Gokan no Hiroba

As part of my current research in the history of Japanese film theory and criticism, I met with the great film critic, Yamane Sadao, last week.  Since I had just watched a press screening of Sakamoto Junji's new film, Zatoichi, the Last, we met in a cafe in Hibiya. 

Since I had a bit of time between the screening and the meeting time, I wandered around Hibiya. That area around Chanter is basically Toho territory, developed in the 1930s by Kobayashi Ichizo of the Hankyu Railway (now all part of the Hankyu Hanshin Toho Group) . The home office is there, as are some Toho theaters and corporately related theaters (such as the Tokyo Takarazuka Theater). Even Chanter, a shopping center, is owned by Toho. 

In front of Chanter is a square that in Japanese is called the "Gokan no hiroba" (合歓の広場), which roughly translates as "Entertainment Square" ("gokan" is a rarely used word meaning communal enjoyment). Since this is Toho terrain, there is a statue of Godzilla and bronze hand prints (in relief) of some famous movie stars. Most of the stars are Toho veterans, such as Mifune Toshiro, Morishige Hisaya, Frankie Sakai, Yamaguchi Yoshiko (Ri Koran), Ueki Hitoshi, Nakadai Tatsuya, Tanba Tetsuro, Kayama Yuzo, Takamine Hideko, Ikebe Ryo, etc. But there are other stars such as Misora Hibari and foreign stars like Jackie Chen and Tom Cruise. In addition to the hand print, for each one there is usually a signature and a comment.

I took a photo of the plate for Mihashi Tatsuya, first because people probably don't photograph it that much, and second because he appeared in Dolls, by Kitano Takeshi (subject of my first book). Mihashi was a Toho stalwart in the 1950s and 1960s, appearing in Kurosawa Akira's High and Low and also the Kokusai himitsu keisatsu series, two films of which ended up as Woody Allen's What's Up, Tiger Lily?. At the end of his career, he appeared in such films as Shinozaki Makoto's Not Forgotten, for which he won some awards. The aphorism he used on his plate is "Yuku ni komichi ni yorazu" (which roughly means "never take the back road," or "always go on the straight and true").


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