Wakaki hi

Silent . Black and White . 103 minutes

Shochiku Kamata Studio

Written By

Fushimi Akira
Yasujiro Ozu


Mohara Hideo
Atsuta Yuharu


Yuji Ichiro (Watanabe Bin)
Saito Tatsuo (Yamamoto Shuichi)
Matsui Junko (Chieko)
Iida Choko (Chieko's Aunt)
Sakamoto Takeshi (Professor)
Okuni Ichiro (Professor Anayama)
Himori Shinichi (Hatamoto)
Ryu Chishu (Student)

Watanabe and Yamamoto are college friends who both fancy a girl called Chieko. One of them announces that there is a room for rent in his living quarters in the hopes of attracting her. The other has afternoon tea with her, but embarrasses himself as he tries to hide the wet paint on his hands. After their year end exam, the boys go to a skiing resort with other classmates and there they run into Chieko. However, it turns out that she's there for a matchmaking meeting with their ski club leader Hatamoto. On their way back to Tokyo, they discover they have flunked.

Thoughts from Ozu
This work is a student comedy with ski scenes. The protagonist squats in a lodging by taking down the "Room to Let" sign. Whenever a prospective tenant comes along, he will put him off with nasty words, or lie about having already rented the place. However, if a pretty girl knocks on the door, he would "sacrifice himself" and let her have the room. Of course, he would leave without his belongings. What better excuse that to keep calling on the lady to pick up this or that. In those days, Fushimi Akira and I were always making up stories like that. Many of my work of that period were collaborations with Fushima. When dusk falls, we would walk around Ginza, drink and have dinner, then talk about our script as we made our way to my home in Fukagawa. Then, we would chat, listen to music and brew some English tea. We'd stay up all night like this, and by the crack of dawn, we'd have the outlines of the story. Somehow, we always managed to come up with a script in one night. Looking back, it really amazes me.


The 8th film, shot from the end of February to the beginning of April, 1929. The original title Memory (Omoide) was changed to Days of Youth (Wakaki hi) before the public release. The young director had improved his skill with several short comedies. This is not only his first long feature but also Ozu's earliest surviving film. The film is set in the northwestern part of Tokyo. The film is a comedy about two students: the smart guy Watanabe and the bungling Yamamoto. Fushimi Akira, one of the most famous comedy writers in the Shochiku-Kamata studio, put many excellent gags in this comedy. In those days, Ozu and Fushimi used to prepare outlines of scenarios when dining out in Ginza and then chatting at Ozu's house in Fukagawa until dawn. The most popular parts of this film are the skiing scenes in the latter half, shot in Akakura in the province of Shinshu. Ozu had learned filmmaking under the director Okubo Tadamoto, who loved skiing and used to take ski vacations every winter. Moreover, since the parents of the cameraman Mohara Hideo ran the Hotel Takadaya in Akakura, Ozu took a ski vacation there every January. The film seems to be an extension of the Kamata studio filmmakers usual amusement. Even Hotel Takadaya appears in the film. In this sense we also enjoy Ozu';s and his crew's joyful days of youth (Ozu was 25 years old). Among the players, Matsui Junko could actually ski. However, Yuki Ichiro, who skies well in the film, was an absolute beginner. Needless to say, the best skier was Mohara. This film shows his skills as a cameraman and as a skier. Skiing was also very popular at Shochiku's rival company Nikkatsu. For the Nikkatsu-Uzuma's studio in Kyoto, Mokudo Shigeru had made the film Frentic Skiing (Suki moshin) two moths before. As a gag in this Nikkatsu film, the names of scenario-writers of Shochiku were used for the names of the characters. As a countermove, the names of scenario writers from the Nikkatsu were quoted in Days of Youth. For instance the name Hatamoto Shuichi (played by Saito Tatsuo) is a mix of Hatamoto Shuichi and Yamamoto Kajiro. There is also a student named Hatamoto in the film (played by Himoto Shinichi). Watanabe Bin (played by Yuki Ichiro) was named after Kisaragi Bin, whose real name was Watanbe Tsuneshige. Koayashi Masashi often used the pseudonym Donki Hotei, therefore one character in the film reads the paperback Don Quixote. And where is the name of Mizoguchi Kenji, the chief of the Nikkatsu writers section at the time? Watch the barber's signboard.

Personal Thoughts and Comments
Days of Youth is the earliest surviving feature film from Ozu (he made seven prior films that have since been lost). It's a remarkable film to watch just to see how Ozu has grown as a filmmaker. His earliest work shares his love and influence of Hollywood comedies and perhaps few films express this more prominently then Days of Youth. Aside from the direct visual references (poster of Seventh Heaven and Claire Bow, or even a character that evokes physical similarities to Harold Lloyd), Days of Youth also shares the spirit of these Hollywood influences (most particularly the light-hearted romantic comedies of Ernst Lubitsch). Of course, Harold Lloyd's influence is evident and Ozu does reveal his early gifts as a visual comedian of sight gags (particularly in the second half of the film at the ski slopes). One of the joys of watching this film is just to observe how Ozu's trademark style and themes had not yet developed in his earliest features. While underneath the surface you can discover some of the roots, this film heavily contrasts his most familiar and memorable masterworks. The opening shots are something you'd never see in Ozu's postwar films, as Days of Youth opens with a circular-motion pan of a series of shots establishing the exterior environment and setting. His trademark "pillow shots" are shown here as point of view shots, and there are far more close-ups, tracking shots, and fades. This film lacks the pure mastery of visual space, composition, and patterns of Ozu's best films, but you can still find some definitive visual motifs (notably a brief shot of a train, and repetitive images of smoke pipes). Above all, Days of Youth is an enjoyable and charming comedy that blends itself as a buddy comedy, a slapstick comedy, and a romantic/love triangle comedy. At the core is a friendship that is shared during "the days of youth". This may be a minor film from Ozu, but it is a wonderful joy to watch both for the entertaining appeal of the film and the earliest surviving work from one of the greatest filmmakers to ever live.

Film Images

"Pillow Shots"
A Clip from Days of Youth