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The last active director who came up in the Japanese film industry’s 1950s and 1960s Golden Age, Yoji Yamada joined the Shochiku studio in 1954, straight out of the University of Tokyo. He made his directorial debut in 1961 with “The Strangers Upstairs,” a comedy scripted by his directing mentor, Yoshitaro Nomura.

However, Yamada first found big and lasting success with the “Tora-san” series, a string of 48 warm-hearted comedies starring square-faced comic Kiyoshi Atsumi as the wandering peddler Tora, who travels to every corner of Japan but always returns to his home in Shibamata, a neighborhood in Tokyo’s shitamachi, or old downtown. There he reunites with his loving half-sister, Sakura (Chieko Baisho), as well as various other relations and neighbors, though he inevitably — and comically — quarrels with them. He also inevitably falls for a woman, but the path to romance for the shy, bumbling Tora is never smooth, and he and his inamorata of the moment part in the last reel.

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