Osu in Nagoya

Last weekend I made a brief trip to Nagoya to attend a workshop headed by Fujiki Hideaki of Nagoya University. It was a preparatory workshop for one of the upcoming volumes in Shinwasha's Nihon eigashi sosho series, which will focus on audiences. I talked about the issue of theory in the history of Japanese film criticism. All the papers were interesting and this looks like it will be a great volume. (Update: And here it is.)

Even though this was only my third of fourth time in Nagoya, Nagoya holds a special place in my heart since it placed a significant role on the history of Kinugasa Teinosuke's A Page of Madness, and thus appears a lot in my book on the film. In what Makino Mamoru calls "Nagoya modernism," film fans in Nagoya not only wrote a lot about that film in dojinshi such as Chukyo kinema (one example of which I translated in my book), but arranged for special screenings in the city. 

With that knowledge in mind - and my general interest in movie theater districts - I decided to spend some of my extra time by going to Osu, which used to be the main place to see movies in prewar and immediate postwar Nagoya, a time when there were over a dozen cinemas in the district. Centered on a Kannon temple, Osu resembled Asakusa in certain ways, with a pleasure quarters nearby, lots of entertainment venues, and a plebeian culture (here are some photos of remnants of that atmosphere). Osu also somewhat suffered the fate of Asakusa, which in the postwar lost its place as the entertainment center of Tokyo (if not of Japan) to more upscale neighborhoods like Ginza, Shinjuku and Shibuya. But unlike Asakusa, which still has a number of movie theaters in the Rokku district, there are none left in Osu. I was hoping I could find some small traces of those theaters (like one or two converted into other businesses) like I did in Kyoto's Shinkyogoku, but if there were any, I missed them. (Chitose Gekijo, which was one place where A Page of Madness played, was a little bit north of Osu in Hirokoji, but I didn't have time to go there.) The only trace of that old entertainment center is the Osu Engeijo, which still programs rakugo and other traditional vaudeville. 


Unlike Asakusa, however, which is still trying to find some way (other than tourism) to return to the successful days, Osu impressed me by its vitality. Colleagues have told me that Osu declined in part due to bad city planning, as big avenues were constructed in Nagoya after the war that cut the district off from the flow of people, but it seems that Osu has come back to life in part by catering to more "marginal" crowds that prefer places that are cut off. Essentially, Osu is now home to otaku (with a large electronics store district, it shares elements with Akihabara), youngsters (there are a lot of small hip clothing stores), and foreigners (especially people from Brazil and Asia who work in the local factories). I did go there on a Sunday, however. I wonder what it is like on weekdays.

I also made two finds I would like to report on:

First, I found another good used bookstore (one not listed in our Research Guide to Japanese Film Studies) with lots of film related materials - and which was not that expensive: Kaiseido Shoten, which is right near Kamimaezu Station. 

And second, I saw that there is a small Kitano Shrine there (I tried to pray for the success of my book on Kitano Takeshi, but I think it's too late):


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