Review of Tokyo Story (1953)

Moving picture, 136 minutes

Ozu Yasujirō (director).

An old couple in Onomichi, a small city near Hiroshima, travel to Tokyo to see their children, who are all grown up. One son died in WW2, but oddly enough, his widow is kinder to the elderly visitors than their own offspring. The grandchildren are rude and the adults all work full-time jobs in an economy that’s just been revitalized by the Korean War, so nobody spends much time with the grandparents. They speak softly but don’t seem very amused by the faceless expanse of the rebuilt capital. Good intentions fail to bloom. Profound statements fail to be uttered. Something happens on the way back to Onomichi.

A naturalistic examination of timeless human relationships. Its messages and methods may seem simple and outdated, but this is possibly the greatest case ever of a filmic sum being greater than its parts.

I took a common shinkansen from Hiroshima to Tokyo in 2004. It has become a 6-hour trip, as opposed to almost a full day’s journey. Ozu’s many shots of “irrelevant” scenic details are excellent as a basis for comparison with the present.

References here: The Only Son (1936), Whisper of the Heart (1995), Kamichu (2005), Still Walking (2008).

moving picture Japanese production fiction