Japanese train films

M Arnold ma_iku
Sun Sep 14 21:28:14 EDT 2008

You might also want to look at some of the 1950s and 60s Toho train films
like Tokkyu Nippon (1961) with Frankie Sakai or the long-running Ekimae
series (1958-?), starring Sakai and Morishige Hisaya. Wakamatsu Koji's Riyu
naki boko has a train scene with a hilarious Takakura Ken joke (inspired by
the Abashiri bangaichi series). Another Ken-san train movie is Furuhata
Yasuo's Eki/Station from 1981. I also think Terayama's Den'en ni shisu and
Suzuki's Zigeunerweisen have train scenes. There really are too many to
mention, but it is an interesting question.

Out of curiosity I did a search for "densha" on the jmdb and the first ten
hits at least were all people and facilities related to pink film--editor
Sakai Masatsugu, the pink dubbing studio Cine Cabin, directors Ikejima
Yutaka and Fukamachi Akira, etc. As Jasper mentioned, the pink film industry
has its own series of train movies that is still going strong. In fact if
you want to look for a 'genre' of train movies (fiction films at least) this
is probably the place to start.

Out of the pink films I've seen recently, one of the more memorable titles
is Chikan densha: yuwaku no yogarigoe, a 2003 OP film directed by Ikejima
that opens with a ridiculous song and dance number. I actually sat through
the whole triple feature to watch this one a second time because the slick
continuity nearly had me believing that the actors were groping each other
on real trains.

Another one that sticks out is (hope I'm getting this right) Chikan densha:
hikai itazura yubiwaza, a 2006 OP film by Moriyama Shigeo, a younger
director who served as Ikejima's chief AD on the above film. This one is a
silly love story with a subplot about an incompetent young radical who's
trying to figure out how to make a bomb. Not a work of art, but with
Moriyama's typical comedic touch it's not hard to watch. Too bad it wasn't
released to theaters with the original script title--"Chikan densha

There are a ton of these chikan densha films, but it is possible to see some
of them through online services like DMM Adult (http://www.dmm.co.jp/) and
the occasional DVD release. Several of Shintoho's old chikan densha films
(directed by Hamano Sachi, Watanabe Mototsugu, and others) were also
released on DVD a couple of years ago from GP Museum in the Shintoho pinku
kessakusen series for about 1,300 yen each.

It's interesting to see this question pop up on KineJapan now because I've
been doing research on train movies too, although a very different kind. Any
time you go to a major video store in Tokyo and look near the documentary or
special interest sections, you'll find rows of DVDs with pictures of trains
on the front and titles like "Untenshitsu tenbo," "Nihon no tetsudo," "Nihon
no tokkyu," "Hi-vision ressha dori," and so on. In Japan there are scores
(if not hundreds) of DVDs available that will give you a conductor's seat
view of different train rides from all across the country; local and
express, urban and rural, exotic and boring. Of course the 'phantom ride'
stretches back to the very early years of film exhibition, but now you can
finish a whole two-hour ride in color without any cuts as you listen to the
conductor announce the stations along the way. There are also similar kinds
of video games in Japan, eg Densha de GO!

A couple of months ago I went out for drinks with some of the staff and cast
from Chikan densha daibakuha. I brought one of the train ride DVDs with me
(an express going into Shinjuku--a line I used to ride as an exchange
student years ago) and played it on the bar's TV to see what they would
think. At first they gave me a hard time and kept teasing me for being a
"tetchan," but after a few stops they couldn't take their eyes off it. For
70 minutes all we talked about was what station we would pass next, whether
or not the 11 a.m. express would stop at X or Y, what restaurants and shops
we knew around the different stations, and so on.

Michael Arnold 

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