SGRA Kawaraban (Essay) in English

Koo Hye-won “A Tour of OZU”


Few years ago, during summer, I was on the way to a café in Kiyosumi Shirakawa where I visited often. I was surprised seeing “Fukagawa” which was the address of cafe. Fukagawa is the place where a movie director Ozu Yasujiro was born and brought up. Director Ozu is a specialism my study. I was so excited to have stepped inside Fukagawa town coincidentally where we could find old town atmosphere in Ozu movies. As I was not familiar to geography in Tokyo at that time, it was unexpected discovery because Kiyosumi Shirakawa and Fukagawa were very remote islands in my knowledge. I downloaded the application of geography immediately and visited “the place where Yasujiro Ozu was born”. Large scale condominiums alongside big roads may be different from the scene which Director Ozu has seen. But when I saw the scene standing on asphalt road in hot summer sunshine, l wondered why Director Ozu seems to be, more or less, close to me rather than historical figure. I hit my realization that my study of Ozu started here basically. My unexpected meeting with Ozu went one step closer to.


Since then, so-called “Ozu Tour” was a theme of my studying abroad. I followed footsteps of Ozu that a bronze statue of Saigoh Takamori in Ueno Park, the Great Buddha of Kamakura, Ryoan-ji Temple in Kyoto and railroad in Onomichi. Wim Wenders, world famous German movie director, disappointed saying in his documentary movie “Tokyo Landscape” that there is no landscape like “Tokyo Story” (Ozu works in 1953) anymore. However, I found myself to be connected to Ozu a moment whenever I found something unchanged and felt everything has changed. Such moment, Ozu works in mono-colored changes to natural color in my mind. But soon absence of Ozu touches me deeply. When I come to the calm sea in Onomichi where same as that in “Tokyo Story”, I can share a look of Ozu. And, at the same time, it sheds light on the life of Ozu immediately. 


“San-ma no Aji (Taste of Pacific saury)” (1962) is posthumous work of Ozu. There is a shot of vacant room upstairs after daughter gets married. Professor Masato Hase commented that this shot made audiences feel “the time spent together between father and daughter passed in an instantaneous”. This sense of time (passed in an instant) which applies to my “Ozu Tour” was emphasized in Ozu works by intentional omission of essential scene. It comes from blank space in his life where I had no way to go. I had strange and complicated sense of time which immersed in me with sparkling wave in Onomichi. I can express such sense of time with pain or vain only. Ozu tour was a repetition of meeting and farewell for me.


Looking back when I entered Ozu world, I realize my curiosity about riddle of Ozu movies

guided me to my research world and his unshakable strength became an index of my research.

My tour for Ozu world supported my study abroad life mentally as a source of vitality. When I was tired and frustrated doing my research, I collected my cluttered mind by following the tracks of Ozu which remained somewhere in Japan which made me evoke his existence or absence.


Experiential resonance between reading his works and following his tracks colored the figure of Ozu and expanded my field of vision about Ozu. It was valuable experience for me to have studied abroad. Thinking about it now, not only my research but life in Japan for eight years also seems to have been guided by Ozu. How do I inherit his look which passed in an instant? This is an unsolved and lifetime question which impressed deeply in my mind.

I would like to move one step ahead, even if it’s just a little.



SGRA Kawaraban 677 in Japanese (Original)



Koo Hye-won / 2020 Raccoon



Translated by Kazuo Kawamura

English checked by Sabina Koirala