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A director for the Shochiku studio since 1961, Yoji Yamada is best known for the Tora-san series about a wandering peddler, played by Kiyoshi Atsumi, who is forever falling in love but never gets the girl. In speaking about the 48 installments of this popular series, which started in 1969 and ended with Atsumi’s death in 1996, Yamada often compared himself with a cook trying to make a good bowl of noodle soup every time — a motivation that kept him from tiring of his repetitive labors.

This was similar to the way another Shochiku stalwart, Yasujiro Ozu, often described himself as a tofu maker who only knows how to make one thing well — in his case family dramas, one of which, 1953’s “Tokyo Monogatari (Tokyo Story),” was named the all-time best film in “Sight & Sound” magazine’s 2012 directors’ poll.

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