ryu, we close on Hara’s smile — no longer the wild, beaming Noriko smile, but one more natural, mature, and ambiguous.

Hara quietly turned 40 in 1960, the same year that television began its gradual insurgency into the film industry’s viewership and profits. In an interview with the Tokyo Shimbun in February, she commented “My age is the most difficult part as an actress right now, Toho people seem to be struggling to pick out roles for me as well. I wonder if Toho is more worried about me than I am.”⁸

Usually guarded in interviews, Hara began speaking more frankly about her position in the industry, and her life, retrospectively. During the planning stages of Robo-no Ishi (The Wayside Pebble), she commented “My family wasn’t that blessed in my childhood. I wanted to become a school teacher, but for economic reasons, I became an actress.” In a later interview with the Houchi Newspaper, “I like quiet times where I don’t get bothered by anything. Recently, when it comes to progress or ideals as an actress, I don’t have much desire and I can’t really say much.” After the release of Late Autumn, she expressed some ambivalence about her recent roles as a mother, having never raised children herself.

In the winter of 1962, Ozu noticed a lump on the side of his neck. This year had been particularly hard for him; his mother (with whom he had lived with since 1943, and was incredibly close) passed away while he was planning what would become An Autumn Afternoon; her death would heavily influence the final version of this film. In April, he undertook a difficult cobalt treatment, which slowed the cancer, but could not stop it completely. He passed away on his 60th birthday, in December of 1963. Hara went to see him in the evening. She did not attend Ozu’s funeral, but met privately with his family beforehand to pay her respects.

Hara’s final role was in Inagaki’s Chushingura (47 Ronin), released in 1962. Without a definitive retirement announcement, she stopped making films and began to refuse all interview requests. She moved into the two-story family home which she had built in Kamakura in 1955, and reverted to using her real name, Masae Aida. She lived a quiet life there for the next half-century.

As she had requested, her family waited a full month after her passing in September of 2015 to inform the press.

It’s hard to digest this as a narrative. Thirty years of whirlwind stardom spanning more than 100 films, critical acclaim and public adoration through the most tumultuous years in Japan’s history… followed by: nothing. The studio-created character of Setsuko Hara just vanishes, like a book ending mid-chapter.

At the time of her effective retirement, the press reacted poorly to Hara’s decision to leave the public without (as Richie comments) providing any “polite fiction about bad health or a spiritual imperative or a burning desire to take up charitable work,” even going so far as to insult her as “onnarashikunai — ‘unwomanly.’” Hara did not respond.¹⁵

In English-language writing, Hara is sometimes shorthanded to “The Greta Garbo of Japan,” but this is a misleading comparison. After retiring, Garbo continued to enjoy an active social and public life, regularly giving interviews. She famously settled in the upper east side of Manhattan and often strolled its upscale blocks and luxury boutiques, attended theater events, and even stayed overnight at the White House.

Hara, on the other hand, disappeared completely. In the half-century between her retirement to the family home and death in 2015, her only interaction with the press were an offhand response to a 1971 petition that she return to acting, delivered via her nephew (“…I am not returning, you are being so nosy!”), and “a few words” by telephone with a Yomiuri Shimbun reporter in 1992, in reference to the authenticity of a signed flag which had come up for auction.¹⁶ The only (unconfirmed) photographs of her after the 1960s were surreptitiously taken; blurred paparazzi shots of an older woman.

As the years passed into decades, postscripts sometimes appeared with the occasional dramatic rumor slipped in: Hara and Ozu were secret lovers. The trauma of seeing her brother (Yoshio Aida, a cameraman) tragically killed in an on-set accident during the filming of 1953’s Shirouo (White Fish), eventually became too much to bear. She’d developed cataracts in 1954, and her worsening vision made acting impossible. She was uncomfortable continuing to appear onscreen as the body’s normal signs of aging became increasingly visible. These are from second-hand sources at best, and at worst, pure fabrication.

Perhaps the most accurate postscript is also the most overtly fictional: the 2001 Satoshi Kon animated film Millennium Actress. The film’s central character is based on Hara, and viewers will recognize many iconic moments from her filmography which are referenced throughout; from the harrowing volcano of The Daughter of the Samurai to the cheerful teacher of Blue Mountains.

The exact dates and filmography are bent in service to the dramatic arc; but the film does an excellent job of shepherding the viewer across the violent upheaval of the 1930s-1950s with its fluid visual and narrative style. It’s best approached on its own merits, rather than from a fact-checking standpoint — some of the most effecting and heartfelt moments happen in the context of fictional entries in the Hara-surrogate’s filmography.

What Millennium Actress gets completely right is that it’s the unanswerable questions which draws certain modern viewers into Hara’s work. At times (particularly in Ozu’s films) her acting is entrancing — and it’s hard not to watch these films without the hope of catching some flickering dispatch from beyond that enigmatic smile, some secret word to unlock this wall of unknowable silence.

Artists who rise to the forefront of the public consciousness before meeting tragic ends, like Patsy Cline or Kurt Cobain, can leave us with luminescent, powerful, and (critically, in the internet age) traversably compact bodies of work. But even these ostensibly closed oeuvres on odd occasions still surface new apocrypha, like a desert cactus blooming once a decade. In some cases, we can see these closed blossoms perched motionless season after season, and must simply wait patiently for them to open — like with Jimi Hendrix’s Black Gold tape.

Even when an acclaimed artist decides specifically to end a project, it’s usually not long until they’re starting something new. Stone Temple Pilots begets Talk Show and Army of Anyone and Velvet Revolver and Art of Anarchy. Even if these later projects don’t catch the zeitgeist in the same way as the former, we’re still happy to see familiar faces return — even if it’s sometimes just an excuse to reminisce about the earlier stuff.

Hara is one of the very few artists who reached the top of the mountain, beloved and lauded for the work she was producing, and just decided to stop.

There was no reunion tour. No cute cameo as the feisty grandmother. No televised interview special. No transition to running a small chain of local sports bars. No tell-all book. No nostalgia-baiting Netflix reboot. No line of perfume or clothing brand. No podcast. No ill-fated run for political office. No inexplicable late-in-life cash grab.

Masae Aida opened a body of work, filled it with art both mundane and remarkable, and then closed it.

Additional research and translation for this article by Nicole Everett and Cassandra Wardinsky.

Notes

[1] The Imperial Screen, 318; referencing: Kido, Nihon Eigaden, 215.

[2] http://www.enic-cine.net/nobuko-rides-on-a-cloud/ (author cites additional Japanese-language references)

[3] http://www.jmdb.ne.jp/person/p0097240.htm (see appendix below for translations)

[4] The Toho Studio Story, 52

[5] A Hundred Years Of Japanese Film, 108; The Imperial Screen, 503. The films which were received by the LOC were returned to Japan in 1976.

[6] Under directive from the SCAP, The film industry was tasked with assessing itself (via the All-Japan Motion Picture Employees Union) for war crimes.

The system decided upon was to classify individuals into groups A, B, and C; with group A being the most severe, resulting in expulsion from the industry, while group C required only “self-examination” of one’s past actions.

In effect, the sentences imposed were normally lenient (usually only a gap of a few years where the individual could not work), and most people in the industry retained their positions after being declared “rehabilitated” — with a few notable exceptions, such as Shiro Kido of Shochuki.

I was unable to find any English-language information on weather Hara went through this process (there is no significant postwar gap in her filmography).

[7] A Nichiei documentary made just after the bombings was secretly hidden at the outset of the occupation. Owing to SCAP restrictions on the press, its post-occupation screening in 1952 would be the first time many Japanese would see the immediate effects of the atomic bomb. (“Currents in Japanese Cinema,” 197)

Sato also mentions a film made under the SCAP censors in 1950 called The Bells of Nagasaki, which carefully adhered to restrictions by showing the blast’s cloud only at a great distance, and behind a mountain range. It is based on the memoirs of a Roman Catholic medical professor who, while dying of radiation-induced leukemia, “regarded the atomic blast as a heaven-sent trial to be endured.”

[8] All direct quotes from Hara come from excerpts of the following items, which I had translated specifically for this piece. As I do not speak or read Japanese, I will list the sources as they were presented to me by the researcher. Note: The first item on this list includes the most direct quotations, which are attributed in-line to their source publications.

Title: 原節子 映画女優の昭和, author: 千葉 伸夫, publisher: 大和書房, 1987. [Library catalog link] p.247–258 (“Setsuko Hara, The Legend”)

Title: 演劇映画講座 第3巻〜第4巻, publisher: 芸術学院, 1951. [Library catalog link] p.82–86 (“Film Actor Research: Setsuko Hara”)

Title: 東京人, publisher: 都市出版, 1996. [Library catalog link] (“In & Out”)

[9] Historical Dictionary of Japanese Cinema, 37. An equivalent independent body for home video was created in 1977, and for video games in 2002. The author also draws a connection between Japan’s decades under extreme censorship from both imperial and SCAP regimes to Eirin’s lenient position.

[10] Although Sato refers to 1952 as the “Second Golden Age,” with the first beginning in 1932.

[11] Japanese Cinema, 66

[12] From The Mainichi Graphic, 10 August 1951 issue. (PD)

[13] See Richie’s “Ozu” for a more thorough biography and chronology of his film productions.

[14] Late Spring and Good Morning are good starting points for drama and comedy, respectively. Try Early Summer for something that falls in between. For the more technically-minded reader, the books of Bordwell and Ritchie get deep into the weeds on his filmmaking particulars (see Bibliography).

[15] “Ozu and Setsuko Hara,” excerpt by Richie: https://www.criterion.com/current/posts/2258-ozu-and-setsuko-hara

[16] https://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/28/arts/television/setsuko-hara-japanese-star-of-films-by-ozu-and-kurosawa-is-dead-at-95.html


Bibliography

“The Imperial Screen; Japanese Film Culture in the Fifteen Years’ War, 1931–1945.” by Peter B. High

This book is a thoroughly researched (yet very readable) examination of the the government’s relationship with the film industry during this period. It includes a wealth of detail about how censorship was organized and enacted in both concrete (ie. legislative) and conceptual/sociological ways.

“The Toho Studios Story: A History And Complete Filmography” Edited by Stuart Galbraith IV

This reference work includes the (sometimes hard-to-locate) standardized English translations of titles. Its introductory section is a decade-by-decade history of the studio itself, which is written in a light, approachable manner.

“Japanese Cinema: Texts and Contexts” Edited by Alastair Phillips and Julian Stringer

This is collection of fairly academic essays collected from an international group of authors. The films covered range from silent era to present day, and the book ends with an extensive bibliography for further reading.

“Reframing Japanese Cinema” Edited by Notelli and Desser

“Historical Dictionary of Japanese Cinema” Edited by Jasper Sharp

“100 years of Japanese Cinema” by Donald Richie. There’s also a sort of condensed version of this book titled “Japanese Cinema: An Introduction”

“Ozu” by Donald Richie

For the reader who is interested in the specifics of Ozu’s techniques and aesthetics, this books is an excellent jumping-off point.

“Ozu and the Poetics of Cinema” by David Bordwell

Similar to Richie’s “Ozu,” except that it examines the technical aspects of Ozu’s films individually, as opposed to being organized by technique. Includes this epigraph, which spoke to me on a personal level: “‘Art and Science cannot exist but in minutely organized particulars.’ — William Blake.”

“Currents in Japanese Cinema” by Tadao Sato

This is a collection of essays from a well-known Japanese film critic. It is presented in the translation’s introduction as hoping to counterbalance the primarily non-Japanese perspectives on Japanese films available in English. It includes a helpful chronology as an appendix.

“Cinema, Censorship and the State. The Writings of Nagisa Oshima.”

This is a collection of fairly academic and heavily footnoted essays from former Shochiku Ofuna director Nagisa Oshima. It is the sort of book which opens a chapter with: “Before asking weather Japanese film has a future, I want to ask first weather the Japanese film exists.”

“The Cambridge History of Japan” Edited by Peter Duus

Listing this multi-volume encyclopedia in a bibliography is the equivalent of posting “Do you even lift?” on a message board. I only needed the pertinent sections in Vol. 6, re: postwar politics and the SCAP.

The San Francisco Peace Treaty is available on the UN’s website in PDF format.


Appendix: Setsuko Hara Filmography

Official Toho English titles used where available.
[*] Available on DVD with English subtitles
[†] English versions exist in other formats

1935.08.15, Nikkatsu, Tamerafu nakare wakōdo yo, (Do Not Hesitate, Young Folks!)
1935.09.05, Nikkatsu, Shinya no Taiyou, (Midnight Sun)
1935.09.26, Nikkatsu, Tama wo Nagero, (Throw Your Spirit)
1935.10.01, Nikkatsu, Midori no Chiheisen Zenpen, (Green Horizon 1)
1935.10.09, Nikkatsu, MIdori no Chiheisen Kouhen, (Green Horizon 2)
1936.01.30, Nikkatsu, Hakui no Kajin, (White Coat Beauty)
1936.04.30, Nikkatsu, Kôchiyama Sôshun, (Priest of Darkness) *
1936.05.28, Nikkatsu, Yomeiri-mae no Musume-tachi, (Unmarried Daughters)
1936.06.04, Nikkatsu, Seimei no Kanmuri, (Crown of Life)
1936.12.31, Nikkatsu, Tange Sazen Nikkou no Maki, (Tange Sazen Nikko Volume)
1937.01.14, Nikkatsu, Kenji to Sono Imouto, (The Prosecutor and His Sister)
1937.02.04, Nikkatsu, Atarashiki Tsuchi, (The New Earth / The Daughter of the Samurai) † [Unofficial English subtitles available online]
1937.10.21, Toho, Tokai Bijoden, (Saga of the Beautiful Women of Tokai)
1937.12.11, Toho, Haha No Kyoku I, (Mother's Song Part 1)
1937.12.21, Toho, Haha No Kyoku II, (Mother's Song Part 2)
1938.04.11, Toho, Kyojin-den, (Saga of the Giant Man)
1938.06.11, Toho, Denen Kokyogaku, (Pastoral Symphony)
1938.09.11, Toho, Shogun No Mago, (Grandson of the Shogun)
1938.10.05, Toho, Fuyu no yada, (Winter Inn)
1939.02.21, Toho, Uruwashiki Shupatu, (Beautiful Departure)
1939.04.21, Toho, Chushingura (zen), (Chushingura (Part 1))
1939.04.21, Toho, Chushingura (go), (Chushingura (Part 2))
1939.05.20, Toho, Shanhai Rikusentai, (Shanghai Military)
1939.08.20, Toho, Machi, (Town)
1939.08.31, Toho, Onna No Kyoshitsu (zen), (Woman's Classroom (Part 1))
1939.09.30, Toho, Onna No Kyoshitsu (go), (Woman's Classroom (Part 2))
1939.10.31, Toho, Tokyo No Josei, (Women In Tokyo)
1940.01.18, Toho, Hikari To Kage (zen), (Light And Shadow (Part 1))
1940.01.18, Toho, Hikari To Kage (go), (Light And Shadow (Part 2))
1940.02.07, Toho, Toyuki, (Eastern Trip Diary)
1940.03.20, Toho, Tsuguhi Made, (Until Your Wedding Day)
1940.04.03, Toho, Hebihime Sama, (The Snake Princess)
1940.07.17, Toho, Onna No Machi, (Women's Town)
1940.09.01, Toho, Futari No Sekai, (A World Of Two)
1940.10.30, Toho, Shimai No Yakusoku, (A Sister's Promise)
1941.01.18, Toho, Ani No Hanayome, (A Brother's Bride)
1941.05.08, Toho, Oinaru Kanjo, (Great Emotion)
1941.07.30, Toho, Kekkon No seitai, (The Ecology of Marriage / Married Life)
1941.10.04, Toho, Shido Monogatari, (Leadership Story)
1942.01.14, Toho, Kibo No Aozora, (The Sky Of Hope)
1942.02.04, Toho, Seishun No Kiryu, (Wind Currents Of Youth)
1942.03.18, Toho, Sakyuu, (Sand Dunes)
1942.03.20, Toho, Wakai Sensei, (Young Teacher)
1942.04.01, Toho, Midori No Daichi, (The New Earth / The Daughter of the Samurai)
1942.09.03, Toho, Haha no Chizu, (A Mother's Map)
1942.12.03, Toho, Hawai • Maree Oki Kaisen, (The War At Sea From Hawaii To Malay) † [Unofficial English subtitles available online]
1943.01.14, Toho, Ahen Senso, (The Opium War)
1943.04.15, Toho, Boro No Kesshitai, (The Suicide Troops of the Watchtower)
1943.06.10, Toho, Wakaki Hi No Yorokobi, (The Joy Of Youth)
1943.09.16, Toho, Kessen No Ozora He, (Towards The Decisive Battle Of The Sky)
1943.10.07, Toho, Nepu, (Hot Wind)
1944.05.25, Toho, Ikari No Umi, (The Angry Sea)
1945.08.05, Toho, Kito No Sannin, (Three People Of The North)
1946.02.28, Toho, Midori No Furusato, (Hometown In Green)
1946.05.16, Toho, Reijin, (Beautiful Woman)
1946.10.29, Toho, Waga Seishun Ni Kuinashi, (No Regrets For Our Youth) *
1947.07.15, Shin Toho, Kakedashi Jidai, (Novice Times)
1947.09.27, Schochiku Ofuna, Anjoke no Butokai, (A Ball at the Anjo House) *
1947.11.04, Toyoko, Onna Dake no Yoru, (Night of Only Women)
1947.12.09, Toyoko, Sanbon Yubi no Otoko, (Man with Three Fingers ... Shizuko Shiraki)
1948.02.25, Schochiku Ofuna, Yuwaku, (Temptations)
1948.06.01, Daiei, Toki no Teisou Zenpen, (Time of Honor 1)
1948.06.08, Daiei, Toki no Teisou Kouhen, (Time of Honor 2)
1948.06.23, Shintoho, Fujisanchou, (Mt. Fuji Summit)
1948.09.04, Schochiku Ofuna, Taifuuken no Onna, (Typhoon Zone Girl)
1948.11.01, Daiei, Koufuku no Genkai, (Limits of Happiness)
1949.03.01, Toho, Tonosama Hoteru, (King Hotel)
1949.03.09, Schochiku Ofuna, Ojousan Kanpai, (Cheers, M'lady)
1949.07.19, Toho, Aoi Sannyaku, (Blue Mountains) † [Exhibition prints with English subtitles]
1949.07.26, Toho, Zoku Aoi Sannyaku, (Blue Mountains Sequel) † [Exhibition prints with English subtitles]
1949.09.13, Schochiku Ofuna, Banshun, (Late Spring) *
1950.01.29, Daiei, Shirayuki-sensei to Kodomo-tachi, (Ms. Shirayuki and Children)
1950.04.19, Toho, Kizudarake No Otoko, (An Injured Man)
1950.09.09, , Arupurusu Monogatari Yasei, (Feral Alps Story)
1950.10.14, Tokyo Eiga Haikyû, Nanairo no Hana, (Seven-Colored Flower)
1951.05.23, Schochiku Ofuna, Hakuchi, (The Idiot) *
1951.10.03, Schochiku Ofuna, Bakushū, (Early Summer) *
1951.11.23, Toho, Meshi, (Repast) *
1952.02.14, Toho, Kaze Futatabi, (Wind Once More)
1952.05.14, Dongbao, Kin No Tamago / Golden Girl, (Gold Egg / Golden GIrl)
1952.07.15, Toho, Tokyo No Koibito, (Tokyo Sweetheart / Jewels In Our Hearts)
1953.04.04, Toho, Koi No Fuunji, (The Wind And Cloud Boy In Love)
1953.08.05, Toho, Shirouo, (White Fish)
1953.11.03, Schochiku Ofuna, Tōkyō monogatari, (Tokyo Story) *
1954.01.15, Toho, Yama no oto, (Sound Of The Mountain / The Echo) *
1955.06.07, Toho, Non-chan Kumo ni Noru Shintoho, (Nabuko rides on a cloud)
1955.12.04, Toho, Utsukushiki Haha, (Beautiful Mother)
1956.01.14, Toho, Niwaka Ame, (Showers / Passing Showers) † [Exhibition prints with English subtitles, shown as "Sudden Rain" in 2005]
1956.03.28, Toho, Aijo No Kessan, (Settlement of Love)
1956.04.25, Toho, Konyaku Sanbagarasu, (Three Men Get Engaged)
1956.09.11, Toho, Joshu To Tomoni, (Women in Prison)
1956.09.19, Toho, Oni To Sono Imoto, (A Brother And His Sister)
1957.03.05, Toho, Oban, (Oban)
1957.04.30, Schochiku Ofuna, Tōkyō boshoku, (Tokyo Twilight) *
1957.06.29, Toho, Chieko Sho, (Regarding Chieko)
1957.07.19, Toho, Zoku Oban • fuun hen, (Sequal Oban • Volume 2)
1957.08.18, Toho, Saigo No Dasso, (The Last Escape)
1957.12.17, Toho, Zoku Zoku Oban • Doto Hen, (Another Oban Sequel • Volume 3 / Mr. Fortune Maker Takes A Risk)
1958.01.15, Toho, Onna De Aru Koto, (To Be A Woman / Woman Unveiled)
1958.04.15, Toho, Tokyo No Kyujitsu, (Holiday in Tokyo)
1958.07.01, Toho, Oban Kanketsu Hen, (Oban Conclusion)
1959.02.10, Toho, Onna Gokoro, (A Woman's Heart)
1959.10.25, Toho, Nippon Tanjo, (The Birth Of Japan)
1960.05.15, Toho, Robo-no Ishi, (The Wayside Pebble)
1960.05.21, Toho, Musume • Tsuma • Haha, (Daughter, Wife, Mother)
1960.08.14, Toho, Fundoshi isha, (Loincloth Doctor / The Country Doctor)
1960.11.13, Schochiku Ofuna, Akibiyori, (Late Autumn) *
1961.02.14, Toho, Bojo No Hito, (One's Longing)
1961.10.29, Schochiku Ofuna, Kohayagawa-ke no aki, (The End Of Summer) *
1962.04.01, Toho, Musume To Watashi, (My Daughter And I)
1962.11.03, Toho, Chushingura—Hana no Maki Yuki No Maki, (Chushingura—Part One: Flowers, Part Two: Snow) *