News and Opinion
I just saw this on the net, but the great actor Harada Yoshio passed away today, July 19, of complications from pneumonia as he was fighting cancer. He was only 71.
Harada was clearly one of the most important actors in post 1970 Japanese cinema, starring in many of the great independent films directed by such masters as Terayama Shuji (Den'en ni shisu), Suzuki Seijun (Zigeunerweisen), Morisaki Azuma (Ikite iru uchi ga hana nano yo shindara sore made yo to sengen), and Mochizuki Rokuro (Onibi). He was a regular in films directed by Kuroki Kazuo (Ryoma ansatsu) and Sakamoto Junji, and appeared in Koreeda Hirokazu's recent movies like Still Walking and I Wish. His last starring film will be Oshika-mura sodoki, which opened in theaters only a few days ago. Harada appeared in a wheelchair in front of cameras to make the stage greeting on opening day.
Some don't realize that Harada was the product of the last years of Nikkatsu Action, establishing his image there of the young, rebellious outlaw in such films as Hangyaku no merodi. As part of that image, he appeared in a lot of independent films, especially those of ATG, while also making a name for himself on television. In recent years, he has become an essential by player in films by many young directors like Miike Takashi, Toyoda Toshiaki, Shinohara Tetsuo, Ishii Katsuhito, etc. He could do comedic and gangster roles with equal ease. He won numerous awards as both best lead and supporting actor.
For much of the postwar, it seemed that all too many Japanese cultural products were attempting to forget WWII, to hide either the trauma of defeat or aspects that were inconvenient to Japan’s emerging national narrative. Now a good 65 years after the end of the war, with the real trauma having faded - or the war having too effectively been forgotten – it today seems that it is the postwar that is the object of selective remembering and forgetting. As I argued in a recent article in Japan Focus, Yamato’s gruesome depiction of the war that functions to forget the postwar, or Always: Sunset on Third Street’s remembering the postwar through rose-colored glasses, are two sides of the same cultural effort to avoid dealing with what the postwar, and its history of the Cold War, American dominance, economic growth and its cost, and political turmoil, have meant for Japan.
The new Ghibli film, From Up on Poppy Hill (Kokuriko-zaka kara コクリコ坂から), is set around the same time as Always, in the years just preceding the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. This does a better job than that film at attempting to mix its nostalgia with the effort to remember history. Yet in the end it is a quaint, earnest but middling work that still somewhat selectively forgets the past.