|

Tokyo’s Kamata area looks to revive its film industry

by

Staff Photographer

Only a 10-minute train ride from Haneda airport, the Kamata district in Ota Ward, Tokyo, has two faces: While known as home to small manufacturers that backed up Japan’s postwar industrial rise, Kamata is also trying to revive a film industry that thrived there before the war.

The warning signal that alerts passengers to train departures at JR Kamata Station is the tune used in the 1982 movie “Kamata Koshinkyoku” (“Fall Guy”). It was also a theme tune of the Kamata film studio owned by Shochiku Kinema, predecessor of Shochiku Co., where the movie was filmed.

A scale model of the film studio belonging to Shochiku, a major kabuki, movie and theater production company, from 1920 to 1936 in the Kamata district in Ota Ward, Tokyo, is on display in the basement exhibition space at Ota Kumin Hall, better known as Aprico Hall.
A scale model of the film studio belonging to Shochiku, a major kabuki, movie and theater production company, from 1920 to 1936 in the Kamata district in Ota Ward, Tokyo, is on display in the basement exhibition space at Ota Kumin Hall, better known as Aprico Hall. | YOSHIAKI MIURA

Opened in 1920, the Kamata studio led the country’s prewar film industry until 1936. While it put many actors and actresses on the road to stardom, the studio is also known for producing Japan’s first domestic “talkie.”

As the area became crowded with small factories, however, the studio eventually was forced out and moved south to Kanagawa Prefecture.

The 18-story Nissay Aromasquare Building stands on the former site of the Shochiku Kinema film studio in the Kamata area in Ota Ward, Tokyo.
The 18-story Nissay Aromasquare Building stands on the former site of the Shochiku Kinema film studio in the Kamata area in Ota Ward, Tokyo. | YOSHIAKI MIURA

Nearly 80 years later, an aspiring director and his staff are planning to produce a movie based on Kamata.

Director Kazuyuki Takahashi, head of nonprofit WUP Film, is producing “Mirai Shutter,” a story about young people who drop off the career ladder but are given a second chance through their encounters with local Kamata people.

Efforts to revive the area’s film industry encountered funding problems, but WUP was able to involve local firms, public authorities, academic institutions and banks.

Many cast members were recruited from the general public through social media tools such as Facebook. It will have around 10 non-Japanese actors and actress.

One of them is Ninoy Kiat, a young Filipino-American actor who has recently started to make a name for himself.

The movie is set for release this spring.

Actors shoot a scene for the upcoming movie
Actors shoot a scene for the upcoming movie ‘Mirai Shutter’ in Ota Ward’s Umeyashiki district on Jan. 22. The movie is being produced by the nonprofit organization WUP Film, which is trying to revitalize the Kamata neighborhood’s once-thriving movie industry. | YOSHIAKI MIURA
The water at Hasunuma Onsen in Ota Ward has a greenish-brown hue and is reputed to make bathers
The water at Hasunuma Onsen in Ota Ward has a greenish-brown hue and is reputed to make bathers’ skin smooth. | YOSHIAKI MIURA
The cast, staff and local supporters of the film
The cast, staff and local supporters of the film ‘Mirai Shutter’ pose for a group photo after a news conference in Roppongi, Tokyo, in January. | YOSHIAKI MIURA

This section, appearing on the first Monday of each month, offers a snapshot view of areas that may interest tourists. This week it’s appearing Wednesday due to production reasons.