Embedded film, embodied reception: Tsurumi Shunsuke’s autobiographical film criticism

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Reflecting on the aftermath of WWII in the emerging Cold War context of Japan’s compromised sovereignty, members of the intellectual group Science of Thought (Shisō no kagaku) sought possibilities of ‘thought’ (shisō) in ‘the people’ and turned their attention to the production and reception of mass culture. Jidaigeki (Japanese period films) presented a unique challenge for envisioning postwar modernity and democracy in Japan. US Occupation censors and progressive Japanese critics alike regarded jidaigeki with suspicion, calling into question its relationship to the past. This paper focuses on the group’s founder Tsurumi Shunsuke’s review of 1952 jidaigeki The Mad Woman in Kimono (Furisode kyōjo) and examines his populist defense of jidaigeki. Born into one of Japan’s most politically and intellectually prominent families and educated in the philosophy department at Harvard, Tsurumi struggled to define the significance and political utility of jidaigeki by negotiating his own position in relation to not only ‘the people’, but also with regard to the compromised sovereignty of occupied and post-occupation Japan. By unpacking interrelated negotiations in Tsurumi’s review and the film itself, I argue for the utility of jidaigeki as an analytical lens through which we begin to understand the dynamic historicity of postwar Japanese cinema.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)130-146
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Japanese and Korean Cinema
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 3 2018
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Communication
  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts


  • Jidaigeki (Japanese period film)
  • Tsurumi Shunsuke
  • film audience
  • post-US occupation
  • science of thought (Shisō no kagaku)


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