Hideko the Bus Conductor

faith faithbach at yahoo.co.jp
Tue Mar 1 23:32:27 EST 2011

Yes, Russell does make many mistakes with storylines, and is deficient in knowledge of contemporary culture.  It is too bad there is not more on Naruse.  How about it, Maria Jose?.....  FB   

--- On Mon, 2011/2/28, Maria Jose Gonzalez <tkarsavina at yahoo.com> wrote:

Thanks to the wonders of (lowers voice) youtube,I have just watched Hideko in four installments.
It is rather shocking to read -and I had to check the book- that Russell says that Hideko and Sonoda have saved the company when clearly the boss has just sold everything.
To further increase the irony of the situation,the film ends with a lonely bus heading forward in an empty landscape.It is not the first time I read wrong versions of a plot (Audie Bock comes to mind).
Regarding the carrot,it might well be Julien Duvivier's "Poil de carotte" titled simply "Ninjin" in Japan (a remake of another from 1925).It is quite likely that Naruse admired Duvivier,as many other film directors did/do.Who knows!
Both carrots and "gobo" (burdock root) are tubers but there is an expression relative to "pulling gobo" when you want to remove somebody who is sitting down and it makes sense Hideko uses this to refer to the driver.
A very interesting moment in the film is when the school girls sing one of the songs appearing in "Shirobara Sakedo".This recycling of songs in interwar films,even when they're separated by a number of years,is certainly very attractive and connects films and stories.
That in 1941 a bunch of girls sing this very modern song from a very "modan" film couldn't be further apart from the Japanese nationalism raiding the capital which seems a very distant world.I also beg to differ with Russell when she says that it is clear in the film that Japan is at war...Just a look at the clothing reveals the opposite.And when she mentions Hideko's single woman attire,she omits the fact that we don't see a single mompei,that there are women in yukata (Takamine herself and the woman at the ryokan who,by the way,adds a very subtle touch of sensuality with her slight movements),that the radio serves not to communicate war bulletins or news from Manchuria but to learn proper standard Japanese and listen to a tour of the capital.
A lazy boss who seems to be corrupt,two faithful workers,a farming mother to whom Takamine brings a kimono as a present-if I remember correctly-,the usual travellers in otherwise quiet settings.To an audience at war,this must have felt like a much needed respite and some or many were probably able to read a little more into Naruse's indirect remarks.

--- On Mon, 28/2/11, Maria Jose Gonzalez <tkarsavina at yahoo.com> wrote:

From: Maria Jose Gonzalez <tkarsavina at yahoo.com>
Subject: Re: Hideko the Bus Conductor
To: KineJapan at lists.acs.ohio-state.edu
Date: Monday, 28 February, 2011, 1:28 PM

Oh! What a fascinating train (or should I say bus) of thought!
I don't have much time to elaborate on this now but a quick search confirms that "O-koma-san",the story on which Naruse's Hideko is based,was published in 1941.
However,I was leafing through Volume 7 of Ibuse's "Collected Works" (in my possession because of Arigato-san) and I found a short story titled "Tosa Bus",in which he talks about a conductress,dating from 1939.
Moreover,in this story the narrator tells about how he has often been scolded by both driver and conductress on many occasions.On one of them,the writer asks the driver to stop along the way in a place with no bus stop (a regular practice all the same).
However,the driver gets very angry at him and says:
"You fool (the original is "Aho"),haven't you heard about the gasoline restrictions?
 If you want to get off here,wait until the next stop and then walk.
And if it is a pee you want,put up with it!".

The story then describes the nice conductress and how she talks to the passengers and marvelling on the landscape.
I don't have the "Okosama" story on which supposedly Hideko is based but Tosa Bus is certainly its origin.It refers as well to a rural area .
Another interesting aspect of having a film about buses at this time can be linked to one of Japan's most popular slogans in 1940 and relative to the "Shin Taisei Undo" (New Structure Movement) which was pushing Japan towards militarism through an intellectual base.
The slogan,listed as one of the most popular phrases of that year,was "Basu ni nori okure na!" (Do not miss the bus!") where the bus stands for Germany,demanding that "Japan seize this momentum and enact the Tripartite Act with Germany and Italy" (Kazuo Yagami's "Konoe Fumitaro and the failure of peace in Japan").
Naruse's audience was thus very much aware of the imagery a bus could conjure up so yes,this idyllic rural comedy could have been transgressing ideas of national policy in the form of a much needed comedy with Deko-chan,the girl of the moment,at a time when Japan was getting deep into the war.At this point,we have a myriad of interpretation possibilities opening before us...
A bus going nowhere?
Ways to save a bus?
Competition between buses?
And if we compare this bus with Shimizu's,we have a topic for a dissertation.
There's loads more but no time now.

Maria-Jose Gonzalez

--- On Mon, 28/2/11, Roger Macy <macyroger at yahoo.co.uk> wrote:

From: Roger Macy <macyroger at yahoo.co.uk>
Subject: Hideko the Bus Conductor
To: "KineJapan" <KineJapan at lists.acs.ohio-state.edu>
Date: Monday, 28 February, 2011, 10:19 AM

Dear Kinejapaners, 
I wonder if some of you could help me understand a few things about Naruse's 1941 film, Hideko  no sashō-san .  Actually, the reason I had ferreted out a copy of this film was something I came across in Asia magazine ('the journal of the American Asiatic Society') for August 1940 by Stafford Cripps (p399-401). [He was a Labour ex-minister, would soon be appointed by Churchill as ambassador to Moscow and was later Chancellor of the Exchequer.  He had just visited China and Japan] :-
"The lack of gasoline supplies was obvious in the buses converted to use water-gas and the almost complete absence of private cars on the streets.  While I was in Tokyo a committee of the Diet was discussing the breakdown of rural bus transport and the appropriate Minister solemnly explained to them that this was really a blessing in disguise, since the Japanese were tending to become lazy and it would do them good to walk instead of travelling in buses !"
It made me wonder whether the Takamine/ Naruse film, made immediately after this, was quite the innocent rural idyll that I had read about.  It certainly didn't matter for my Takamine obit. for The Independent, which was long filed - it appeared this week, tinkered, and all eleven words about her war-time filmography were cut. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/obituaries/hideko-takamine-japanese-actress-whose-film-career-spanned-half-a-century-2221668.html  So this is just for anyone who's interested.
In this deeply rural location, there's a shortage of passengers but not of fuel.  Neither bus that we see, has been converted, and one bus overtakes its rival to get to the customers first.  No-one, except the industrious Deko-chan has to walk anywhere.  But is this supposed to be in the now?   Unless Cripps and the Transport Minister made it all up, isn't this referring to a 'then'?  I think the script carefully hedges its bets here - although if anyone could unpack this sentence of Audie Bock (undated Film Center 'Naruse' Catalog), I'd appreciate it: "The story is of course largely autobiographical on the part of Ibuse" [Ibuse Masuji].  I presume she means the part of the writer, Ikawa, in the story.  But had Ibuse already published this story ?
Catherine Russell is helpful and insightful as ever, particularly about Takamine's persona in the closing shots.  But Catherine reads the film's end, as others do, as "Okoma and Sonoda have triumphed over their indolent, corrupt boss to save the company".  I thought - but the disc I obtained is terrible, so I would be happy to be corrected - that we had just previously cut back to the office and learnt that the boss had sold the bus, sacked the staff and was closing the office tomorrow.   We could hope that the new owner might judge that Deko-chan had more mileage in her than that bone-shaker of a bus and include her in the deal, but we shouldn't count on it.  Which would make the pure optimism of the closing shot not only poignant  but religious, a point that Catherine observes about these wartime films a little earlier.
And my final question - In the scene just before this, Deko-chan is teasing her driver-colleague, that the departed writer, Ikawa, had likened him to a 'ninjin' in a French film.  One could argue that reference to a French film in late 1941 was also referring back to a previous period.  But what French film is this with a carrot - oriental or occidental ?
Any suggestions or corrections appreciated,

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