boyhood sublimations/ Japanese trainspotters

Michael Raine mjraine
Fri Sep 12 14:08:52 EDT 2008

Jonathan, how could you jump on the bus and not mention Hideko no shashosan?
A lovely film with a setting very much like the one discussed in the
article. Densha ni norikaereba . Kurosawa's High and Low will probably be
mentioned by a bunch of people before I get today's digest. And Shinkansen
daibakuha is ALL about trains . in fact, are there any Japanese films
without trains in them? It's like looking for a prewar film without a sick
child under a "retoruto" or a drunk scene. like prewar playboy Saito Tatsuo
reduced to playing a drunken soldier swaying on a train in Hisshoka. 




Michael Raine

Assistant Professor in Japanese Cinema

The University of Chicago

mjraine at


From: Jonathan M Hall [mailto:jmhall at] 
Sent: Thursday, September 11, 2008 9:37 PM
To: KineJapan
Subject: Re: boyhood sublimations/ Japanese trainspotters


Brian, prompting this kind of imagination is unforgivable because there is
no station at which to arrive: forgive me, but it's in-terminal-able!
Now, having jumped through the obvious truck-yaro films, I'm thinking about
bus films--and, my!!, there have been some great ones:  (Yume no ginga,
again Ishii Sogo, Aoyama Shinji's Eureka, Yamda Yoji's The Yellow
Handkerchief of Happiness--- should Takakura Ken "stay on the bus, forget
about us ..."   Car films ...  films with pedal boats ... scooter films ...
(Obitani's Stupid Gencahri Girl series must figure somewhere....) Roller
Coasters ... (Janken Musume?  Family Game ...)  But where does this take us?
Is there a moratorium in sight? I swear off my imagination.








On 11 Sep 2008, at 19:14, Jonathan M Hall wrote:

Trains and train stations in Japanese films?  I can't believe the question
is straightforward.  Is  Brian trying to seduce us into watching Otomo's
Steamboy (sigh!) or perhaps inaugurate the longest-running thread in
KineJapan's dear history?  (Asking us about which Japanese films figure
Japanese characters would have been just too obvious ... okay, I'm
exaggerating here.)   But then again, it's such a fun question for another
one like me who grew up with a freight train running right down the main
street of my small American hometown twice a day.  (It was fun to watch
during the daytime--and at night, as a little boy, I'd listen wistfully,
awfully--as in awe-filled--from my bed to the rumble that shook our little
city. )


Well, here are some of my favorites:


Wartime Train: Sanshiro Sugata's final scene--Sugata's subordination to
moral order is matched by his containment within a train---and doesn't he
even remove a piece of soot from his beloved's eye ... (now this was one
year before David Lean's Brief Encounter---or am I confusing it with another


Postwar Golden Trains:  Nakahira's great shots of the train station and
platform and kiosks in Crazed Fruit  and Kurosawa's High and Low (that
incredible action scene) and Dodeskaden (the phantasy trains that we never
see, almost the inverse of Kinugasa's trains that we do)  are  beaten by the
beautiful sentimentality of Noriko, Tomi's watch, and Kyoko's view of the
train as it leaves Onomichi in Tokyo Story.   


New Wave Trains: Violence at Noon gives us all kinds of trains: from the
shinkansen--even fear of a murderer on a train--to the wild pans on a more
local train as Shino and Matsuko (Koyama Akiko) head to a failed


Or how about the tunnel with no train ... in Kawase's Moe no Suzaku ...
train as transport to a differently gendered world in Summer Vacation 1999


But now I've fallen for the question ... I must wrest my mind back.    I
look forward to other's responses.


Jonathan M Hall

UC Irvine








On 11 Sep 2008, at 18:27, Brian Ruh wrote:

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!







Brian's Essential Reading:








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