New Paths toward Preserving Japanese Cinema

The Toy Film Museum backstory

Authored by: Joanne Bernardi

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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This chapter details the events that led to the founding of Ōta Yoneo’s Toy Film Museum in Kyoto in 2015, its mission, and the significance of its collection. Drawing on the author’s interviews with Ōta, newspaper articles, and Ōta’s published research, it situates the museum’s roots in Ōta’s college experiences, the addition of film studies to the academic curriculum in Kyoto and Osaka in the late 1960s and 1970s, and Ōta’s relationships with mentors Yoda Yoshikata and Miyagawa Kazuo, fellow faculty in the Osaka University of Arts Visual Concept Planning Department. These relationships led to film restorations widely screened in Japan and at international venues. From 2003–2011, Ōta directed the collaborative Toy Film Project, restoring and digitizing 800 35mm “toy films” (nontheatrical entertainment especially popular in the 1920s and 1930s) on flammable cellulose nitrate film stock and a number of small-gauge films on “safety” cellulose acetate stock, all in varying stages of degradation. The project helped advance restoration technique and an appreciation of toy films and their technology as a distinct form of film culture within the broader historical context of “home cinema,” creating new opportunities for understanding nontheatrical film production and consumption in Japan in the early to mid-twentieth century.

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