A Historical Survey of Film Archiving in Japan

Authored by: Kae Ishihara

Routledge Handbook of Japanese Cinema

Print publication date:  August  2020
Online publication date:  August  2020

Print ISBN: 9781138685529
eBook ISBN: 9781315534374
Adobe ISBN:


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Despite the international renown of Japan’s cinema history, film archiving in Japan is in a critical condition. This chapter outlines the history of film archiving in Japan, focusing first on the Imperialist era before and during World War II, especially on film manufacturers and early film librarianship; and second, on the post-war period, from the occupation to the 1970s. This is when the National Film Center opened as part of the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo as a result of the “Film Preservation Campaign,” in which Kawakita Kashiko and her Japan Film Library Council played an important role. The chapter concludes by examining the period from the 1980s to the present. By illustrating the importance of individuals, small groups, and the private sector in safeguarding Japan’s cinema heritage—against the odds of a low survival rate for domestic films, a serious shortage of full-time staff at public film archives, and a lack of laws or regulations like a mandatory legal deposit system—this chapter reveals how film preservation and archiving in Japan has not been guided by strong national policy, but instead by the efforts of individuals or members of the private sector who have realized the seriousness of the situation.

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