After my speedy trip to the U.K., I am now in Japan. The Okinawa conference at Sheffield was great, but it was too bad that Takamine Go wasn't feeling well enough to travel. Tanaka Yasuhiro and I were asked at the last minute to do the Q and A after Untamagiru, but I don't think we embarrassed ourselves. The next day, Mika Ko did a nice talk on the film.
I'm in Japan to do some research, talk to publishers, and file my tax returns. Today I headed down to Immigration in Kannai in Yokohama and decided to check out the former site of the Taisho Katsuei Studio in Motomachi while I was there. When I taught at Yokohama National University, I always took my students on a history tour of the Kannai area (Yokohama history is quite fascinating, I think), and always swung by Motomachi to show them the former site. They had a stone tablet commemorating the site at the base of Motomachi Park below the Foreign Cemetary and near the local pool, but they renovated that area to show off some of the old water sources and the tablet was moved. The last time I went I couldn't find it, so I went again today to look some more. Luckily I found it off to the side on the right, quite far from where it used to be. Here is a map to its current location.
Taisho Katsuei, or Taikatsu for short, was a short lived film studio that was quite important in the transformation of Japanese cinema in the early 1920s. Funded by Asano zaibatsu money (mostly obtained through shipping), it featured Kurihara Thomas, back from working with Thomas Ince in Hollywood, as the main director and the great novelist Tanizaki Jun'ichiro as the script advisor. They made ground breaking films like Amateur Club and trained later film greats like the director Uchida Tomu and actors Okada Tokihiko and Egawa Ureo. Tom LaMarre published an excellent book about Tanizaki's relation to film, Shadows on the Screen, from the same publisher as my Page of Madness book.
On the way back I changed trains at Yokohama Station from the Minato Mirai Line to the Municipal Subway Line. The tunnel between the two lines now features a lot of images from Yokohama's history on the walls, including a picture outside the Odeon-za, one of Yokohama's premier foreign movie houses that was quite important as a fugirikan in the silent era (they still use the term "fukiri" for the opening of a movie, but it comes from the fact that back then they would open up the boxes [fukiri, or break the seal] for movies imported in the main port of Yokohama and show them in Yokohama first). It's nice they had these images, but unfortunately most cities think that to preserve history it is sufficient to put up such murals at the same time they tear down all the old buildings. Yokohama is celebrating the 150th anniversary since it opened up as a port, so there are a lot of events going on--and historical reminders everywhere, even on subway cars (the one I rode back on had all the upholstery in the form of old photos of Yokohama).
Motomachi Park and the Taikatsu tablet on the right.
The kanji for Taisho Katsuei is visible on the right.
The subway mural and the Odeon-za.