Beyond Mt. Fuji and the Lenin Cap

Identity crisis in Taniguchi Senkichi’s Akasen kichi (The Red Light Military Base, 1953)

Authored by: Hideyuki Nakamura

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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In September 1953, Toho abruptly canceled the première of Akasen kichi (The Red Light Military Base, dir. Taniguchi Senkichi, 1953) following excoriating criticism by American journalists in Japan that labeled it an “anti-American film.” The Japanese media (newspapers and magazines) avidly took up the issue, calling it the “Akasen kichi controversy.” Both the “controversy” and the film itself, however, were soon forgotten, as if echoing the process by which the presence of military bases in “mainland Japan” had turned into a “background matter” after the late 1950s. This chapter rescues this film from oblivion, bringing the political debates surrounding it and their context to the surface by turning to contemporary news sources. Although debates engendered by films tend to be studied on the level of discourse, I pay attention to the process by which the nocturnal quality of cinema affects the diurnal quality of discourse. When examining a film like this, we need to try boldly positioning ourselves in the schism—which could be ultimately unbridgeable—between the uniquely cinematic world and the discursive domain of communication.

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