Kinetophone in Japan?

Roland Domenig roland.domenig
Mon Jan 18 08:52:51 EST 1999

David Hopkins asked:

>Subject: Kinetophone in Japan?
>Date: Sat, 16 Jan 1999 09:29:03 +0900
>From: David Hopkins <hopkat at>
>Reply-To: KineJapan at
>To: "'KineJapan at'" <KineJapan at>

> On another list, one devoted to collectors of old recordings, there was a
> posting today which said that in 1916, Edison sold the Kinetophone to a
> Japanese financier for $50K, and asked if there was any production which
> resulted directly from the deal, or any artifacts of such production.
> Is this true?
> Were any sound-synched films made?
> David Hopkins

Tanaka Junichiro briefly mentions in Vol 1 of his Nihon eiga hattatsushi
(pp210-213) the Kinetophone.
According to Tanaka the rights for the Kinetophone were bought in 1913
by a man called Hizuka Ryu, who in the same year established with a
capital of 250.000 Yen the Japan Kinetophone Corporation (Nihon
kinetohon kabushikigaisha) in Kojimachi/Tokyo. He built a small studio
near Hibiya Park and hired Okabe Yoshiro, who has been working for the
Edison Company in America, as technician. The first public presentation
of the Kinetophone took place on December 6, 1913 at the Imperial
Theatre (Teikoku gekijo) with nine films made in America by the Edison
Company, among them  an explanation of the Kinetophone by Edison himself
and a Japanese, a  comedy-play and a chorus-piece, the German national
anthem, the ouverture of Carmen, an operetta and a "cakewalk" performed
by african american dancers.
Following that the Japan Kinetophone Company organised screenings at
several theatres in Tokyo and Yokohama. In April 1914 it took over a
small theatre in Asakusa, the Nihonza, where from early April on the
Kinetophone was shown on a regular base. Between July 12 and July 20,
1914 the first seven Japanese Kinetophone productions were made: three
nagauta-plays (Wakamidori Suehirogari, Rokutamagawa and a Lovesong in
the Hamamatsu-style), the joruri-play Honcho Nijushiko, a Chushingura
parody, a comical Sumiyoshiodori, and the kodan Honami Koetsu. 
The biggest success of the Japanese Kinetophone Company was Katyusha's
song from Tolstoi's Resurrection, which was released on August 1st, 1914
at the Nihon-za, performed by Matsui Sumako, the female top-star of
Shimamura Hogetsu's Geijutsuza. (Sumakos recording of Nakayama Shunpei's
Katyusha-song was also the first bestselling record in Japan). 
Despite the success of "Katyusha's song", the Japan Kinetophone Company
encountered many difficulties, mainly due to the poor technical
equipement, difficulties in finding contractors and a bad distribution.
The financial situation got worse and in Spring 1917 the Japan
Kinetophone Company finally had to give up and dissolved. 

Hope this helps,

Roland Domenig

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