Japanese train films

Peter Grilli grilli at us-japan.org
Fri Sep 12 02:57:16 EDT 2008

One of the alltime greatest train sequences in the history of movies is the ransom-money drop from the Shinkansen in Kurosawa's  Tengoku to Jigoku  ("High & Low" ).

For a station scene, I love the tense scene near the end of Kurosawa's Nora Inu ("Stray Dog"), in which detective Mifune Toshiro suspiciously eyes all the people in the waiting room of a little suburban station, desperately trying to identify which one is the killer.

There are so many trains in Japanese movies one doesn't know where to begin.  Others have already mentioned many train scenes.
One rarely seen film that is full of trains is  Tooi ippon no michi  ("The Far Road") -- actress Hidari Sachiko's 1977 debut film as a director in a narrative about a stationmaster's family.
Speaking of Hidari, I recall train scenes in her 1955 film for Tasaka Tomotaka Jochukko ("The Maid's Kid")

And then there's Ichikawa's 1957 Mannin Densha  ("A Full-Up Train") and the unforgettable train scene at the beginning of the various different film versions of Kawabata Yasunari's novel Yukiguni ("Snow Country"), and the long journey in Yamada Yoji's Kazoku ("Family").
Just about every Japanese film with the word "furusato" (hometown) in the title has a train journey in it and a nostalgic journey home.

Some other memorable Japanese train stations appear in Imamura Shohei's 1955 Nishi-Ginza Eki-mae  ("In Front of Nishiginza Station") and Toyoda Shiro's 1955 Mugi-bue ("Grass Whistle") 
Not exactly a station, but the final scenes of Shinoda Masahiro's beautiful 1977 film Hanare-goze Orin ("Banished Orin" or "Melody in Gray") show railroad track being laid in a steep mountain pass  (and I also recall several trains-in-the landscape scenes in that film as Orin travels through Tsuruga and Ura-Nippon.
There's also a powerful train scene at the end of Kobayashi's great (but rarely seen) 1968 film Nihon no seishun  ("Youth of Japan" or  "Diary of a Tired Man").

One odd sequence involving train stations is the party scene in Kurosawa's 1993 film Maada-dayo ("Not Yet"), at which a drunken partygoer takes it upon himself to recite the names of every train station on the main train line from the north of Hokkaido to the very south of Kagoshima.
And don't forget Kurosawa's script Runaway Train, which was finally made into a movie of the same name in 1985, directed by Andrei Konchalovsky and starring Jon Voight.

It's hard to know where to stop listing train scenes in Japanese films.  There are many, many, many more.....!

Peter Grilli

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Brian Ruh" <brianruh at yahoo.com>
To: "KineJapan" <kinejapan at lists.acs.ohio-state.edu>
Sent: Thursday, September 11, 2008 9:27 PM
Subject: Japanese train films

> Since reading this article [1] in the Japan Times, I've been thinking about Japanese trains. (I love things like subway cars and trains. I think it stems from growing up in a place where there wasn't anything like that.) Can anyone recommend any good Japanese films that prominently feature trains, stations, etc.? (When I try a Google search on the subject, I'm inundated with results for Densha Otoko.)
> Any time period or genre would be great. (I particularly like the train scenes in Shinkai Makoto's "5 Centimeters Per Second" even though they're animated.) Thanks in advance!
> [1] http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20080909jk.html
> Best,
> Brian
> Brian's Essential Reading:     
> http://www.oshiibook.com
> -- 
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