Re: Tenkô in Japanese film ?--waga seishun ni kuinashi

Bill Tyler tyler.20
Tue Aug 28 12:40:16 EDT 2007

Tenk? surfaces in Kurosawa's <Waga seishin ni kuinashi> (1946) in  
two, possible three, ways.
For a partial description of the plot of the film, etc. see Donald  
Richie's  <The Films of Akira Kurosawa>.

First, there is the character NOGE played by Fujita Susumu. Although  
the film takes
liberties with some historical facts, Noge is modeled on the
historical figure of Ozaki Hotsumi (not Hidemi)--1901-1944--who was  
active in the left-wing
student movement and was the Shanghai correspondent for the Asahi  
Newspaper, etc.
He became involved with the Comintern spy Richard Sorge and was  
executed for being a Soviet agent in Japan in 1944. It appears that he
he remained faithful to his leftist? anti-establishment? ideals even  
when he worked as a
advisor, especially in his writings on China policy, to the Konoe  
Fumimaro government and then
the Mantetsu ch?sabu.  In that sense, there is no "ideological  
conversion" or "about face" (tenk?) from left-wing
to right in his case. Noge remains true to his student ideals in  
spite of prison and conviction as a traitor.
Ozaki's letters to his wife written during the years he was  
incarcerated (1941-44)
were published after the war as <Aij? wa furu hoshi no gotoku/ Love  
is like a Shower
of Stars> and became a bestseller. An audience in 1946 would have  
quickly identified Noge as
Ozaki--and realized that history was being reinterpreted in the wake  
of Japan's defeat.

Second, there is the character of ITOKAWA played by K?no Aritake. At  
the beginning of
film he is presented as something of a student liberal--a member and  
deshi of Professor Yagihara's (played by
Okochi Denjiro)
progressive circle of students that includes him and his friend Noge.  
Like Noge, he also vies for the affection and possible hand of the
Professor's daughter, Yukie. Yukie eventually chooses to marry Noge,  

As the film progresses, it is made abundantly clear that Itokawa
sells out on his youthful ideals (his mother is presented as the  
nagging voice of "common sense"
and the need to collude with money, power and authority). He pursues  
a career in law and becomes the
prosecutor who is ultimately responsible for Noge's arrest,  
imprisonment and execution.
Itokawa is, then, a clearcut example of tenk? from left-to-right  
(earlier, in the twenties, tenk? referred
initially to conversion from right/neutral-to-left, especially  
Marxism). He is presented in
a most unfavorable light. There is a very powerful scene in which,  
after the
war is over, he goes to visit Yukie--now Noge's widow--and she  
categorically refuses
to accept his apology, or to allow him to apologize to Noge's grave,  
for his self-serving behavior
during the war.

Third, there is the character of Yukie played by Hara Setsuko. She  
also undergoes
a conversion: from being an apolitical oj?-san to a radicalized adult  
woman. She refuses
to capitulate to the police when, as Noge's wife, she is imprisoned  
and interrogated. After Noge's
death, she treasures the memory of her heroic "traitor" and goes to  
live with
her in-laws in the countryside. She ignores the abuse heaped upon her  
them, and determinedly fights back, showing no fear of getting her  
pianist hands dirty. When
the locals ravage the Noge family rice field, she refuses to give in  
and replants it.
The end of the film suggests that, in the postwar
period, she will play an activist role in remaking Japanese society-- 
by staying in
the agrarian section and helping others to develop the kind of modern  
and backbone that she herself has discovered.

Note that the film was made in 1946. Doubtless it reflects Kurosawa's  
ideals, but one is also keenly aware of the presence of the Allied  
Occupation hovering in
the background as advisors or potential censors--as seen in the  
insertion of bold lettered intertitles about freedom having
returned to Japan now that the war is over, etc. The central  
character is Yukie--
the idea of women being the transforming dynamo of Japanese society  
(see the daughter
in Dazai Osamu's <The Setting Sun> , for example) was powerful and  
popular in
the immediate postwar period.

I showed the film to one of my classes this spring, and it was well  
received, although
students chuckled out loud at the intertitles. They saw, I suspect,  
an ironic parallel between
Occupation policy in 1946 of Japan and rhetoric circulating today  
about liberating
and transforming Iraq.

Bill Tyler

On Aug 25, 2007, at 10:03 AM, Mathieu Capel wrote:

> 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

William J. Tyler
Associate Professor, Japanese Language & Literature
Department of East Asian Languages & Literatures
Ohio State University
398 Hagerty Hall
1775 College Drive
Columbus, OH 43210-1340

Telephone (direct) 614-292-3184

tyler.20 at

-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...

More information about the KineJapan mailing list