OK, so you’ve seen the famous logo, and maybe you’ve been privy to essential Japanese classics cut in this monopolizing studio system.
I live in Setagaya too, but it’s a huge ward and sadly Toho is nowhere near my place.
Not only is Toho the largest and most famous film studio in Japan, but it’s the owner of one of the more internationally famous film logos, pretty much on par with MGM’s roaring lion, for those of us more inclined towards Asian cinema.
On location at the studio, you’ll discover a collection of sound-stages, outdoor arenas, Toho cattle-branded milkcrates that’d sell for a wad on eBay, and massive warehouses—plus a stream lined with gorgeous cherry blossom trees, all of it originally set up in 1936 by railroad and showbiz entrepreneur, Ichizo Kobayashi.
After pumping out propaganda films during World War II, Toho overcame a brush with bankruptcy and disfavor with the American occupation forces to unleash a wad of critically successful and international regarded movies by Akira Kurosawa, such as this blog’s ongoing infatuation, Seven Samurai, a scene from which is now boldly embossed across the outer wall of the studio (see the happy snap I took attached here).
It’s at least ten meters high, and you can’t miss it when you visit.
What isn’t painted on the wall is the fact that Kurosawa ended up escaping the constraints of the studio system – namely Toho and Shochiku.
In 1954, Toho changed the science fiction world when they released the first Gojira movie—better known to you and me as Godzilla—and followed up with over two dozen sequels.
Less renowned in the West is the Toho sci-fi movie Sayonara Jupiter, Bye Bye Jupiter – the somewhat ill-conceived trilingual 1984 movie directed by Koji Hashimoto (Godzilla 1985: The Legend Is Reborn) and adapted from a novel by the late, great Sakyo Komatsu (Japan Sinks).
Toho’s star has waned in recent years, but the studio continues to produce movies in conjunction with Japanese TV companies like TBS.
Want to see more of these venerable premises?
For an automated guided tour, head here: http://www.tohostudio.jp.