Re: Tenkô in Japanese film ?

Alex Bates alebates
Sun Aug 26 09:10:08 EDT 2007

Many consider Endo Shusaku's Chinmoku (Silence) as an allegory of 
prewar tenko.  There is a film version: Chinmoku (1971) by Shinoda 
Masahiro and talk that Martin Scorsese has another one in the works.
Chinmoku is about a priest who renounces his religion under pressure 
from the Tokugawa government in the 1600's.

Alex Bates
Assistant Professor
East Asian Studies
Dickinson College
Carlisle, PA 17013

On Aug 25, 2007, at 4:07 PM, Michael McCaskey wrote:

> Dear Mathieu,
> Exactly so. As Prof. Tsurumi explained it, and from what I learned 
> elsewhere, Japanese suspected of being "leftist" or "radical" would be 
> arrested, and usually kept in a holding cell inside a police 
> station--sometimes for a very long period. The police would often 
> start with verbal bullying, and then become more and more violent over 
> time if the person didn't give in.
> They might start off by telling the person how his "crime" was a shame 
> to his family and neighbors. In the case of Kobayashi Takiji, they 
> ended up beating him to death--though maybe that's what they'd planned 
> anyway. In the case of Miyamoto Kenji, detained from 1933-1945, they 
> abused and beat him on and off, trying to get him to confess to the 
> murder of a police spy. He never confessed, and they were legalistic 
> enough not to simply murder him,
> In many cases, I think, people detained in more routine ways would 
> give in, and become pro-fascist and pro-militarist. Some writers and 
> artists switched to creating pro-Japanese war propaganda. After the 
> war, many of them simply switched over to supporting the postwar 
> authorities.
> It may be that in his film Kurosawa's hero was a sort of synthesis of 
> Kobayashi Takiji and Miyamoto Kenji. Kurosawa always seems to have 
> thought of himself as a leftist.
> This Waga seishun ni kuinashi film has reminded me of Roberto 
> Rossellini and the making of Roma, citt? aperta/Open City (1945). 
> Rossellini and the cast switched very quickly from making films for 
> the Mussollini Regime to making extremely anti-Fascist 
> films--Rossellini maintained this postwar political stance for much of 
> the rest of his life.
> Kurosawa and the Waga seishun cast had just recently been making war 
> propaganda films (some of good quality), and as in Italy, switched 
> rapidly over to the left, when there were no longer political police 
> to lock them up. But the postwar developments in Japan were different 
> from Italy, and many people stopped making leftist films in Japan by 
> 1950, or even sooner, under pressure from the postwar authorities. 
> (For more information, see the book "Mr. Smith Goes To Tokyo," by 
> Hirano Kyoko--Jasper Sharp did a fine review of it.)
> It seems to me that someone could write a very interesting study 
> comparing the film  industries in Japan and Italy ca. 1930-1950.
> Please feel most free to disagree.
> Best Wishes,
> Michael McCaskey
> Georgetown Univ.
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: Mathieu Capel <mathieucapel at>
> Date: Saturday, August 25, 2007 10:03 am
> Subject: Re: Tenk? in Japanese film ?
>> Yes Michael you're right, tenk? in Kurosawa's Waga seishun ni kuinashi
>> is some kinda of "fake" : Susumu Fujita's character dies anyway in
>> jail - but does not this character seem to be designed from this
>> question of tenk? ? By the way, Okochi Denjir?'s character may be
>> considered as an example of tenk? - but his tenk? is slightly depicted
>> (but anyway, to be depicted as something quite natural, or "normal",
>> is something which theoritically matches the idea of tenk?, isn't it
>> ?).
>> Mathieu Capel
>> Paris

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