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Representation of Family and Friends in Japanese Films

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Film Studies
Wordcount: 2612 words Published: 8th Feb 2020

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This paper will explore how the Japanese film represent the family and family relationship in Japan especially focus on the parents-children relationships’ postwar. The paper will also try to find the reasons for the changing of family relationship. Through appreciation two film: “I was born, but…” and “Tokyo story” directed by Yasujiro Ozu to explore the Japanese director’s style of express the family cohesion and collapse.

“I was born, but…” is a 1932 Japanese silence film directed by Yasujiro Ozu. Its success portrait of conflict and mollifying glimpse between parents and children-two different generations, which effect by two different backgrounds of society-delicate the story of family relationship and generation tension in a growing Japan. As the beginning of “I was born, but…”, a family has moved to the suburb of Tokyo since the father Kennosuke has moved to be closer with his owner of the company. Kennosuke, a middle-level position worker, has high motivation at work and make a good impression on his boss. However, the boisterous and noisy young brothers, Keiji and Ryoichi, aged eight and ten, are struggling with new neighborhood relationship and school life. They are forced to adjust the new environment in a short time and suffer from bullies. The neighbor children, includes Taro, the son of their father’s new boss, hits Keiji. Kennosuke is persisted in his children have good performance in school and ignore their real perspective. The scene that the father asked two children about school. life, are they like school or no, two children respond immediately that they only like to walk there and walk home, but the time in school is no fun. It looks like two entirely different worlds existing in film. One world is that Kennosuke’s hardworking and make a good relationship with his owner, and another world is two children’s encounter to bully by their father’s son. Kennosuke and his family have moved to the suburbs of Tokyo due to his work, but not for his children. Simultaneously, two worlds in the film are connected to each other to mirror the family members are all on the same page.

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At the beginning of the film, two boys had respected their father and believing his’ thought that to be an important person. The changing of their relationship started at their father’s reaction to their encounter. While teacher told father two boys wind up skipping the class. Kennosuke just responds to ignore the children who abuse them even though he hears that Taro and other gang boys beat two boys up. Then an important scene suddenly shocks two boys- when families come along to see the movie, two boys see their father’s humoristic action to Taro’s father as a clown. They had disappointed their father that he is not an important man. Not matter their father explain that Taro’s father is the person who pay the salary for him and he was forced to obsequies him for a better life, two boys were indignation at the world is not as their father said: “be an important man”. The belief and faith of two boys have been broken and they have decided to reject eating. While their parents watch their children fall asleep with tears drying, their mom was crying as well and their father first time to pour his hearts out- he hopes two boys to strive to be better, not to be a “doggy man” that he had with deeply father’s expectation face. It’s a most affecting scene in the film, their father actually understands two boys’ situation and realized that the bad impact of his thought, and the lower status reality.

At the end of the film, the relationship between two boys and their father has changed again. The scenes that the father and two boys walking together to work and school, two boys ask their father to greet with his owner. It shows that two boys start to understand their father and have respect for him once again. Furthermore, the scene also delicate that two boys are giving up of the faith “be an important man” and instead of enjoying each day simply. The lovely and warmly ending gives audience hope in their practical life -  if you keep the hope and stand together with the family, you are able to go across any difficult even though social status.

Compared to father and children, the mother has fewer scenes in the movie that consistent with her role in the family-a supporting role standing right behind the family. She has not self-perspective in the entire story. The smiling and good manner is the whole expression of her after watching the movie. The mother in the film is a traditional woman’s model. She is tried to maintain the balance in the family while the father and two boys had conflict in the middle of the film. There is not any scene shows that the mother educates two boys. The scenes of her all about taken care of the daily life for the father and children, keep silent when the father has educated two children. But still feels that the mother reflection of the Japanese traditional married-women – kind, soft, and lack of own opinion.

The film explores the deeply familial bonds and the way parents affect children’s opinion and growing. And children have forced to face the adults order and rules. According to Owain Jones (2013), the film also focuses on the two boys life at home and on the gulfs and interplays between the children’s lives and the lives of the parents and adults as a mirror. The school is a place shows of control and where the bullies can impose to adult view affective regime of fear. In the office, co-workers of father gossip of his purpose of moving home that is not obviously bully but shows subtle. Returning to the scenes, disjunction and conflict between the children’s world and adult worlds occur, for example the two brothers pretending to go to school and then playing truant. The two worlds also affects each other. While brothers reailzed that his father’s truthly situation, their’s world has been broken. Because their father was their faith and belief.

There is another film connected to the family relationship – “Tokyo story”, a 1953 Japanese film directed by Yasujiro Ozu as well. The film tells the story of a big family lived separately and grandparents travel to Tokyo to visit their grown children. The old couple has five children, one of them has passed away. The eldest children, Koichi, and eldest daughter are both too busy to take care of their parents. The only person who spends the most time with them is their widowed daughter, Noriko – the wife of their dead son. The second son had dad during The Pacific War, and his wife is live alone in Tokyo and takes the most time to accompany old couples tour in Tokyo.

The missing of familiar bond found in their family. Family is less fixed. At the beginning of the film, the aging couple has to start their journey full of hope and expectation – the grown children, the modern city, the new experience. But after they have arrived, they noticed that their children too busy, and overwhelmed of their own life. They are become independent person, with their own new small families. Everyone has his or her own reasons. They have no time to spend with their parents or take them to visit Tokyo. In the story, eldest daughter and son invited their parents to stay at onsen spa, that is the best care they can do for the parents. Their parents are not adjusting to the hotel because the other guests disturb their sleep and leave there early. But after they return, Shige feels trouble and says she wanted to use grandparents’ room for a meeting. Her parents have forced to leave for that evening. The distant and apathy comes to audiences via those scenes.

One of the emotional scenes is, while grandmother spends time with her grandson, she is tried to communicate with him by slowly speaking pace. But there is no respond of his grandson because he does not understand the meaning of the words, and also not familiar with his grandmother. Grandmother signs softly and look into the far away. Ozu portraits the generations gap between grandmother and grandson consciously.      

At the end of the movie, grandmother Tomi passed away. At the last moment of her life, she still not feels the warmth and love from her own children. Koichi, Keizo, and Shige come and go in a hurry. Kyoko, the youngest daughter expressed her anger with Noriko about her siblings heartless and apathy toward their parents.

The movie ends at the Noriko leave for Tokyo and see the watch, which is a gift from grandparents. And the last scene, grandfather Shukichi seating alone in his home, and would stay alone to endure his own life in future.

Ozu’s brilliantly mesmerizes the audience with a simple story, but that brings reflection. Through taking the daily chores and family emotions in ordinary people’s lives as the main theme, the story seems simple and lacks drama conflict. In fact, it is full of meaning and profound, which is of great significance to the development of Japanese society (Donald, 1998).  The “blood” and “geo” relationship has gradually collapsed leading to “family”, and the smallest unit of this society has become increasingly isolated. He is good at describing the family ethical relationship and the unpredictable and fickle situation of life from the perspectives of “Material Sorrow”. Despite the growing traffic today, the loss of geo-relationship has become an indisputable fact, and this view is profoundly reflected in this work. 

In this film, Ozu invented a new model that does not rely on drama conflicts and storylines to express ordinary life. To give a simple example, the movie shoots the eldest daughter to buy cakes. The daughter says that it is too expensive and should not buy it. Just buy them a pancake and take it together for a cake. There may be a drama conflict between the parents and children, but Ozu did not do that here. It is all the details. She picks up the cake and makes her characters more vivid.

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Most of the works directed by Japanese directors have thrown away cool filmmaking techniques and exaggerated sketches. Their films are often used by the general public as the protagonist of the whole film. In the most realistic lens language, through the meticulous portrayal of ordinary people’s daily chores and the restrained and calm narrative of the ordinary people, it is more likely to trigger people’s content on the film. The attention of itself makes it have more in-depth thinking, which in turn causes people to resonate emotionally.

The theme of “Tokyo Story” comes from filial piety, and filial piety comes from the oriental context of the relocation of the land. People pay attention to the traditions of father and son, blood ethics, and the tradition of living in Japan. However, with the advent of the new era. In the 1950s and 1960s, it was the beginning of the fall of Japanese traditional families.

In order to seek development, their children have left the end of the road and went to Tokyo, that is, they have separated from the original small feudal family and integrated into the modern metropolis. After the integration is completed, they seem to be no longer serving their parents because they are “too far apart.” In fact, the two places are just a day’s drive, so the old father and mother repeatedly sighed “that is, the last time I met!” It can be seen that this gap has been deep. When parents come from afar, they have regarded them as invaders of their own lives, but they have done moral obligations. The subconscious is all about avoiding extra troubles and maintaining the logic of order. The filial piety has to be second.

The core contradiction in “Tokyo Story” lies in the deviation and conflict between the two sides. This kind of contradiction is manifested in the longitudinal direction of the long man, the eldest daughter, and the three sons, and also horizontally in comparison with the service department and the marsh field. In fact, the disappointment of the elderly in the film is not strong, and the children have not lost their etiquette. The eldest son gave up the trip and the eldest daughter sent the old man away. The three sons were late for the funeral, and they were justifiable. However, it is precisely the general elderly who have to experience the disappointment that can’t be experienced, and thus make people feel terrible truth.

In the film, three old people gathered in a tavern in Tokyo, pouring wine and remembering the past. They are still too much to drink, just not going to the past, and people can’t help but sigh. The unfortunate family has their own misfortunes. The old man finally understands in the cup-and-stack that can’t stop. He has four children, after all, survived from the brutal war, even if he is not around, after all, it is dependence, there is a thought, In any case, they are still alive, they are doing well, this is enough. Although it shows the cruelty of life, it is a wonderful and funny film.

In the meantime, the polite dialogue of the characters, although too comprehensive and lost to realism, is indeed pleasing to the eye, admiring the beauty of etiquette. Ozu Yasujiro interprets this meaningless language model as much warmer. In the development, this “lonely warmth” old man has also been young and has been hurting his children, just as they are indifferent to their children. There have also been naive and kind childhood. However, after living to a certain age, the time washes away the impulsiveness, and the age precipitates indifferently. Their bodies gradually exude a unique beauty. The old man is dissatisfied with his children, but he is self-directed. He does not add chaos to his children. In the face of his wife’s death, he also shows a valuable attitude of calmness and optimism. The beauty of his heart is opposite to the selfless love of his daughter-in-law beyond blood.

In the situation, people feel the warmth of the family. This is not only the spiritual core of Ozu’s many works but also the ultimate meaning of “Tokyo Story”.

In conclusion, In the silent filming of parents, daily life and funerals, these two Japanese film focus on the family relationships. Ozu found the best angle for him to observe the life of the Japanese, and the family is the basis for the orientals to build social relationships. Japanese film not use the obviously conflict as the driving force of the film, the plot or the drama conflict is weakened. Through their film, what they want to tell us is not a concrete story, but a situation of collapse of family relationship, human clutch, dramatic change and acceptance of life, and weakness warmth in family.

Works Cited

  • Jones, Owain. “‘I Was Born But…’: Children as Other/Nonrepresentational Subjects in Emotional and Affective Registers as Depicted in Film.” Emotion, Space and Society, vol. 9, 2013, pp. 4–12., doi:10.1016/j.emospa.2013.02.001.
  • Kirihara, Donald. “Ozu’s Tokyo Story.” The Journal of Asian Studies 57.4 (1998): 1157-9. ProQuest. Web. 1 May 2019.


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