Mapping Tokyo in Fiction and Film by Barbara E. Thornbury

Mapping Tokyo in Fiction and Film by Barbara E. Thornbury

Author:Barbara E. Thornbury
Language: eng
Format: epub
ISBN: 9783030342760
Publisher: Springer International Publishing

As Illusion

The financially successful urban resident is “expected,” in Yōsuke Hirayama’s succinct formulation, “to move from a rental dwelling to an owner-occupied dwelling, and from a condominium to a single-family home”—preferably, with a garden (Hirayama 2007, 18). But, when is this house with a garden more the illusion of a home than a real one? Suo’s Shall We Dance ? undermines the ideal of home ownership whatever the cost. Shōhei Sugiyama (played by Kōji Yakusho) is a middle-aged salaryman who has recently arrived at the storied top of the housing ladder, having bought the picture-perfect house (and garden) in the Tokyo suburbs where he lives with his wife and teenage daughter. Although the film was released in the mid-1990s, a time of post-bubble economic slowdown and recession, it is more reflective of a 1970s and 1980s sensibility. The seemingly endless economic expansion during those decades meant that real estate prices in Japan’s thriving urban centers (especially Tokyo) kept going higher and higher. At that time, home ownership for the average, striving white-collar family in which the husband/father was the breadwinner typically came to mean a lengthy commute for the man that, added to his long hours at his office in the city, exhausted him physically and psychologically and gave him very little time to actually enjoy the property his income made possible. It also came to mean spatial (and also, perhaps, social) isolation for stay-at-home wives/mothers left to raise the children and manage their households in an area that may have been more of an anonymous housing development than a close-knit community. The overarching cost is the enormous mortgage that is the father’s—and, by extension, the whole family’s—literal debt to the society that pressures them to have a “proper” home.20

Suo portrays Sugiyama as a man worn out and weighed down by the daily grind of life with a large mortgage. Headed home one day on a late-evening train, he happens to see the beautiful Mai (played by ballerina-actress Tamiyo Kusakari) pensively gazing out of the window of her Tokyo ballroom-dance studio—and he is magnetically drawn to her. In short order, he exits the train, climbs the steps up to the studio, and signs on as a student. Even though Mai unequivocally rebuffs his dreams of a liaison with her from the start, Sugiyama continues taking lessons in order to salvage his pride by making it seem that he actually had a genuine interest in dance. As it turns out, he discovers that he really does like the lessons—not least of all, because he is buoyed by the friendly and supportive community of fellow dancers he encounters at the studio. With dancing as his new, secret passion, he spends even less time at home.

Shall We Dance ? also undermines the ideal of the nuclear family anchored by the dedicated homemaker wife who spends more time inside of the house than any other member of the family. Masako Sugiyama (actress Hideko Hara) cannot compete in sexual attractiveness with Mai. Whereas Masako is a known quantity (a “typical” housewife), Mai is mysterious.


Copyright Disclaimer:
This site does not store any files on its server. We only index and link to content provided by other sites. Please contact the content providers to delete copyright contents if any and email us, we'll remove relevant links or contents immediately.