Where in Tokyo was this filmed? “Cruel Story of Youth” (1960)

Summer heat transforms us, creeping into our bodies, warming our blood and making our skin blush with perspiration. Other odors, not just those of bodies, are more pronounced in the heat. The palpable physicality of summer makes me think of it as a season of passion, and what better film to represent this season than Cruel Story of Youth (1960) 青春残酷物語 (aka “Naked Youth”), a film directed by the uncompromising and unique Nagisa Oshima 大島 渚.

But I’m not here to review the film. Plenty of other reviews are out there; there’s a good synopsis from TCM.

“A schoolgirl in search of excitement begins accepting rides from strange men. A college student rescues her from the advances of a middle-aged driver and seduces her himself. Although he is having an affair with an older woman, he becomes more involved with the girl, whose family offers her little guidance in such matters. The girl moves in with the student, but they are threatened by hoodlums who demand money in exchange for the girl’s safety. To obtain cash, the couple devises a scheme in which the girl accepts a ride with a stranger and is “rescued” by the student, who demands money through intimidation. The girl becomes pregnant, however, and one of the drivers reports the couple to the police. They are arrested and after their release, the student decides to leave the girl, feeling he cannot protect her. He is murdered by the hoodlums and, sensing her lover is in danger, the girl rushes to him, only to be killed trying to avoid a speeding car.”

TCM also has a longer review, which is overall quite good, with one minor quibble, which I’ll explain below.

Five minutes into the film, the two lovers meet for their first date in the midst of student protest over the Japan-United State security pact of 1960 安保条約. The had recently come into a little bit of money, and the young man says, “Let’s go. We can’t blow that money hanging out here.”

We soon cut to a motorboat cruising into a narrow channel, surrounded by floating logs. The boat was presumably rented with their small windfall. The longer TCM review states:

“He comes on to Makoto during a stroll along a river, and when she gives him a slap instead of a kiss, he throws her into the water, relentlessly pushing her away as she tries to clamber out.” 

Perhaps in one’s memory, the channel becomes a river; the presence of the logs is not explained, and hardly any viewer would have any frame of reference for such a strange sight. It resembles nothing other than a sea of logs.

Cruel Story of Youth sea of logs

What happens on those logs is memorable. He chases her playfully, she laughs, they kiss, she slaps him, he slaps her twice, harder. Soon, he pushes her into the water. She says she can’t swim. He won’t help her out until she agrees to be a bit more, shall we say, friendly with him. Depending on your perspective, this scene is quite disturbing…

…and both times I’ve watched the film all I could think about were those darn logs. Where did they come from? Where was this filmed?  This question stuck with me until last weekend when I finally made a concerted effort to locate the filming location. Other than the logs, some stone mounds, and (briefly) a factory on the background, there are few clues. I was led down the wrong path when I read in a Japanese blog that the scene was filmed in a certain neighborhood of Tokyo. I spent a few hours of frustrated research, but eventually righted the ship and located the exact spot of the following few frames, which I’ve stitched together:

I’ve split this photo into two parts for your convenience:

My search led me to two valuable tools that I plan to use again in similar research (namely, the GIS database  and the University of Texas Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection; these are fabulous resources.

Do you know where this scene was filmed? If you know, or would like to guess, feel free to leave a comment below. I will post the answer, along with my research, in my next post.



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