Monday, November 17, 2008

Toho Studios, Japan

OK, so you’ve seen the famous logo, and maybe you’ve been privy to essential Japanese classics cut in this monopolizing studio system.

Located in a surprisingly wealthy part of Setagaya, here in Tokyo, is the sprawling home of Toho Studios. Not only is Toho the largest and most famous film studio in Japan, but it’s the owner of one of the more internationally famous film logos, pretty much on par with MGM’s roaring lion, for those of us more inclined towards Asian cinema.

On location at the studio, you’ll discover a collection of sound-stages, outdoor arenas, Toho cattle-branded milkcrates that’d sell for a wad on eBay, and massive warehouses—plus a stream lined with gorgeous cherry blossom trees, all of it originally set up in 1936 by railroad and showbiz entrepeneur, Ichizo Kobayashi.

After pumping out propaganda films during World War 2, Toho overcame a brush with bankruptcy and disfavor with the American occupation forces to unleash a wad of critically successful and international regarded movies by Akira Kurosawa, such as this blog’s ongoing infatuation, Seven Samurai, a scene from which is now boldly embossed across the outer wall of the studio (see happy snap attached here).

It’s at least 10 meters high, and you can’t miss it when you visit.

In 1954, Toho also changed the science fiction world when they released the first Gojira movie—better known to you and me as Godzilla—and followed up with over two dozen sequels.

Toho’s star has waned in recent years, but the studio continues to produce movies in conjunction with Japanese TV companies like TBS.

One such collaboration has been the upcoming Masahiro Nakai/Yukie Nakama WW2 drama, 私は貝になりたい (Watashi wa Kai ni Naritai), a movie to be released in Japanese cinemas on Nov. 22nd, but which oddly keeps changing English titles, from I Want to be a Shellfish to, more recently, I Want to Return to the Family.

Toho is also a major distributor for smaller production houses, like Asmik House—the company that unleashed the Ringu movies—along with anime studios Production I.G and Studio Ghibli.

Wanna see more of these venerable premises? For an automated guided tour, head here:

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