“Izakaya Choji”
The coolness of Ken-san riding a bicycle on the slopes of Hakodate.

When I was traveling through Hokkaido by train, there was a peculiar announcement. It warned us to be careful because the name of the next station had changed for a drama shoot. The atmosphere in the train buzzed with excitement. It was a popular drama set in Furano, Hokkaido. The train arrived at the station, but we passed what seemed to be the film crew. Then, in the corner of the platform, I saw a tall man. Even though he had a hat pulled down low, I immediately recognized him as Ken Takakura. Perhaps he had come to visit the filming location of an old friend (Kunie Tanaka). Acknowledging our gaze, Ken-san shyly raised his hand in greeting. It was an overwhelming coolness. Since then, although not from the same generation, I started watching films starring Ken Takakura.

Ken Takakura, who gained popularity in yakuza films, began to change his style around the 1970s. Moving away from the tough yakuza roles, he started portraying sincere, albeit clumsy, individuals. “Izakaya Choji” (1982, directed by Yasuo Furuhata) is a story set in an izakaya (Japanese pub) in Hakodate. Ken Takakura plays the role of the owner, a Motuyaki (grilled Offal) shop with a sorrowful past.

The bicycle makes its appearance at the beginning. In the morning, Ken Takakura leaves the small house by the tracks. His wife, played by Tokiko Kato, sees him off. Ken Takakura rides his bicycle toward the Kanemori Red Brick Warehouse where the shop is located. Hakodate has many slopes. Even the formidable Takakura Ken stands up to pedal. It’s charming, to say the least.

Upon reaching the shop, Ken Takakura stops his bicycle without locking it. He gazes at the shop, takes the mail, and enters through the back door without locking it. He lights the stove, cleans the charcoal, and tidies up the shop. There, it’s neat. As he exits the shop, Tokiko Kato appears on her bicycle. “Perfect timing. I’ll go ahead,” she says, then rides away alone. He quickly catches up, and the two go to the market together.

In these few minutes, the scene featuring the bicycle becomes a means to convey the personality, troubles, and relationships of the protagonist, Eiji Fujino, with his wife and the people around him to the audience. It couldn’t have been done on foot, on a motorcycle, or in a car. It had to be a bicycle. There’s something mysterious about Ken Takakura riding it, making even the bicycle play a handsome role. In “Izakaya Choji,” the bicycle is vividly portrayed as more than just a prop. Watching this movie might make you crave a drink at a familiar izakaya. Of course, after a drink, you’d want to push your bicycle back home. I hope you return singing the theme song, “Jidai Okure no Sakaba (The Izakaya Behind the Times).”

Text_Hideki Inoue

I am from Amagasaki City, Hyogo Prefecture, Japan. I work as a writer and editor. My hobbies include hot baths, skiing, and fishing. Although I have no personal connection, I am independently conducting research on Shiga Prefecture. I prefer an active fishing style called “RUN & GUN,” which involves moving around actively instead of staying in one place. I am planning to purchase a car to transport my bicycle to adopt this style, which might seem a bit counterproductive.

Illusutration_Michiharu Saotome

“Kramer vs. Kramer”
The moment I first rode a bicycle, who I was with.

There was a film movement called American New Cinema. It consisted of films released in the late 1960s to the 1970s such as “Easy Rider,” “The Graduate,” “Midnight Cowboy,” ” Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” and “Apocalypse Now.” Perhaps one of the reasons for the frequent use of young directors was the incorporation of messages or somewhat critical perspectives on society and politics, taking a different approach from traditional entertainment films. American New Cinema was enthusiastically supported by younger generations and had a significant influence on subsequent films. “Kramer vs. Kramer” (1979) is also a prod […]

“The Kid With a Bike (Le gamin au vélo)”
The boy abandoned by his father searches for hope on a bicycle.

“The Kid With a Bike (Le gamin au vélo)” (2012, directed by the Dardenne brothers) is, as the title suggests, a story centered around a boy and his bicycle. The protagonist is Cyril, a boy living in a Belgian foster care facility. One day, his cell phone with his father suddenly goes offline. When he contacts the apartment manager, they claim that his father has moved away. He can’t believe it. His father wouldn’t just move without telling him. Moreover, his precious means of transportation, his bicycle, is still in his father’s apartment. Cyril runs away from the facility and visits the apartment, but as the manager said, his father has already moved, and there’s no sign of the bicycle. Cyril has been abandoned by his father.

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