Tough question for Japanese film experts.

Roland Domenig roland.domenig
Mon Nov 19 17:25:33 EST 2001

Kimura's KARAYUKISAN was co-produced by P.C.L. and Irie Productions, the
production company of Irie Takako, who also played the leading role of a
mother who returns to her hometown after several years in South East Asia as
karayukisan. The film opened on March 11, 1937 at the Nippon Gekijo in
Tokyo. The National Film Center in Tokyo has a copy of the film.

Kimura Sotoji was born in 1903, the same year as Ozu, but other than Ozu he
is today almost completely forgotten. This is a shame because he had a very
interesting and rather unusual career. He was born in Tokyo as one of 30
children (he was the 12th son, therefore the 12 in his name) of the owner of
the Iroha, a famous beef restaurant, then still a novelty. After graduating
from Keio Gijuku University he joined the literary group "Atarashii mura"
and wanted to become a writer and composer. Due to an ear ailment he had to
drop this plan, however, and went to Osaka where he worked for Toho, a small
film production company, as calligrapher for film titles. In 1926 he joined
the Bantsuma Tachibana Universal film production as assistant director. When
the company went bankrupt the following year he briefly went back to Tokyo
to work for Kawai Eiga, but returned again to Osaka to join Teikine. There
he worked as assistant director for Suzuki Shigeyoshi who had a lasting
influence on him. In 1930 he made his debut as director, but his first film
was never released because it was lost during a fire at the studio shortly
after it was finished. His first movies belonged to the genre of so-called
keiko eiga or leftist films. When Teikine faced financial troubles Kimura
left and joined Shinko, where he got involved in a labour strike that cost
him his work. He was fired and went back to Tokyo where he found a new
employment with the newly established P.C.L., a production company
specialised in sound film that was later incorporated into Toho. At P.C.L.
Kimura first directed several musical comedies, but soon made himself a name
as so-called shakaiha-director with films about social problems (like for
instance Karayukisan). In 1941 he was invited by Amakasu Masahiko, the head
of the Manchurian Film Cooperative (Manei), to come to Xinjing to build up a
Manchurian Film University. Due to financial difficulties the plan was never
realized, however, and Kimura ended up as teacher for film directing at the
Manei studios. 
After the war ended, he did not return to Japan but, like Uchida Tomu,
stayed on in China, where he made a living as painter for posters and
portraits. In 1953 he finally returned to Japan and in 1956 he was back in
the film business, directing now mainly short films for children but also
some feature films, mostly with pacifistic themes. In 1972 he left the film
business. Thereafter he regularly organised film programs for children and
devoted his time to private studies. Kimura Sotoji died in 1988.

For students who are still looking for a research topic, I think that Kimura
Sotoji is a very rewarding theme.

Roland Domenig
Institute of East Asian Studies
Vienna University  


> This should sort the sheep out from the goats

> I was just glancing through Stephen Cremin's admirable opus on Japanese film
> in the BFI library when I stumbled across a reference for a 1937 film
> entitled KARAYUKI-SAN directed by Sotoji KIMURA. The closest I have got to
> finding anything about this film is a brief note in Anderson and Richie's
> JAPANESE FILM: ART AND INDUSTRY about the director called for a strike at
> the new company of Shinko. Apparently "the striking group was waylaid by a
> group of gangsters and blood flowed", Kimura and most of the others withdrew
> permanently , leaving behind a number of unfinished pictures".
> This is all the information I have on either film or director. Was this one
> of the unfinished pictures perhaps? Does it exist? Has anyone seen it? Does
> anyone know anything about the film at all? I doubt it is some sort of
> Imamura-style expose on the subject, given the time it was made, but any
> information at all would be gratefully appreciated.
> Thanks a lot,
> Jasper Sharp
> Midnight Eye
> _________________________________________________________________
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