The jidaigeki (samurai period drama) genre, whose films and TV series featuring sword-swinging samurai once dominated popular culture here, has long since fallen on hard times. In contrast to its 1950s peak, when jidaigeki accounted for nearly half the films in theaters, the genre has become something of a niche product, made mainly by older directors for the "silver seat" set.

Hoping to reverse this downward spiral, Google Japan and Toei have joined forces to give young auteurs a chance to make jidaigeki using a pop-up two-room studio in Roppongi Hills, with veteran staff from Toei's Kyoto Studio providing support with everything from the casting of extras to costuming and lighting. The resulting videos will be uploaded to Google-owned YouTube. The intent of this project, which runs until the end of May, is to get more YouTube video creators excited about jidaigeki and, hopefully, supply more employment to the Kyoto Studio veterans, whose skills are in danger of being lost as demand for them dwindles.

The true glory days of the Kyoto Studio — once a jidaigeki hotbed — can be glimpsed at screenings of 42 Toei samurai swashbucklers from the 1950s and 1960s at Tokyo's National Film Center in Kyobashi from April 7 to May 24. Viewed as disposable entertainment for the masses at the time, these films — by such genre masters as Masahiro Makino and Tai Kato — are now considered classics. Unfortunately, none of the screenings are subtitled.