Shitamachi: Tales of Downtown Tokyo

Series Site

Shitamachi – “downtown” Tokyo or (literally) “low town” – is the low-lying eastern side of the city, including such famous districts as Ginza, Ueno, and Asakusa (Tokyo’s one-time “42nd Street”). Beginning with the feudal Edo period, Shitamachi also referred to the area and culture of the lower classes, and, even as physical boundaries have become increasingly blurry, it still suggests class struggle, brash characters (like Tora-san or Mifune’s yakuza in Kurosawa’s Drunken Angel), a particular cityscape (pachinko parlors, black markets, cramped bars, and narrow, raucous shopping streets), popular entertainment (rakugo — Japanese “sit down” comedy — and kabuki), and even cuisine (yakitori and ramen, inexpensive food consumed at train stations) — capturing the imagination of moviemakers from the silent era to the present. This series includes 25 rare films (many in 35mm) imported from Japan — several of them featuring subtitles created especially for our screenings.

Programmed by Aiko Masubuchi
Co-presented by The Japan Foundation