Tokyo monogatari

Black and White . 144 minutes

Shochiku Ofuna Studio

Written By

Ozu Yasujiro
Noda Kogo


Atsuta Yuharu

Music By

Satio Kojun


Ryu Chishu (Hirayama Shukichi)
Higashiyama Chieko (Tomi)
Hara Setsuko (Noriko)
Sugimura Haruko (Kaneko Shige)
Nakamura Nobuo (Kaneko)
Yamamura So (Koichi)
Mijake Kuniko (Ayako)
Kagawa Kyoko (Kyoko)
Tono Eijiro (Numata Sanpei)
Osaka Shiro (Keizo)
Murase Zen (Minoru)
Mori Mitsuhiro (Isamu)


The elderly Hirayama Shukichi and his wife Tomi leave Onomichi to visit their children in Tokyo. Their son Koichi and his wife soon tire of them and send them to stay with their daughter Shige. Shige packs them off to a hot spring in Atami. However, the resort is full of boisterous guests and the Hirayamas cannot relax. So they return to Tokyo to find somewhere to spend the night. The only person who shows them kindness and hospitality is their daughter-in-law Noriko, whose husband (their son) has gone missing during the war. On their way back, Tomi falls ill and shortly after they return to Onomichi, she passes away.

Thoughts from Ozu
I tried to represent the collapse of the Japanese family system through showing children growing up. The melodramatic element in Tokyo Story is one of the strongest in my works.

he 46th film, shot from July to October 1953. Many titles of Ozu's films include the word "Tokyo", or intended to do so. All these films are based on an original screenplay, proving Ozu's extraordinary attachment to his native city, which no other director had. The plot is said to be taken from Leo McCarey's Make Way For Tomorrow (1937), that Noda had seen before the war. However, Ozu did not see it, and at the utmost, it was a hint. It seems possible that Ozu and Noda had remodeled a scenario they wanted to do before The Flavor of Green Tea Over Rice, which deals with a mother and her five children, set in the countryside. The children (the eldest son and his family, the eldest daughter and her husband, and the widow of the second son, who dies in the war) live in Tokyo, but their respective living surroundings do not have a special meaning. The son's clinic, the daughter's hairdressing salon have the atmosphere of the eastern parts and the outskirts of Tokyo, of shitamachi, but this is rather a dramaturgical figure. Also Onomichi (where the parents live) could be anywhere. The only condition for the formation of the story is being outside Tokyo. This relation between parents (countryside) and children (Tokyo) repeats the pattern of The Only Son. Moreover, the film carefully depicts the characters and the surroundings of many people, and has a strong persuasive power. This film is often regarded as the final settlement of all accounts of the Tokyo of Ozu Yasujiro, suitable to its title, and considered as Ozu's most representative work. As in The Only Son, the parents of Tokyo Story are not satisfied with their children's Tokyo. However, the dramatic tension and the confrontation between mother and son in The Only Son sink into the interior. They are softened by resignation and tolerance, and are confirmed and accepted. This change from seeking, to a conscious attitude, is probably due to the fact that Ozu had changed his point of view from the children's one to the parents' one, achieving maturity and harmony with the world, according to his own age. Ozu depicted the feast in his film as a transition of time. Of course, Ozu understands the meaning of the feast as change, that is, as transience. The morning after the loss of his wife, the old father Shukichi says: "That was a beautiful daybreak today," and "Today is going to be hot again." These lines were often discussed and interrupted. However, they should rather be considered as stock expressions.

Articles / Essays
Tokyo Story : Noriko's Smile
by site contributor Doron B. Cohen (Kyoto)

Tokyo Story
by David Bordwell (Criterion)
Tokyo Story : Masterclass video
with Mamoun Hassan (BFI)

Personal Thoughts and Comments
Widely considered among the greatest films in the history of Japanese cinema, Ozu's 1953 Tokyo Story stands as a true masterpiece of filmmaking. Tokyo Story is a reflective film about morals, selfishness, and youth's treatment (or mistreatment) of the elderly. But it's also a deeply moving love story, while never being manipulative or over-sentimental as Ozu achieves the most moving emotions through his trademark simplistic style. The film's final moments and images represent the power of love, and the need for human connection in a way that is unforgettably sad - captured through Ozu's masterful cinematic language and of course Setsuko Hara's stunning performance. Every single shot is beautifully and expressively composed and Tokyo Story may feature Ozu's most prominent use of his defining "pillow shots". At the core this is a film of the inevitability of lifes progression. This is expressed in both the changes of a postwar Japanese society and more specifically of the family. By presenting these daily life cycles and changes through generations of a family, Ozu has created a film that is widely universal. Ultimately the film poetically captures this in the end as the family has been destroyed and we come back full circle to where it began. Tokyo Story is one of the most moving films ever made. It understandings and complexities of human emotion and behavior is flawless and under the minimalist direction of Ozu's style as well as the superb performances by his cast, Tokyo Story emerges as one of the truly great film achievements in the history of world cinema. A classic film to cherish and to revisit.

Film Images

"Pillow Shots"
A clip from Tokyo Story
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