Tokyo no kôrasu (Japanese characters: 東京の合唱 English: Tokyo Chorus) was a 1931 silent movie produced by Shochiku Company, directed by acclaimed and influential Japanese director Yasujirō Ozu and starring Tokihiko Okada and Emiko Yagumo. It was based on various stories in the Shoshimin-gai (Middle Class Avenue) series and also shares influences with King Vidor's The Crowd. Most of the film takes place in Tokyo during a depression like time during the beginning of the Shōwa period.
The story starts out with a group of young men attending school drills. Shinji Okajima ((Tokihiko Okada) is seen goofing off, misbehaving, and upsetting his teacher. After being disciplined the drills resume and the boys eventually graduate and go out into the working world.
Okajima has grown up, now has a family, and works as an insurance salesman. On the day of their annual bonuses the men are all anxious. Okajima's son, Sono Chounan (Hideo Sugawara), has his heart set on a bicycle 'like all the other boys'. Okajima reluctantly promises to try and purchase the bike for his son as well as a gift for his daughter, Sono Choujo (Hideko Takamine), and something for 'Baby' (never named during the film).
After recieving his bonus (which he has yet to open due to his peeping coworkers), Okajima writes out the list of presents he will buy for his family he notices a worker across from him named Rou-Shain Yamada (Takeshi Sakamoto) is upset and he asks why. Yamada admits he is being let go due to his last two clients dying shortly after signing their policies. Upset for him Okajima gathers the other workers to go 'protest at least once' to the boss but everyone chickens out and one such worker (Isamu Yamaguchi) challenges Okajima to make the protest himself. Okajima takes the challenge.
While in the office the boss is offended at the subject and the two begin a quite comediac fight. By the end of the fight Okajima is fired and bows as he leaves. He returns home with a scooter for his son, who is immediatly disappointed and throws a tantrum. His wife Tsuma Sugako (Emiko Yagumo) returns from the market and tries to calm the boy while Choujo tells her what happened.
Sugako scolds her husband saying he should not lie to children. Okajima sits on the floor trying his best to not be upset. He eventually shows her his discharge notice and she tries to get her son to accept the scooter. Chounan refuses and Okajima says quietly that they should by him a bike, which by the next scene they apparently have.
Still looking for employment Okajima does his best to be pleasent. He sees his son playing with a group of boys and their bikes only to be told that Choujo is sick with 'childhood diarrhea'. Upset he takes his son and rushes home to find it is true. Sugako informs him the Doctor wanted Choujo to stay at the hospital but due to money concerns she waited. Okajima says he will make the money somehow and tells his son to summon a rigshaw to take them all to the hospital.
At the hospital Choujo recovers apparently quickly. Sugako asks her husband again how they will pay for it and he says he will find a way. He takes his son and on piggyback they return home. The next day the whole family returns home. Okajima initates his son and daughter in a hand clapping styled game. Sugako goes to her dresser to find the drawers empty. She panics thinking they have been robbed. Okajima is unphased and just smiles at her saying, "Thanks to your Kimono, our Choujo is well again!", and continues playing. Sugako joins them as her and her husband share looks and she wipes away her tears.
Still in need of work a well dressed Okajimo tries an Employment agency; which has no work for him. He walks away only to bump into his old teacher, Omura Sensei (Tatsuo Saito). Sensei has quit teaching and now runs a resteraunt called 'The Calorie Cafe'. It mainly serves curry rice. He offers Okajimo a job 'until he can find him a good one' which he swears he can. Okajimo insists he'll only take the job if it is out of friendship; not pity. He ends up taking the job.
After trying some of the food Okajimo is told his job will be holding a banner and passing out flyers; the very job Douryou ended up with earlier in the film after his firing. Okajimo is disappointed as he feels it is beneath him; but takes it for his family.
The next day both him and Sensei are carrying banners and handing out flyers. On the street car his wife and children spot him. Sugako is distraught at the thought of her husband working such a degrading job. She confronts him about it and he tells her he has no choice for the moment. She says she will work his next shift, as he shows her a blister he got from carrying the heavy banners.
The next day Sugako and Sensei no tusma (Chouko Iida) are cooking up big plates of curry rice. Sensei took some of Okajimo's advice and invited all their schoolmates to the resteraunt for a meeting. The class sits at the table and drinks happily. At 15 yen a plate the professor realizes he should charge and does; which the drunken crowd does not seem to mind. As they eat a letter arrives from the Ministry of Education. The Sensei opens it and calls Okajimo in the kitchen.
He shows Okajimo the letter which turns out to be a job for teaching English in a small rural town at a girls school. Sensei leaves so Okajimo and Sugako can discuss the matter. After contemplating the matter they both agree there really is no other choice; and once some money is saved they can return to their home.
The couple return to the dining room and the final student arrives 'late as always'. Everyone celebrates and breaks out into song.
The film was originally released in Japan in 1931. It did not see a US release until 1982. It was released in Japan on DVD as part of a box set from Shochiku Company in 2003. It was finally released on DVD in the US in 2008 via The Criterion Collection.
- Tokihiko Okada as Shinji Okajima
- Emiko Yagumo as Tsuma Sugako
- Hideo Sugawara as Sono Chounan
- Hideko Takamine as Sono Choujo
- Tatsuo Saito as Omura Sensei
- Chouko Iida as Sensei no tusma
- Takeshi Sakamoto as Rou-Shain Yamada
- Reiko Tani as Shachou (Boss)
- Kenichi Miyajima as Hisho (Secretary)
- Isamu Yamaguchi as Kaisha no Douryou
- Le Choeur de Tokyo (France)
- Il Coro di Tokyo (Italy)
- Tokyo Chorus (USA)
- Tokyo no gassho (Japanese alternative)
- Tokyo no kôrasu (Japanese)
- ↑ http://www.ozuyasujiro.com/resources/90thanniv/90thanniv.htm#tokyochorus
- ↑ http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/19940814/COMMENTARY/88010311