Japan in Focus / Let’s go to the museum / Film museum a paradise for movie devotees

Photo by Taku Yaginuma / Special to The Yomiuri Shimbun

A wide variety of cameras, projectors and other equipment show the changing times.

By Yusuke Sano / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff Writer The National Film Archive of Japan — the only national film institute in Japan — has an ever-growing collection of about 1 million film samples, posters, stills, relevant books and other movie-related items.

Its permanent exhibition features about 300 cameras, projectors and other items.

The display just inside to the left has a photograph of a smiling old man and a piece of film. The man is Louis Lumiere and the film is of the Rue de la Republique in Paris in 1895.

Louis and his brother Auguste are known as “the inventors of the moving picture.” The film, which Louis sent to Japanese director Shigeyoshi Suzuki, shows nameless Parisians at the end of the 19th century when film was still in its infancy.

Inside, movie cameras in a variety of shapes and sizes are on display. These include a Pathe Professional, an early movie camera manufactured in France around the 1910s, which looks like three boxes stacked on top of each other.

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  • Photo by Taku Yaginuma / Special to The Yomiuri Shimbun

    A photograph of Louis Lumiere, one of the “inventors of the moving picture,” and a piece of film he sent to director Shigeyoshi Suzuki.

  • Photo by Taku Yaginuma / Special to The Yomiuri Shimbun

    A Pathe Professional camera that was frequently used around the 1910s

  • Photo by Taku Yaginuma / Special to The Yomiuri Shimbun

    An animation table made by Noburo Ofuji

  • The Yomiuri Shimbun

Early movies were shot on “glass stages,” which had ceilings covered in glass, and used the light of the sun on clear days. As lighting technology has advanced, light fixtures have also changed greatly since that time.

The occupation forces brought more than 1,000 Natco film projectors to Japan after World War II. These were used to show Civil Information and Educational Section movies — U.S.-made films dubbed in Japanese — on American democracy throughout the country. Natco projectors are portable and simply made, but some projector operators did not like them because they believed they damaged film.

Also on display is an animation table made by Noburo Ofuji, an animation pioneer in a field that now holds an unshakable place in the world of Japanese film. With a camera above and a light source below, animation cels are placed in the middle to be photographed one by one. Ofuji used silhouettes, papercuts and other techniques to render anime in a wide variety of ways.

“I want people to know that film culture was built by all kinds of people, from actors to directors and technicians,” said the archive’s senior researcher Hidenori Okada, 50.

■ National Film Archive of Japan

The archive started in 1952 as a film project at the National Museum of Modern Art. In 1970, the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, opened the National Film Center. In April 2018, the archive left the museum to become an independent institution specializing in film preservation, research and exhibition. In addition to its exhibition hall, the archive shows films at its own theater.

Address: 3-7-6 Kyobashi, Chuo Ward, Tokyo

Open: 11 a.m.-6:30 p.m. (Open until 8 p.m. on the last Friday of every month. Closed Mondays, around the year-end and New Year holidays period, when changing exhibitions.)

Fee: ¥250 for adults, ¥130 for university students, free for high school students and people under age 18, or age 65 and older

Information: Call the National Film Archive of Japan at (03) 5777-8600.Speech

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