Tokyo no gasshō
Silent . Black and White . 90 minutes

Shochiku Kamata Studio

Written By

Noda Kogo


Mohara Hideo
Atsuta Yuharu


Okada Tokihiko (Okajima Shinji)
Yagumo Emiko (Sugako)
Sugawara Hideo (Son)
Takamine Hideko (Daughter)
Saito Tatsuo (Omura)
Iida Choko (Mrs Omura)
Sakamoto Takeshi (Yamada)
Tani Reiko (Company President)
Miyajima Kenichi (Secretary)
Yamaguchi Isamu (Employee)

Okajima stands up for a mistreated colleague in his insurance firm, and gets fired. Deprived of his year end bonus, he is unable to honor his promise to buy his son a bicycle. When his daughter falls sick he has to pay for the hospital bills by pawning his wife's kimonos. After some setbacks in job-hunting, he runs into an old schoolmaster, who asks him to help at his new curry restaurant. At first reluctant, Okajikma and his wife swallow their pride and work hard. At a reunion of classmates held at the restaurant., Okajima learns that his teacher has found him a job at a girl's school far from Tokyo.

Thoughts from Ozu
I was getting sick of failure, and decided to make a film in a nonchalant mood. Shooting proceeded at the height of summer. It was too hot to shoot outdoor scenes even on sunny days. Since that time, I couldn't figure out what to do to make a good film. What can a director bequeath to posterity? I began to find film meaningless. Now, I feel the other way around. The very fact that films could fade into oblivion is what makes it so enchanting.


The 22nd film, shot from June to August 1931. The credit title indicates the name of Kitamura Komatsu for the original idea. However, Kitamura did not write write or tell the story. Rather, the screenplay used many different situations from several of his noels that were published together in December 1930 under the title Middle Class Avenue (Shoshimin-gai). For example, the hero works in a life insurance company (from The Ambitions of the Office Worker, Yamada/Gekkyutari Yamada-kun no haki), the children are rebellious because they do not get what they want (Doll/Ohina-sama), the daughter of an unemployed father gets sick, and the kimonos have to be taken to the pawnshop (Ayako's Father/Ayako no chichi). The episode of the gymnastics teacher of middle-school who opens a restaurant and distributes handbills for publicity is taken from Ibuse Masui's novel The Teacher and the Advertisment Squad (Sensei no kokokutai). (Although Ibuse is not credited, his name appears in the screenplay, together with Kitamura.). Noda Kogo skillfully integrated these diverse elements into the coherent story. The hero of this film does not live in a boarding house, neither does he live in an apartment, but in a solitary house. He is not single, but has a wife and three children. In other words, he is an office worker living in the suburbs (probably in the center of town). The contrast and tension between the two spaces, "suburb" and "downtown" becomes the main theme of this film. With Pumpkin (Kabocha, 1928) Ozu made his first film about an office worker, followed by The Life of an Office Worker (Kaishain seikatsu, 1929), The Luck Which Touched the Leg/Lost Luck (Ashi ni sawatta koun, 1930), one film each year. Since the farce Pumpkin, the serious elements increased gradually, also due to the collaboration of Noda Kogo since The Life of an Office Worker. Ten years his senior, Noda brought Ozu back to reality when he lingered on jokes and gags. Ozu remembered this production as quite easygoing, made without a shooting script. This seems to be an understatement. Not only did Ozu write an essay on the importance of elaborated continuity at about the same time, but also the minute construction of the scene where the family claps hands seems to be impossible without continuity. The shot of the father, with his child on his back, looking at the fireworks, is one of Ozu's most beautiful shots.

Articles / Essays
Tokyo Chorus : Silent Volume
by Chris Edwards

Personal Thoughts and Comments
Tokyo Chorus is a wonderful introduction of Ozu during the silent era. Thematically you can certainly see that Ozu later built upon what he developed early on here, and stylistically there is clearly a more Hollywood influenced approach. The film is tragic yet deeply hopeful at the same time. One of the key examinations of the film is the contrast between urban and suburban living, but ultimately this is a film of parenthood in it's very essence. The film is remarkably moving particularly in the way Ozu captures (without sentiment) the childrens understanding of their fathers work simply as a means to provide them with food. There are some remarkable images and sequences within this film that are very memorable and Ozu blends his definitive mix of humor and bittersweet sadness. Above all, Tokyo Chorus displays the early depicts of a poetic master.

Film Images

"Pillow Shots"
A clip from Tokyo Chorus
dvd (R1)