Japanese Cinema of the 1920s and 1930s

Nippon Modern: Japanese Cinema of the 1920s and 1930s, by Mitsuyo Wada-Marciano, is the first intensive study of Japanese cinema at a time when the country’s film industry was at its most prolific and when cinema played a singular role in shaping Japanese modernity. During the interwar period, the signs of modernity were ubiquitous in Japan’s urban architecture, literature, fashion, advertising, popular music, and cinema. The reconstruction of Tokyo following the disastrous earthquake of 1923 high lighted the extent of this cultural transformation, and the film industry embraced the reconfigured space as an expression of the modern. Shochiku Kamata Film Studios (1920–1936), the focus of this study, was the only studio that continued filmmaking in Tokyo following the city’s complete destruction. Mitsuyo Wada-Marciano points to the influence of the new urban culture in Shochiku’s interwar films, acclaimed as modan na eiga, or modern films, by and for Japanese.

“Devastated by the 1923 earthquake, Tokyo re-built itself in symbiosis with an image of modernity concocted by its own film studios. Nippon Modern renders that image, aspect after fascinating aspect, in sharp detail. Scores of films make up that image, a few resurrected in this volume for intense and delightful analysis. A sensitive viewer and an honest resourceful historian, Wada-Marciano lays out what she’s found in relation to other studies of this precious period, and she does so without hyperbole and without a glaring agenda. She makes you understand how, after Tokyo would again be devastated in 1945, these ‘modern’ films could become objects of nostalgia. Such is the care she gives her subject and such the fragility of that subject.” —Dudley Andrew, Yale University

January 2008 / ISBN 978-0-8248-3182-0 / $50.00 (CLOTH)